May 20, 2018

Random Thoughts: The Time is Now

Random thoughts, sitting on the porch listening to a gentle rain falling, watching the dust wash away from the garden, smiling at reflections in the puddles on the street (until a car comes through and ripples the heck out of everything):

We had another school shooting a couple of days ago. Ho hum, right? We sent out compassion, our "we're with you forever" messages right on schedule. And while our "thoughts and prayers" are floating over a small Texas town, just like they've floated over a small Florida town, a small Connecticut town, a small Colorado town, a small Pennsylvania Amish town, and more, our real thoughts and prayers focus on what to do about it, or what not to do about it.

Because guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns don't bully people, people bully people. And guns don't wear black trench coats in the heat of a spring Texas day, people wear trench coats in the heat of a spring Texas day. Guns don't get overly upset when someone shuns their advances, people do...  You know the drill.

Similar vein, different subject: plastic bags.

There's a movement to ban the plastic bags we get when we pick up groceries, or clothes, or plant food or convenience items, or prescriptions - they're ubiquitous, the darn things. (And without them, we'd not have a convenient way to get our cat litter into the trash - unless of course we start leaving it on the yards of people who don't pick up after their dogs on our yard, maybe?)

The big blue states of California (which saw a 72% drop in plastic bag waste on a cleanup day the year after the bill was passed) and New York, where the governor is being forced to the left by an actress, are in the thick of it.

Retailers say it's unnecessary, expensive, paper bags aren't viable replacements, yadda yadda yadda...
And this morning on a news report, I heard the ultimate shutdown of these attempts at protecting the environment: plastic bags don't cause pollution, people do.

Another story I heard talked about a requirement, also in California, that soon new home construction will have to include solar panels.  Locally, builders are not excited about that, concerned that the added costs of installing the panels could price people out of the new home market.

So, builders don't price people out of the market, solar panels do?  That doesn't make any sense: solar panels, which are inanimate objects, cannot price anyone out of the housing market, that would have to be the builders, right?

I'm sure I could find many more examples of this stuff, where no 'things' are bad, only people are bad.
Except - -think about it:
  • autonomous cars, where there's a driver who fails to take control of the car and allows it to crash? We don't blame the person, we still blame the car...
  • technological assistants that spy on us, track us, all that stuff:  we don't blame the person who bought the darn things, we blame the devices... 
  • failing airbags? They're supposed to protect us if we get into a crash, but we don't blame the driver who has the accident...
  • costs of prescriptions, costs of  air ambulance trips, other health care costs? Blame the companies who make the items, operate the items, sell the insurance, but not the people who are getting sick...
So, then, what is the logic?  Are we supposed to blame the thing when it costs people money, but we blame the people when it takes the lives of others?  Well, no, that's inconsistent - because guns. 

Do we blame the thing when it harms people in some way, outside their control? That works on air ambulance and health care stuff, but it doesn't work on guns when children get shot in schools, people get shot in churches, and movie theaters or medical offices or on Army bases or college campuses or in Walmart parking lots... 

Do we blame people when they're stupid, such as with pollution?  Well, that doesn't work either - because isn't a person who blindly trusts an electronic spy in their homes and then is shocked when something goes wrong also stupid? Or when the autonomous car fails to do what it's supposed to, and so does the person?

I think it's clear. No matter what, there's a person behind everything that's either good, bad or indifferent. And the stuff that we think is good or indifferent can turn out to be bad when put in the hands of the wrong person. And of course, something that can be bad, if used differently, can turn into something good.

But that relies on people to identify the options, understand the implications, and make good decisions, with the best of intentions. And we've seen how that goes, right?

I think we have to protect ourselves from all of those people, and there's really only one solution.

We're stuck with the people we have, kind of like we're stuck with school shootings and environmental issues and science deniers and sexual harassers and religious zealots of any faith who can not just Joe Biden literally but actually literally justify anything and everything by finding a verse in their religious book of choice, and terrorists of any stripe and unethical politicians and and and...

So we have to ban more people.

And we have to start right now. 

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