Saturday, January 5, 2013


To my son Tommy,

I recently wrote to you about the "used to"s and how it befuddles me that many of us stop doing things that were good for us.  We stop doing things that help our health or our sanity or our quality of life or our growth as a human.  But there is a even more confounding trend, an exact opposite of not doing things we used to, we keep doing things that directly harm us.

We, as a society, spend so much money figuring out what is bad for us, but the knowledge rarely effects the results.  We know we should stop using plastic bags at the grocery store but only few make the effort to use reusable shopping bags.  Despite ads from the 1950's telling us 4 out 5 doctors recommend certain types of cigarettes, we know that smoking is bad for us but big tobacco is still around and doing well.  Bankrupt people, companies, and countries keep spending money like they were flush.  Overweight people still hit all you can eat desert buffets and overindulge.  The list can go on forever and touch most every aspect of life.

A famous saying or quote is "Anything good in this life is either illegal, immoral, or fattening".  Not sure who said that but it encompasses the main reasoning for people continuing their bad habits.  There is some air of truth to it.  Smoking is something that the addictive response from my body had convinced me was a great thing.  The mind is weak against some of the arguments of the flesh and the feelings the body create when you do something.  What we know is wrong or bad for us, is hard not to do because it feels so darn good.  Scientist will tell you that these bodily responses are built in to our genetic code and used to serve a purpose in evolution.  Whether that is true or not, it sure makes it difficult to stop.

There other factors in why bad things persist, specifically with big institutional problems.  Every little issue is intertwined with so many other issues.  If you stop entire industry practices, someone loses money or at least has to adapt to find a new way of making a living.  You stop selling smokes, there goes the big tobacco companies finances and their employees who depend on them for wages.  I won't even bring in the politics and crime issues that would come from the illegal bootleg market that would come from a "prohibition" of cigarettes.  If you stop the grocery store from using plastic bags, they might have to pay more for paper bags and more trees are harvested and people can't carry as much when they get home so they buy less.  It becomes a serious problem that you have to think out very carefully before jumping to a solution.  It makes some problems almost seem insurmountable.  Throw in the fact that when you tell someone they can't do something, they will start screaming about freedom and immediately go do the exact opposite.  Even people that don't have a "horse in the race" will chime in and speak about rights and freedoms even if it is obvious that the world would be better without.  Confounding.

So where do you start?  Where do you change this? You start with yourself.  You make a change that stops one of your bad habits.  Then tell someone.  Tell one of your friends and explain to them why you are doing it.  Maybe a light will go on and they will make a change.  Then by chance it will go "viral" and people will start changing.  Then market forces and the lack of demand for the bad object or action will make it unprofitable and in disdain politically and out of public favor.  Then perhaps it will go away.  But the key is you making your own change, for yourself.  If everyone makes these personal changes, then perhaps we can really start making changes with out banning and barring and ruining economies and freedoms and rights and sensibilities.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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