Friday, August 15, 2008

Excess

For obvious reasons, the idea of extra "stuff" has been on my mind lately. But not just in my house, rather on a more global sense. How much is too much? Can Americans even grasp that question? Can they even see beyond their own tunnel vision to look at the world around them and how their actions affect it? I used to be (naively, maybe) optimistic that we could change our mindsets and start to care for our planet. With each day I grow less convinced.

Wednesday night I sat in PNC park with Ell and her brother watching the grounds keepers get the field ready for the game. Relining the baselines, raking the pitcher's mound smooth, setting the bases... and then I saw it. A hose was hooked up to a water outlet and three guys commenced with hosing down the infield dirt. The whole thing. From third base all the way around to first. I was blown away.

Now I've been to a lot of baseball games, and maybe this isn't new, but I'd never seen this practice done before. I'm sure there are legitimate reasons for this giant waste of water; dust, traction, etc. But all I could think of was people in Africa --heck, even the south western United States-- who would pay good money to have that water that was being wasted. Yes, I said wasted.

Just as fast as the thought entered my brain, I envisioned the arguments that would be leveled against me. And every one of them angered me even more because every one of them was born out of greed and deep selfishness. Problem was, I'm certain many would not view their arguments in those lights. They paid good money to see a game; they deserve to not have their vision blurred by dust. And on and on and on...

We live surrounded by this kind of selfishness. We think we deserve air conditioning; we think we deserve to drive SUV's, we think we deserve to have too-big houses, we think we deserve to throw away our food if we don't like it... And don't feed me some crap that our free country affords us these privileges; that you work hard so you can spend and use as you see fit. Therein lies the ultimate of that selfish mentality. Calling me a Socialist? If Socialism requires a kinder, less selfish existence (which of course isn't all that accurate) then sign me up.

I love this country and I love that it affords freedom for anything we want. What I don't love is that we've grown into a people that have zero global conscience. It's not a new selfishness, I know. But even more so then, we should be pursuing a purpose of making some changes. All we've done is replace old habits with just as destructive new ones. We've even fixed old mistakes in the midst of making new ones.

I have a million thoughts that could make this post a mile long (and completely disjointed), so I'll quit here. Thanks for letting me vent.

19 Comments:

Blogger Dave and Betsy: said...

I agree. You can call me socialist as well. I don't mind. The problem is, we could always do with less. We could always give more. How do we walk the line with living life, and giving life? You know? Although capitalism is core to our freedom in America, our selfish sinful nature is not only allowing people to die all over the world, but it will eventually implode and cause America to need as much help as we are unwilling to give others now. It's kind of a scary thought, and very sad. As for me, I need to listen to God about how to spend my money, how to save our resources, how to honor our planet, and how to honor others.

SAM IS THE MAN!!
Blessings,
Dave

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Rob Osborn said...

I don't comment very often, but i couldn't let this one go. You probably expect this from me, but i think you're way off base on this one (no pun intended). Vague generalizations about selfish americans are easy to make, but they don't get us anywhere. In fact, i think they distract us from the real issues that we should be talking about. We can debate specifics if you want, but for now I just wanted to put up an 'i disagree' vote.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Good point, Rob. When I first sat down to write this post I had zero intentions of even using the word "american" to describe my disgust. (Not that I think Americans are innocent of selfishness, but it definitely can't be limited only to them.) I live here and am surrounded by the other people that live here and I guess my disgust was aimed at what I see the most. Probably should have tried to corral my thoughts before writing them.

Since you offered, what specifics do you disagree with? (And feel free to leave American out of it.) Like I said in the post, I had/have a hundred points of related discussion that wouldn't have fit into that post and I'm sure a few of them are on your mind as well. Share, good sir. Share away.

(I should do more political type posts since they're the ones that drag you from your dungeon.)

10:16 AM  
Blogger GUYK said...

Selfish? When I am called selfish I take it as a compliment! Why? Because it is always someone wanting something that I have that I have worked hard to get and I refuse to part with it just because they think they have a right to it.

I refuse to accept the guilt for a damn thing that I have not done..and when the word selfish is used it is usually used to try to make someone feel guilty about what they have achieved in life and maybe make them feel guilty enough to part with what they have
achieved.

The basic tenet of socialism is "contribute according to ability and received according to need." But who determines my ability and my needs? Society? Yeah, right..

Many years ago a Southern Philosopher named Brother Dave Gardner side it best about helping people..."If you see a poor man dozen kick him and give him an incentive to get up."

I came to a conclusion many years ago that if everyone in this country did their dead level best to take care of themselves and theirs that there would be very few left for the rest of us to take care of..and if that is selfish...well, thank you for the compliment.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Son of a gun, I had a great comment and dangit if Blogger didn't freeze up on me and I lost it. Let's see if I can remember any of it.

Great angle, Guy. I agree with you on everything up to the point of helping others. I'm never in favor of helping those who CAN but WON'T help themselves, but what about those who just CAN'T? Disabled, invalids, etc...

At the risk of harsh reactions or a new topic, I personally wonder if the world would be better off if we ignored the needs of the weak. That's how survival of the fittest works, right?

In stark contrast to that thought (which is very internal and personal) is the fact that I strive to rise above myself and let my actions be influenced by my God. All do not need to believe the way I believe so please don't take this as preachy. My God instructs me to give water and food and clothes to those that need it, and I'm trying to pursue that. I couldn't do that by myself, nor would I care to. I need His nudging to remind me to care about my fellow human. Just like you said, you nor I can determine someone else's ability and needs. So if someone humbles themself enough to say they need, I want to help.

Thanks for adding to the discussion, Guy. You and Rob are on the top of my list for a reason. Keep it coming.

1:33 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

When Moses told the people to "Honor their Mother and Father" he wasn't telling them to obey...

The difference between a civilized society and the uncivilized is that we in the civilized take care of our weak and our elderly...in the past this was done voluntarily..it was just something that we were taught to do.

However, when government took over the function it decided that anyone who thought they has a need should be taken care of...and take a look at what it has brought us..a society some 10 trillion dollars in debt with some 75 percent of the population (including me)depending in part or entirety on the government for their very subsistence..agreed that many are retired and have 'earned' the retirement money and it also includes those who actively
work for government at various levels. But it includes generations of welfare families who are mentally and physically able to work..but refuse to do so and also teach their children that the government 'owes' them.

Few of us 'neo-libertarians' begrudge a helping hand to those who need it or even the support of those who cannot support themselves. It would probably surprise you if you knew how much community support most of us do. But what we do resent is being labeled selfish because we refuse when we can to help those who refuse to help themselves.

There is something about human nature that requires an incentive to produce...especially to produce more than day to day needs. And it is that excess production and the ability to use it to trade that caused humans to evolve from the hunting and gathering clans into modern society.

We might as well face it..humans like their 'stuff' and will work just a bit harder to produce in order to get that 'stuff' whether it be a little bigger house, a newer automobile, a better grade of beef, or a prettier woman...but if they know that their excess production will be taken from them to feed those who refuse to produce enough to feed themselves..hell, why bother to work hard?

5:45 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Couldn't have said it better, Guy. And I agree with you 100%.

The point I was trying to make in this post, not so effectively I admit, was not about conscious choices we make but rather about things we just accept without question. Things we see and experience that make little to no sense but we fain ingnorance or denial of that stupidity because it's easier to ignore than to deal with it. In my book, being ignorant is just as much a sin as anything else. (If you have the opportunity to learn and grow but refuse that knowledge, you're as much to blame as the ones doing the harm.)

In the water example --since that's what prompted the post-- common sense dictates that 100's of gallons of water (which becomes 1000's and tens of 1000's throughout a season) could be better used somewhere else. Yes, it's common sense. But has there ever been a protest or formal complaint or request of need done for the waste of water? No. (I checked since writing the post.) Why? Well that's common sense too... it would require time and attention most just can't be bothered to expend.

And maybe there's where my beef is in regards to waste. We all value our time; myself included. So even though we see something that is so very obviously abhorently invasive and wasteful, we're all too selfish to speak up or lend a hand. Again, call me guilty.

So seeing that water sent me into a tizzy. As it festered inside my head I kept seeing so much other waste that was just as mindless. And making it worse was the attitudes of people who when presented with their waste actually tried to defend it. That stupid, selfish defiance was where the anger came from more than the waste.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Guy said... "The difference between a civilized society and the uncivilized is that we in the civilized take care of our weak and our elderly...in the past this was done voluntarily..it was just something that we were taught to do."

I wanted to address this seperately because it deserves differention from my other thoughts. I love how you worded that quote. And I love what you had to say about the welfare epidemic. Agree on all parts; even to the point of it being a multi-generational problem. (I.E. the reason voluntary socialism has never worked.)

But I would remind you of a previous quote you made about society dictating our abilities and needs. If you scoft at someone else telling you what your's are, how can you then return the same action at what you (or I) may only "perceive" to be wastes of flesh and tax-dollars? Do we really know? In some cases, yes we do. In the majority, even though we can make good assumptions, there's no way we can be sure.

Please know I'm not defending our welfare system; in it's present state it's one of our greatest embarassments as a country. But I can't use that disgust as a complete back-turning of all people who "look like" they fit the stereotype. That's unfair and unrealistic. Like I said before, whether or not they are or aren't one of the losers, if someone has truly, and I emphasize TRULY, humbled themselves enough to ask for help, I will try to help. All internal predjudice and distrust aside, I will try to do as my Maker asks. I'll let him sort out the lying sloths.

Thank you greatly for your involvement in this discussion, Guy. I highly value your thoughts and viewpoints and I thouroughly respect your wisdom and digest everything you say, agree or disagree. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

10:33 AM  
Blogger GUYK said...

Thanks Sam. I have has the opportunity..or maybe misfortune..to live in some countries where socialism prevailed..and some that were under a dictator of sorts and even is an Islamic country..Turkey. I have seen poverty in its truest meaning..where people worked the daylight hours just to try to get enough food to feed their families. Where a dozen or more people slept in a hovel not as big as my office and where less than fifty percent of the children ever grew to be adults.

Maybe this is what has made me seem cold hearted to those so called poor people in the USA...who would be considered wealthy in a country such as Turkey or the Philippine Islands of the early 1960s and filthy rich by the peasants of Vietnam in 1961.

I just cannot generate any sympathy for those in the USA who refuse to take advantage of the opportunities that millions have fought to provide them. I certainly support their right to make the choices that put them in the lower economic strata but I also resent being required to feed them because of their poor lifetime decisions. I will ( and have many times in the past ) help anyone who needs help and is willing to help themselves. It is those who refuse to do so and then try to put me on a guilt trip because I resent helping them that I despise...not because they are poor my American standards but because they want what I have earned and think they have a right to it.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Amen!
We have a joke that swirls around our circle of helpers... In America, even the homeless have a roof over their head and food in their bellies.

The people you spoke of in that last comment exemplify the laziness I was originally speaking of. Those that get away with whatever they want simply because they can. The kicker is that that attitude is evident in the rich as well as the so-called poor; it knows no class.

In my (meager) efforts to help others, one of my hopes is that I can break that cycle in the young people. If I can somehow show a work ethic or a glimpse of responsibility, maybe some of these kids will break the mold their parents and grandparents have tried to trap them in. It may be a losing battle, but I have to try.

1:13 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

Sam, your way of helping will do more good for this country than the welfare checks and food stamps.

There was a time in this country where kids had an option in public high schools to take a vocational course..one that would give them a leg up when they went out into the world looking for a job..these courses not only taught a skill but they taught work ethic..we need them again...everywhere.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Zack said...

I have a love/hate relationship with these kind of posts. the intellectual side of me loves the food for thought that it provides, and on the other hand it makes me look at the small wastes in my life, the ones that seemingly don't affect the greater scheme of things, but still influence my life, and the life of others. when i was reading my bible recently, in matthew, i came across a verse that really hit me hard. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:1-3
I'm not saying that we all have planks in our eye, but we all waste in our own ways. We all have faults.
I am also in no way criticizing the post or those that responded hitherto for their thoughts and views (especially because i agree with the majority of them). I'm merely stating that you have reenforced the fact for me that if i want to say that somebody is in the wrong for wasting something, or for being lazy I need to make sure that in my own life i'm working my darndest to not be doing the same thing to a different degree, or in another form. sorry if this is a bit run-on-ish, i'm out of the practice of writing.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Zack said...

And by the way, I always love reading your posts and the respones. I feel as if I always come away much smarter.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

If only you could learn how to use spell checker, imagine the brains you would come away with.
;-)

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Rob Osborn said...

It looks like a lot of conversation has happened here since i posted my earlier response, and i've just gotten around to reading it. I don't have much to contribute the current discussion, but i'll answer your question, sam, and explain what specifically i was talking about.

My biggest disagreement was with your water example. Also, i was bothered by your statement that all of the arguments that were against your position were born in greed and deep selfishness. I might get back to that later, but for now i'll keep going with the water thing...

There is no shortage of water in Pittsburgh. There is no shortage of water in most of our country, and even if there was, the abundance of water in Pittsburgh wouldn't do anything to ease the thirst of a state like Texas or New Mexico. Clean water is a completely renewable resource--yes, we're fortunate to have an abundance of it here in this country while many other places don't. But that doesn't mean it's wrong to use it here.

The greatest thing about PNC park, in my opinion, is that it represents (at least on the outside) some people doing what God has called all of us to do...that is, "be fruitful and multiply." Somewhere along the line, some brilliant mind realized that if they could spend some money on electricity, water, lime, fertilizer, leather baseballs, baseball bats, muscle, and the know-how of various talented people, they could manufacture a product that people would pay for. And people have! Baseball isn't taking our money from us by force--we gladly pay for the price of a ticket in exchange for an evening of relaxation. The water used to hose down the infield is just one of the ingredients that we are paying for. We see baseball as an enrichment of our lives...something worth paying for.

The folks at PNC park aren't stealing the water from thirsty people. They are buying it, like any other commodity. They are taking something that has no real value because of it's abundance, and they are turning it into something profitable.

Obviously, if PNC was located in a small oasis in the sahara, and it was taking all of the water that feeds a nearby village of thirsty people, that would be a different story altogether. But that's not the case here. All the water in Pittsburgh, and most of this country for that matter, is completely useless when it comes to quenching the thirst of dying people in africa. We can't load it on a plane and take it to them...at least not practically. If we really want to get serious about helping people who need water, we need to look beyond the water hose. So instead of complaining that we're wasting water, let's realize that for ever 100 people who attended that baseball game we could have built a well in africa that would have provided clean water to an entire village. If there was ten thousand people at the game that's 100 villages that could have had clean water if everyone had sent their $25 to Blood-Water Mission instead of attending the game. But, am i going to fault any one of those people for spending their money or using their gasoline to go to a baseball game? Absolutely not.

The example of water is just that--an example. The same could be argued for nearly every other aspect of our lives. Like i said before, we just need to be careful about general statements and complaints. Obviously, i don't think my arguments against conserving water at baseball games are selfish. I think that using our natural and renewable resources is what God wanted us to do. At the same time, we are called to help the poor, the sick, and the needy. And, believe it or not, i think many Americans are pretty good at doing that a lot of the time. Obviously we fail every time our government is involved, but the american people aren't a complete bunch of selfish pigs who care nothing for other people. God has blessed our country in some great ways, and for some good reasons, and we shouldn't be afraid to enjoy His blessings, any more than we should be eager to share those blessings with the unfortunate.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hey Rob, thanks for coming back to the fun. I've always liked your attitude and opinions as they related to economics. And I'm grateful you choose to share them and allow your ideas to be discussed.

Unfortunately you're wrong on your PNC water facts. I'll explain how I know the following facts so they have weight. One of my best friends in high school was/is on the engineering firm that built PNC. Most of the following information is from him.

First point of contention: your comment about PNC buying their water. If you followed baseball ten or so years ago you'd remember the talk of the Pirates being sold. To keep them in the city, the team and their new park was granted a 20 year reduction on all utilities and a 10year tax break. So when they turn on the faucet they aren't paying the same as the everyone else. In fact, everyone who lives in the city has to pay MORE when PNC turns their water on in the form of taxes.

Second, if you believe there's no value to water, why is there a charge for it? The services, right? Those services use electricity, manpower, equipment, etc. So, since PNC is getting it at a reduced cost and as you said, "turning it into something profitable...", how does that compare at all? It doesn't and it's vastly unfair to the people of the city. So it turns out baseball IS taking our money by force; they're just using someone else to do it. (Maybe that fits into your comment about the government being involved.)

Rob, I can never argue against free will of the people, supply and demand (which is a selfish word at its core, but I digress), or the fact that hard working Americans can spend their money any way they want; your comments make perfect sense. I like living in America and that doing so allows me to speak my mind just as much as waste its water. But that has nothing to do with common sense. That dirt didn't have to be watered and we all know it. The fact that no one says anything or cares is the blanket statement I made. Knowing yet ignoring is selfish.

So why don't people raise a stink? Enter the laziness I was referring to. (As well as other examples.) It's just too much work to be bothered with. Fighting city hall doesn't work, isn't that what they say?

A side point, I think God gives us the freedom to be selfish. My decision to not have children is selfish. Some people's decision to have kids is selfish. The house we buy is selfish. The person we marry is selfish. Keep going if necessary, my point is that selfish is not always a bad word. Likes and dislikes and preferences and avoidances are what make us individuals; they make us a "self". We all have the right to do what we want, but I'm certain many, many people use that as an excuse to ignore common sense and embrace wrongful obstinate inaction.

Not sure that was all connected or even comes close to ending our interaction on the topic, but thanks again for responding, Rob.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Rob, the one thing I failed to mention in that long winded response is...

If I didn't have the inside knowledge I did, your argument was well written and would have changed my complete outlook. You are wise beyond your years or station and I'm proud to know someone with a brain like yours.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

i think i'ma hafta go with rob on the water thing. even if PNC does use some tax money to water down its sand, PNC park is also bringing money into the city limits from people that live outside the city limits, which is always good for the city. and i also agree that water is pretty abundant around pittsburgh and that the energy used to treat that water can't be any worse than the energy used to power the lights or the giant scoreboard... also, i'm pretty sure grounds crews have a reason of watering infield dirt. its not so much the dust in the air they're worried about but the way that the ball reacts when it hits the dirt. dirt that is too compact, or too wet, or too dry can make a ball bounce in an unwanted direction. in the end, if you're going to complain about water on the ballfield, you might as well complain about the rest of the things that happen in pro sports. perhaps the high salaries of the players... maybe the fact that a new stadium has to be built every ten years (exaggeration, i know, but did pittsburgh really need to get rid of 3 rivers stadium?)... maybe even the fact that they get a new ball after every play... but then we just might forget why it is that we go to baseball games in the first place. (i like what rob had to say about "being friutful") also, a fact that deserves to be noticed is that pro sports seem to be one of the only uniting factors for gangs in pittsburgh. i.e. the steelers are the only thing that the gangs agree on. so, i think i could let this issue slide...

I think the fact that you wrote this post shows that you have a desire to better the welfare of others. I think this topic deserves its own post, but i'll give a few thoughts here anyway. i agree that in our country there is a lot of potential to earn a living no matter what the circumstances, and that laziness and poor moral decision is a very big factor in a lot of people's inability to get out of the cycle of poverty. however, i think systematic oppression also exists that prevents even the hardest of workers (not to mention the unequipped like the handicapped) from getting away from that cycle. A kick in the butt may be what some people need, and better moral choices is certainly what we all need. however, to go with the classic saying, teaching a man to fish will feed him for a lifetime, but the poor guy still needs a fish today so he has enough strength to cast out his line.

good thoughts, sam and everyone else who commented. this is certainly a conversation that needs to happen.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I like how your brain works my friend.......you venting is always the best.

6:12 PM  

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