Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm not humanity

Reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us, it's easy to get depressed about all the myriad ways that human beings have found to spoil our world. Not only contemporary human beings, although our negative impact is more varied and profound, but earlier human beings, too. Just about every where we've lived, the world has suffered from our presence.

But reading, perhaps just as a self-defense mechanism, I eventually came to the decision that I was not going to accept collective guilt for the actions of other human beings. The human race as a whole may be judged as a scourge, and as part of that race I'll accept the univeral judgement. But I'm also an individual and for my own sense of moral self-esteem, I need only judge my own actions: what I try to do to help to heal rather than hurt. And when I fail I can be held responsible for my own failings, but need not judge myself for the failings of others.

I think the question to ask is, "Would the world be better or worse off if everyone lived as I do?" I hesitate to give a resounding yes, simply because I'm a rich american I'm using a huge amount of the world's resources. But I wonder if anyone asking theselves that question would answer "No" We all think pretty highly of ourselves, and that may be part of the problem.

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