Thursday, October 7, 2010

Future Generations Will Praise Us...And Think We're a Little Crazy!

Growing up, I loved going to my Nana and Pop Pop's house.  It served as a safe haven of sorts.  My cousins were often there, so it was guaranteed that I would have someone to play with other than my sisters.  It was also a given that there would be food...lots of food...usually too much food to eat.  There was a big backyard and basement to explore...plenty of places for me to escape.  But also places for me to engage, especially if I was willing to watch sports or Jeopardy, which is often what the adults would be doing.

I loved my Nana so much because she was always showing her love for me.  Forever in her kitchen or sewing room, she was making me or my sisters or cousins some new clothes or our favorite desserts.  But I also thought some of her practices were strange.  She was always saving things like foil or plastic food storage bags.  I used to joke with her and with my sisters and cousins about the rinsed out and hanging up to dry plastic bags.  Why doesn't she just go to the store and get more plastic bags?  It reminded me of my Dad and his installation of a special shower head in our bathroom.  Why would we need to be able to easily shut off the water in the middle of our showers?  After all, we have all of the water we want (this thinking wasn't exactly true, as I learned when our private well was pumped dry by a neighboring construction project).

What I didn't understand then was that my Nana and my Dad had grown up during a different time, a time when material goods and necessary resources weren't as plentiful and weren't taken for granted.

A few days ago I read this article titled What Will Future Generations Condemn Us For? by Kwame Anthony Appiah.  Appiah lists practices such as our poor treatment of animals and the elderly and suggests that if people have already heard the arguments against a practice, if the defenders of the practice do not provide moral counterarguments but invoke tradition or necessity, and if supporters of the practice engage in strategic ignorance, then a practice is destined for future condemnation.  It reminded me of a conversation that Dave and I had recently about slavery in the US.  Of course it's easy for us to condemn that practice now, but if we were living in that time, would we have spoken out against slavery?  Or would we have justified it by telling ourselves that our actions couldn't possibly make a difference and that life as we knew it wouldn't be possible without slaves?

Lately, I've been feeling convicted about my greed and materialism.  I have to admit that I don't like to see how my habits directly or indirectly impact other people or our environment in negative ways, because that means I'll have to change.  And really, it's just easier and less time consuming to be wasteful.  I don't want to have to think about how my purchases and other practices enable injustice systems to continue.

Thank you Nana and thank you Dad for compelling me to think.  I used to be convinced that you were crazy, but now I appreciate that you are wise and thoughtful and sacrificing.  I hope that I can be those things for my children and grandchildren.  I want their praise, not their condemnation, even if it means that they think I'm crazy!

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