A Martian's Electic Observations of Earthlings
I, Naitram, formerly of the Planet Mars, am pleased to offer you Earthlings who call yourselves Americans a few eclectic observations on your lives and prospects on Planet Earth.
Notwithstanding the preoccupations of your science-fiction writers, I have not considered your reproductive habits, your beliefs in supernatural beings and/or science, or your heroes and villains, but only examined your behaviors by asking three questions: How do you spend your money? How do you spend the energy and resources of your planet? How do you spend the time of your lives?
My first observation is that you spend a very large part of your money to destroy and hurt one another. To wit: a war now expected to cost $1 trillion; a rumored $44 billion a year to maintain 16 military and civilian intelligence agencies for scrying out terrorists to be detained, tortured or killed; $1 billion for a fence with armed soldiers to keep poor brown people from crossing your southern border; a half-billion for a luxurious embassy in a small nation you wrecked for no apparent benefit. You have also spent more than $5 trillion over 50 years for nuclear weapons that are only "good "(in your quaint idiom) for massive destruction and killing – and that figure does not include environmental damage or lives lost or blighted.
You have spent untold trillions of dollars extracting fossil hydrocarbons, fresh water, and ores from your planet to build machinery, vehicles and infrastructure for the profit and convenience of a few at the expense of many, while degrading a vital system for regulating global temperature, perhaps irreversibly.
You Americans use more power for audio and video equipment that is plugged in but turned off than for the same equipment when it’s actually in use. These "energy vampires" consume 5% of all the electric power generated in your nation – and most of your electricity still comes from coal-fired generators that cost heavily in human lives, greenhouse gases, mercury pollution and mountain-tops.
You spend little money on family planning, healthy environments, basic health care, or diplomacy for the rest of humanity – unless you construe war, genocide and epidemics of disease to be forms of population control, conflict resolution, and health management.
Of the almost $2 trillion you spend annually on your own health care about 20% goes to administration, bureaucracy and profits; another 10% goes to large pharmaceutical corporations
About a quarter of you are overweight from consuming excess carbohydrates, yet you spend an average of four hours a day watching TV, a half-hour commuting to your jobs, and you use power mowers burning fossil hydrocarbons to cut a herbaceous plant that feeds no one, and you drive your SUVs to fitness centers to spend time on bicycles that don’t go anywhere.
Your schools are supported primarily by local property taxes, and 87% of home-property owners are white. Non-white children whose families cannot afford to buy homes do not get the same quality education.
In a small corner of Ohio you will pay the new president of Kent State University a salary of $350,000 plus perks. In nearby Ravenna you offer barely 7% of that amount to the Program Director of the King-Kennedy Community Center, who copes with everything from writing grants and supervising volunteers to answering phones, comforting children, and cleaning the floor.
Worldwide, I observe that a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. I see the women of Africa spending 40 billion working-hours annually carrying water. But when tap water was supplied to a village in Ethiopia and the women’s time spent carrying water was reduced from three hours to 15 minutes a day, the birth rate and survival rates in the village went up and the nutritional status of children went down.
Overall, I suggest that the survival of your kind cannot be purchased by investing in ever more advanced technologies for food production, mining, manufacturing, transportation, electricity generation, communication and computers, nor will you live longer or better by exploiting the poor, ignorant, and weak.
The integrity of your planet will not be guaranteed by the adoption of religions, ideologies, modes of government, economic systems, or Grand Plans of Great Leaders. The survival of your civilization (such as it is) will not be achieved by war – with or without nuclear weapons – nor by the enactment of laws to govern every possible contingency of life, enforced with nuclear threats, walls, militias, harsh punishments, poverty or deprivation.
In your dominant language, the pronouns for the second-person singular are archaic. I strongly advise you, as you ponder my questions, to use the first-person plurals: We, Us, Our. How do we spend our money? How do we spend our planet’s energy and resources? How do we spend our time?
Think on these things. I do not prescribe remedies. You must work out your own salvation with everyone at the table. "We, Us and Our" must include all of your kind on Earth. If you segregate yourselves into We /They, Us/ Them, Ours/Theirs, you will not learn how to live within the means of your planet.
I, Naitram, must use the first-person singular because, alas, I am the sole survivor of a planet that could not regulate its temperature and is now lifeless.
Before joining Senator Glenn's Washington staff in 1985, Caroline Arnold email@example.com taught at every grade level, including university, founded and ran a successful small business, and served three terms on the Kent (OH) Board of Education. In retirement she grows strawberries, beans, squash and potatoes in her garden, is principal cellist of the Stow Symphony, and serves on the boards of Family & Community Services http://www.portagefamilies.org/start.html and the Akron Council on World Affairs http://www.akronworldaffairs.org/. The Martian appears to be an artifact of her new computer.
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