Things Take Time / Goals for the New Century
Above his desk, Peter Wotton posted the message "TTT" to remind himself that "Things Take Time." Peter was concerned with large social and political issues such as world peace; human rights; the environment; the economy; social issues such as drug abuse, homelessness, poverty and joblessness; population growth; health and safety; women's issues; and the growing gap between rich and poor. Peter, always the liberal activist, advocated for these issues and encouraged his listeners to be involved, even though they were big issues and would not easily or quickly be fixed.
Things Take Time
# 522 -- August 10, 1992
By now almost everyone is familiar with the words to Reinhold Neibuhr's "Serenity Prayer," which in its shortened form goes like this: "Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." This poem has been adopted as a basic ritual by Alcoholics Anonymous and by other twelve-step programs.
Last week I identified myself as a liberal, and voiced certain reservations about the results of unfettered liberal zeal. Today I want to talk about our present-day imperatives, and why we won't be able to realize all of them as soon as we'd like.
Let's take peace, for example. As long as there are gross inequities among people on the earth, there will be discord, often violence. Peace is a goal, a principle that I support strongly. And atomic war should be banned forever! Yet hostility and even violence are apparently natural to the human condition, and until we remove the conditions, which trigger them, war will always be a possibility.
Another major threat to our future is the rapidly growing national debt. It must be eliminated. Now! That to me is a real imperative, and yet I'm aware that "things take time," and this thing is going to take longer than most. What we need to do is to reduce the deficit -- and before we can do that we'll have to stop increasing it!
We must attend to our social problems such as drug abuse and homelessness, poverty and joblessness. Yet these are only symptoms of greater social problems that we don't even understand.
It should be clear by now that we aren't winning the so-called "war against drugs.” I'm old enough to remember the "war against poverty," and we didn't win that one either. In fact when I realize how much more money is available for these issues than was available in the 1960s and earlier, for the life of me I can't understand why we have at least as many problems.
Perhaps our most urgent problem is our need to halt the destruction of our earth and its ecosystems. And yet here, too, there are entrenched interests, such as timber in the Northwest and farming in the Amazon Basin (not to mention fast-food demands) that will inevitably prolong the debate for years. Perhaps until too late.
So to me it's becoming clear that attacking the symptoms of whatever is our basic problem won't do it. We need to work on our so-called "defense" priority, which is propelled by some of the strongest power brokers centers in our country. We need to work on our self-interest, which often blocks much-needed reforms. We need to discover how we can work in partnership.
So will I stop advocating peace now! And balance the budget now! And save the earth's ecosystems now? Not likely. I know that "things take time." And it's time to reverse some trends, because until we do we can't win for losing!
This is Peter Wotton, with Elderberry Wine, KLCC and KLCO's weekly salute to the older people in our community. And this week's message is: "Change the things you can change.”
Goals for the New Century
#707 -- July 22, 1996
Today I have for you a list of goals for the new century. See what you can do -- I've done what I could. Let's start with population growth, worldwide. This earth can sustain just so many of us. And every increase in population increases problems. That ties in with respect for and protection of our environment. Let's save what we can of the natural beauty and wonder that still remains. To do that, we must reduce our rate of consumption, especially in industrial societies such as the United States. Somehow, we must learn that quality of life does not depend on quantity of money or goods. We'll also have to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels -- and on internal combustion engines. And we'll have to revolutionize our eating habits. Not only do we eat too much meat for our own good, but raising livestock also depletes our planet's resources.
We must do what we can do improve the health and safety of the human race. That means we must learn how to reduce and even eliminate the health threats we can control. Smoking. Obesity. Lethargy. Tension. Abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Not just in this country, but around the world. And we need gun control.
We need to reduce the gap between rich and poor. At present, it's still growing. Greed is the order of the day. The safety net, especially for children, seniors and the disabled must be strengthened. With all the downsizing going on, retraining needs a higher priority. Women and minorities need better opportunities, better pay. Politically, we're bankrupt. This country is dominated by special interests. Politicians are influenced by big money -- make no mistake about that.
We don't need a revolution. What we need is action -- by people like you and me. We need to take charge of our government. We need to push for real reform. We need to participate more at all levels of government. Not just the activists -- all of us. It's our country. Let's run it.
What I've said so far sounds nice. It's talk. But there will have to be negatives for some people. To help our poor, rich people may be a little less rich. Tobacco companies and their executives will have to face up to what amounts in many cases to criminal behavior. The National Rifle Association may lose some of its clout. Politicians may become less arrogant.
Bigots may have to tone down their rhetoric. It's time we learned tolerance -- of minorities, of sexual preferences that differ from our own, of punks -- even of bigots.
And it's high time for a secular model of morality. No one religion can dictate morality to all of us. Such a model would include respect for others, and a strong sense of individual responsibility and individual rights.
Which leads me to my last goal. Rights. Human rights. Rights for minorities. Rights for gays, and lesbians, and bisexuals, and people with disabilities. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Decent houseing, education, health care, and employment.
This is Peter Wotton with Elderberry Wine. KLCC's weekly salute to the older people in our community. Any my message for this week is: Let's take charge of our future!