Wednesday, July 08, 2015

It's us

Periodically people will ask why God allows bad things to happen to good people. Sometimes it is in anguish, knowing that there is suffering that is undeserved. Sometimes it is used as a way of proving that there is no God, or that God isn't worth much. That is completely missing the point.

I am a religious person, and a key point of my religion is that God has given us the power to choose. If you believe free will is an illusion, today's post may not hold much for you. For everyone else, I know that I make mistakes and mess up on a regular basis, but I do value that power to choose, and I don't want to give it up. I know that sometimes other people make ignorant or mean-spirited choices that negatively affect me, but still, I don't want to give up my power to choose, and everyone else having that power comes with it.

There are people who know that, but still think about at a fairly low level: what I do affects my outcome. Those may be the easiest cause and effect cases to observe, but there's more going on.

Think of it this way. If I smoke, that obviously increases my odds of developing lung cancer. Less obvious but still pretty well understood, it also increases the lung cancer likelihood for those around me, especially with prolonged exposure.

Cancer is a cause of huge heartbreak, and there might be a feeling that a longtime smoker who gets it was asking for it, as well as some anger toward smokers on behalf of those who get cancer from second-hand smoke.

What about the cancer in Detroit?  Some people had their houses bought out, but only after prolonged exposure. Some would like to move, but they can't afford to without being bought out. Their health is being directly impaired by exposure to toxins. Questions of legal liability are important, but not what I'm talking about here. Someone decided that the profit was more important than the environment or the people living in it, but it's more than that.

If we are collectively allowing weak environmental protections, because we don't believe the indicators until things have already gotten irreparably bad, or if we do believe the indicators but know that realistically they will affect poor brown people more than us, or we have decided that government is bad and only gets in the way of progress, or we voted for people who give into corporations because they tugged on our heartstrings about abortion and played on our fears about race, we have a responsibility there too.

If a farm bill that was supposed to help farming families and ensure that there was always a food supply in America gets twisted so that it now puts money into the pockets of corporations that used their superior financial resources to buy up the family farms, and for profitability they end up growing crops that are inedible without extensive processing, and then the subsidized additive you have is high-fructose corn syrup which they say is fine in moderation but it's hard to eat something in moderation when it's in everything, including things that aren't particularly sweet, and the entire cycle is hard on the soil, farming families, and human bodies, and still doesn't guarantee a good food supply, but we keep on mindlessly buying the additive-laden food, enriching the corporations and manufacturers and voting in the same politicians, that's on us.

If the desire for lower taxes means that we keep taking money out of schools, so gym and music and recess is cut, and classes are over-sized so children don't get much individual attention, and a lot of the better-off ones end up using online schools which are free because that money just comes from the general educational budget, but it's not an option for families who can't afford to keep an adult at home, and then in the public schools the most important thing is passing standardized tests, so the education goes downhill, and now there is less possibility of them finding the stress relief of exercise and the joy of creativity, because really, the corporations only want drones, and school funding comes from those corporations sponsoring the curriculum or the cafeteria, that's on us.

If eating the artificial food has a worse effect on some bodies, and combined with stress, poor diet, and a lack of activity, they gain weight, but there is no profit in improving the food and activity, so they get referred to pills and surgery and gym memberships and supplements and programs that have a lot of profit potential in them, and many fail and get depressed, and others start experiencing disorders where they no longer even see their bodies accurately, and that is worsened by the media showing false images and criticism from others, because we have been taught that it is all about the personal accountability so if you can't conform that is on you, that is on us.

And if the scariest thing in the antebellum US was that the slaves would rise up, and so modern police forces were based on the slave patrols, and years of extending slavery, economic manipulation, destruction of property, murder, and redlining have enforced extreme inequality, and unequal prosecution of crimes fills the prisons with black men (and there are people making a profit on that) that's on us. If we try and justify it, and if we get mad at protesters because they block traffic or make you uncomfortable when they are trying to establish safety, let alone comfort, that's on us.

God allows it (for now) because we do.

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