Other People's Fault

There was a lot I wanted to write about today.  I was going to write a post on "Peer Review and Faith", or one on "Meeting You Halfway Means Giving Up Half of My Principles" or "The Stick is Just a Stick Until You Hit Someone With It".  There is a lot I want to write today, but what it all really boils down to is avoiding recognizing personal responsibility where it challenges the view of the self as "ethical".
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
Today was challenging for me. I heard what I found to be the most horrendous sermon I'd ever listened to, right after signing membership to the church.  And while the congregation loved this woman, I was not at all impressed.  Now, in all fairness, the woman who spoke had been a member of the community, and perhaps people in the congregation knew her, loved her, and understood where she was coming from differently than I did from her (unprepared, off the cuff) sermon.  On the other hand, there were so many times I wanted to just stand up and walk out, that I still have a tightness in the jaw just thinking about it. 

Talking to one of the congregants afterwards, I told her I was not impressed, and quoted Asimov's statement about being entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts, after which the congregant responded that even facts are filtered though different understandings.  So I told her the fabulous whale story (from yesterday's post) after which she tightly said that absolutely could not have happened, because whales couldn't possibly breach in shallow water.

I also had a conversation about plastic (one of many these past weeks) where plastic pollution was blamed on people who throw out plastic instead of recycling.

THAT was something I'd heard over and over again... one of many statements : science was to blame for creating plastics, scientists should have known it was not a great idea to create a material that would last virtually forever, and people who use and throw single use plastics out are the problem, and they need to be educated about reducing their dependency on single use plastics, and to stop using them (and tossing them in the garbage) because it's convenient.

Of all the things I discuss when talking about plastic pollution, confronting the myth that single use consumer plastics are the number one source of plastic pollution in the world is the one that meets with the most resistance. 

One of the things I find in some far left liberal circles (and I've recently discovered there are, indeed, people even farther left than I am) is the set of ideas and behaviors which are very likely to feed into the right's concept of "the liberal elite":  people who are certain they only need to educate people to do as they do and the world would be a much better place, while at the same time stating they honor diversity and are culturally sensitive.  Now some of that liberal ideology comes in the form of actually having a first-rate intellect, and some of it, I believe, comes in the deep seated denial that we are ALL part of the problem.

Now I can go off on microplastics and their sources here, but the report Primary Microplastics in the Ocean  does it in 47 pages of detail. And I can go off on what is ACTUALLY the primary source of macroplastic waste in the ocean, but there's an extremely readable article from National Geographic that explains it very well.

But what I DO want to say is that while we condemn plastic bags and plastic bottles and plastic straws (all which DO present immediate danger to wildlife and DO contribute to over-all plastic pollution) we seem to forget that every piece of clothing we own that contains acrylic, nylon, spandex, acetate, or polyester are PLASTICS.  That our Formica counter tops are PLASTIC.  That our paint on our walls and our vinyl flooring is PLASTIC. That the tires on our cars (and much of the vehicle itself, from the seats to the hoses to much of the body) whether or not they are electric vehicles,  are PLASTIC. That the medical supplies we use, from the bags of saline, to our disposable tubing and hypodermics, to the containers that keep them sterile are PLASTIC.

And that it is not a group of people who fail to put plastic bottles in the recycle bin, or live in communities who do not recycle who are the greatest contributors to plastic pollution, but US.  Every single consumer, and the more you consume, the more often we redecorate, buy new clothes, repaint your house, or drive down the road, the greater  the contribution to plastic pollution on the planet.

Of course, we should be recycling plastic bottles. But to sit here in a polyester shirt and a cotton/polyester blend pair of jeans and point fingers at people who use single use plastics is the very height of hypocrisy.  Solving the plastic problem is going to take admitting we are a part of it, and that it's not just other people's fault.

Now I've gone very far from the "stick is a stick until you hit someone with it" part of this blog, in which I really wanted to focus on the common misconception of what science is, and whether or not knowledge can be evil in itself.  That's going to have to be a whole 'nother blog post.  But in part, it's all part of the same thing:  pointing the fingers at scientists and saying : you developed this stuff, you're the ones to blame.   That, and the one thing that really irks me when discussing literature: the misconception that Mary Shelly's Frankenstein was a condemnation of science, when she very purposefully used the same language Percy was using in describing his sociological theories.  


  1. Thanks for linking to that National Geographic article: I had no idea that fishing equipment constitutes so much of the plastic in the oceans!


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