Volume 4, Issue 3 University of Houston
The human species needs a few New Year's resolutions
Well, here it is; yet another year come and gone by in flames, and none of us talking monkeys -- whether as individuals or as a species -- are any the wiser.
Despite the practice we've all had in previous years, we still made throughout 2001 the same mistakes as before; tried our hardest to kill each other in large numbers, poisoned the environment, still let other people tell us what to do, didn't quit smoking, believed every half-baked lie we were told, fell in love with the wrong people and generally watched too much TV.
For a species that prides itself on being so much smarter than the rest of its brethren in Kingdom Anamalia, we humans sure are slow learners. (Of course this painful truth isn't referring to you; it's directed at all those other, dumber people you know). A lab rat can generally figure out in two or less electrical shocks exactly what it is he's not supposed to be doing. But all of us hairless apes seem hell-bent on repeating our mistakes and bad behaviors until they drag us down to our collective grave.
Anyone who harbored any sort of hopes that the new millennium might herald a change from business-as-usual here on planet Earth (and if this describes you, give yourself a poke in the eye for being such a hopeless idealist) got to watch the flames of their optimism put out by an unending stream of "real world" let-downs.
Cancer wasn't cured, unemployment's on the rise, and the country you live in is busy doing what it does best: killing people overseas. Cheery stuff, eh? 2001 wasn't exactly an inspiring year as far as these things go (and where the hell were the intergalactic rocket trips to Jupiter, the homicidal computers or the monkeys caressing mysterious black obelisks?).
One could even claim it makes a mockery of the very notion of "human progress." It almost seems like we'd all be content to live miserable lives and die down here in the mud.
Buck up, though. It's our duty as domesticated primates to find solutions to these seemingly insurmountable obstacles to future evolution. People love to solve problems; that's why we invent things like Rubik's cube and create so much drama for our personal lives.
Our current debacles are not so much caused by a lack of problem solving skills as by our tendency to concern ourselves with the pointless, insignificant problems in life (in the manner of the above two examples), while figuring that somebody else will take care of the big picture. Somebody else will bring about world peace, somebody else will invent the electric car, somebody else will figure out the best way to run your life, etc.
It's time to stop worrying so much about the petty and meaningless things in your life and get focused on the "big picture" style problems that confront us as a species; things like war, poverty, ignorance, disease, uneven distribution of wealth, pollution, and unsightly back hair. These will not be easy problems to solve, but it is through their challenge that they become worthy of the focused attention of every one of us.
(And hey, if you've been so deadened by the endless years of schooling that the only response that something challenging can provoke in you is a worried groan, then do it for your ego's sake. Imagine being the one smart cookie who finally finds a way to turn carbon monoxide into a cure for leukemia or something equally impressive. That could be your ugly mug gracing the cover of Time.)
It's in this spirit of hubris and in the spirit of the season that I humbly offer up a few New Year's Resolutions for the human species. There's only five since people seem to do better with small numbers.
For of 2002, humanity should resolve to:
1. Learn there's no big eye in the sky watching and waiting for us to entertain it with endless shows of mass violence and pathetic displays of servility.
2. Stop thinking the best way to get ahead in life is to mess people over.
3. Take the canned laughter out of sitcoms. They might not be so nausea-inducing if there weren't obnoxious outbursts of guffawing every five seconds.
4. Find a better species-wide hobby than killing each other in large numbers.
5. Realize everybody else around you is just as much of a frightened mess-up as yourself. So cut them a bit more slack.
Let's pick ourselves up, brush off the dust and bones of the dead and
get on with things. Helpless pessimism's no fun, and we -- both as a species
and as individuals -- have got important things to do if 2002 is going
to be a better year than the last.
Woock, a senior psychology major, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.