Thursday, January 10, 2008

Taking the Easy Way Out

by Lisa Ong-Appleby

I am an occasional surfer of Forestexplorers. It was to my pleasant surprise today when I chanced upon 2 articles which prompted me to write to Forest the webmaster.

ForestExplorers: When National Park is becoming Theme Park
ForestExplorers.Com : Tarutao Accidental Pilgrims

The first concerns rubbish in National Parks. Rubbish together with clean water are 2 constant perenial problems in isolated islands. There is really not much one can do about water, but rubbish is a management problem and sadly this has been given the “easy-way-out treatment” i.e. ignore it or do as little as possible (save on expenses). Nobody wants to think about it and nobody wants to do anything about it (except perhaps members of the Forestexplorers forum), not even the people who bring litter and foul up these beautiful islands.

I can think of many other instances in everyday life where the “easy-way-out” method is employed. Take the parking of cars for instance. Every driver seems obssessed and insistent on parking as closely as possible to their destination. This inevitable jams up the popular places. Very few consider parking some distance away and taking a healthy walk to the places they want to go to.

In terms of energy saving, the developed world uses about 10 times what the underdeveloped world uses. By saving 10% energy the developed world could do a lot much more than what the underdeveloped and hungry people of the world could do by going even hungrier, yet in the Kyoto rounds, the developed people insist on taking the easy-way-out. This is shameful behaviour, but it does not excuse the wasteful habits I see constantly in the underdeveloped world too.

Everyone is concerned about her or his own health, yet even in terms of health, the “easy-way-out” method is employed. The result is bloated tummies and ugly features that spell weak ugly character. These days lots of folks realise that one’s body is one’s temple and it needs maintainance. Still, too many take the easy way out resulting in a world full of too many ugly creatures.

Antibiotics in medicine are the panacea of most illnesses, but too many doctors take the easy way out and over-prescribe resulting in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and dangerous new diseases. The stomach flu sweeping the British Isles even now and AIDS are examples. I am sure that with today’s lax attitides to medicine, many more new diseases will test the margins of public health in the very near future.

However it is in the area of business that the effects of “taking the easy way out” is most keenly felt and does its most influential work. The rubbish problem touched upon earlier is a symptom of business thinking too. Exploit everything as cheaply as one can. Use nature’s resources without paying a penny. If it is common property and humanity’s assets, grab as much as one can for oneself. Enrich oneself as much as possible and as quickly as possible in the easiest manner at the expense of the rest of the world as well (and especially) of nature. Despoil, despoil, despoil.

Tragically the end result is the over explotation of our own species (of other humans beings) and well as taking the easy-way-out in conservation. We have lost respect for ourselves and made convenience as well as profit kings of our universe. We have lost respect for our own bodies, for our neighbours, for our environment and even for our own dignity.

Families are broken up as parents concentrate on their own careers and ambitions. Babies are neglected and fed with expensive but convenient toys as well as convenient junk food, placed in the care of convenient nannies or even strangers in convenient day-care centres.

If you ask me, this is not the age of industrialization, nor of enlightenment nor even of intelligent technology. Our culture has turned into one of self-loathing convenience and self-indulgence.

We solve problems by taking the easy way out – right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. We give our elected leaders the same leeway to solve global problems resulting in “us against them” approaches and ending in terrible wars and suicidal conflicts as well as racial riots and brutal madness.

At his point perhaps it is time to point to another trend. In his article Pipit mentioned that some Thai royalty were incarcerated in camps for political prisoners. Such people had the chance to lead privileged lives yet saw fit to fight for reforms and suffer for it. In many parts of the world royalty is seen as an evil and parasitic in nature, yet the Thais revere their King. Obviously one cannot generalise when looking at complex situations. Royalty too, play good roles and the Thai royal family has benefitted from this good tradition started by some members of the royal family. The Thai royal family did not take the easy way out and struggled to transform themselves as well as their country and they can take pride in the fact that they have never been colonised by the modern powers.

Tragically the same cannot be said for Kenya, where tribalism and ethnic conflicts rule the day. Obviously they have a lower level of culture compared to the Thais and their leaders are not as good as the Thai King, but is all this bloodletting really necessary? In my opinion, it should not be said to be “necessary” but perhaps “unavoidable” as the Kenyans take the path to greater maturity. Even the Europeans had their days of bloodletting before they became more civilised and mature. If foks are stubborn and cannot learn the “easy” way then there is no other except the “hard” one. Let me be blunt and spell it out more clearly as there should not be any room for misinterpretation. When folks take the “easy way out” and are lazy in solving complex problems, refuse to be disciplined and work hard, compromise on their own morality, then the result can be very bad mistakes and very hard lessons to be learned. Easy turns easily into hard. Convenient turns easily into misery. Self-indulgence turns easily into unwanted tragedy. It is one’s choice.

Perhaps I should let this letter end here, but that would be taking the easy way out. In today’s globalised world, all economies are managed economies. Don’t believe the politicians when they say their economies are free market economies. They say this only to escape responsibility when something goes wrong and they mismanage badly. My point is this – if our leaders and elected politicians try to wriggle out of their reponsibilities for mismanagment, should be also take the easy way out and let them get away with it? Or should be somehow struggle to adopt a more participatory and disciplined approach to our own country’s future? Should we allow Kenya to happen to Malaysia?

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