Uneasy Thanksgiving in a precarious world

By : Jim Pinto,
San Diego, CA.

We are uneasy this Thanksgiving.

Yes, this is the time to give thanks for the bounty with which we are blessed. And yet, in this new century, we come up with the sudden realization that our bounty is tinged and tainted in an uneasy world.

This article was published by:
San Diego Mensan magazine, November 2002

We are uneasy this Thanksgiving.

Yes, this is the time to give thanks for the bounty with which we are blessed. And yet, in this new century, we come up with the sudden realization that our bounty is tinged and tainted in an uneasy world.

Today we are poised on a narrow ledge of uncertainty in a global village that considers the bounty of the wealthy western world greedy, isolationist and selfish. We live in a land of plenty, surrounded by hordes of helpless and hungry hangers-on, and an angry element that is bent on the destruction of our society.

The new century has brought into focus the stark reality of our vulnerability in a supposedly free world. We are suddenly nervous and jittery about terrorists infiltrating our neighborhoods, anthrax in our mail, pedophiles among the clergy, a sinking stock-market that has ruined our retirement, an impending war with Iraq, and a hundred other horrible happenings that bombard the news - constant cacophony and vociferous videos with a half-hour refresh time.

The success of our capitalistic freedoms was suddenly tainted as stories of Enronesque excesses by corporate executives continue to flood the news. The heroes of just yesterday, the same ones who mingled with presidents and politicians, those very corporate captains fresh from cover stories in financial glossies, are suddenly doing “perp-walks” for the public.

Consider the bounty of Tyco’s Koslowski who gave his wife a $2m party on the Italian Riviera and purchased a shower-curtain for $6,000. Or that of WorldCom’s Scott Sullivan who is building a $15m Mediterranean-style palace in Florida, on 4.3 acres of lakefront, with an 18-seat theater, BBQ and wet bar, domed exercise room, library, art gallery, wine cellar and separate wine room, 8 bedrooms and eight bathrooms, with 17,000 sq.ft. of air-conditioned space and another 7,000 or so in covered balconies, terraces and walkways. Had these people not been caught, how would they be celebrating this Thanksgiving?

In stark contrast, consider this.

If the world was a village of 100 people:

  • 1 person would have college education
  • Of the 67 adults in the village 37 people would be illiterate
  • About one-third has access to clean, safe drinking water
  • 15 people would live in adequate housing
  • The other 85 people would live in huts and be hungry most of the time
  • 6 people would control half the wealth, 3 of the 6 would be Americans
  • Only 7 people would own an automobile (some would own more than one)
The majority of the people on this planet have always been poor. But, the situation now is different for 3 basic reasons:
  1. The numbers of poor are increasing exponentially - overloading the carrying capacity of underlying social support systems;
  2. The poor now have TV access - to view how the wealthy live;
  3. The poor have access to weapons that can produce large-scale destruction.
Most experts agree that population in developed nations will begin a serious decline during the next few decades, while continuing to surge ahead in underdeveloped nations. In a democratic world the more populous nations should, by the definition of democracy, be in control. In any event, their very numbers will inevitably lead to conflicts and splintering. And in a world made ever smaller by the instant access of media and information, our comparatively luxurious lifestyle sticks out like a sore thumb!

As we enter an age that professes to eschew race, color and creed, it is indeed disappointing that ethnic and religious conflagrations continue. In some parts of the world, their education and environment generates beliefs and values that are diametrically opposed to ours and if unchecked will fester and spread like some awful, virulent disease that will try to destroy everything in its path. Unlike physical bio-terrorism, this is a spiritual disease - a sickness of the soul.

Anyone who contemplates the future should be concerned about these fundamental trends. The collision of cultures during the next decade will very likely make the world a very difficult place to live. Further, it seems that there is no significant way to resolve these problems before they become much bigger and resolution becomes much harder, if not impossible.

Let us give thanks this year, as indeed we must, for our bountiful lives and the blessings of our free society. And too, while we give thanks, let us think about solutions for the problems we face. Let us work on the things that will make us thankful in the years to come, the different thoughts we must think, the different things we must do to help make this world a better place. For us, and for the future.

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