It’s that time of year again: the end, when the sense of time running out along with long dark nights that provide way too much time to think combine to make us ponder our past and future: how the former could have been better spent, and how the latter is like a minefield strewn with gold nuggets, full of both menace and promise. This leads naturally to the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions: listing the things we can do to make the next year better than the last.
It’s unfortunate that the entire human race, or large portions of it, can’t put together a to-do list for the future. For instance, H. sapiens as a whole could vow to stop overbreeding and crowding the planet with sprawling, smoking, anomic cities, clearcuts , strip-mined mountains and mesas and refuse dumps bursting with poisons and toxins.
In addition to that, we could vow to consume a lot less per capita, especially us (sic) Americans, who consume something like a quarter or a fifth of the world’s resources despite the fact that we constitute something like 1/24th of the world’s population.
Then there is that problem as old as the human race itself, racism. It seems to be common to every ethnic group on earth, and it occurs in the most absurd situations, between groups that are virtually indistinguishable from each other. When I was in Jerusalem I would start talking with some guy at the next table at some coffee shop, and about thirty seconds into the conversation I would realize that I had reached an impasse: was this dude a Palestinian or an Israeli? If I had a newspaper with me featuring the latest scrum between the two groups, it was easy; I could ostentatiously scan the paper, glance over at my new acquaintance, and shake my head in general disapproval. His reaction was an instantaneous i.d.: “Those ------ ------ Arabs! They are like animals!”, or “Those ------- ------- Israelis! They are like animals!” Kissing cousins killing cousins.
When the Taliban, exclusively members of the Pushtun tribe, were trying to exterminate the Hazara ethnic group in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, one death squad member was rejoicing loudly that he had just “sent eleven Hazaras to Hell.” When a local Pushtun told him he had made a mistake and that four of his victims had been fellow Pushtuns, he was shattered: “I killed Pushtuns? Now I’M going to go to Hell, too!”
Let’s resolve to rid our minds of racism, or at least try to. Beginning on January 1, 2013. And while we’re at it, eat more green vegetables, study a foreign language, exercise at least 45 minutes a day and, for God’s sake, recycle.
That should keep us busy till 2014 rolls around.