Let me get up close and personal with the Tragedy of the Commons.

We are all fond of complaining bitterly about the terrible job our politicians do. And yet almost none of us want to be active in politics, and a large fraction of citizens (sometimes a majority) don’t even bother to vote.

We criticize volunteer workers of all sorts, perhaps more mercilessly than the politicians, because we perceive volunteers to be of lower status than “professionals” and therefore easy to abuse. We go to Annual General Meetings to voice our complaints, but when it comes time to elect new Officers, no one wants the job.

We complain about taxes but we expect the government to protect us and provide everything we need for a better life. We already have a better life than most humans, but we are far more interested in improving our lot than in helping others improve theirs. When they hate us for this, we label them terrorists.

We march in protest against pesticides, fertilizers, GMO crops and “factory farms”, but our own contribution to organic, sustainable farming is to grow a few leaves of lettuce in the corner of our garden, if that. We feel smugly superior to pay extra for “organically grown” produce at the grocery store. Those who actually act on their idealistic vision of “getting back to the land” soon discover that farming is hard work and is incredibly inefficient unless done on a large scale.

We call for reductions of fossil fuel use and try to ignore the fact that in North America it takes on average a pound of fuel to grow a pound of food. We complain about the congestion and pollution in cities, then move to the country where we have to drive into town for groceries every day.

We complain about insulting ads and trashy programming on TV, but we spend hours a day staring slack-jawed at the screen, oblivious to the fact that it displays a distorted 4:3 image in 16:9 format.

We gripe about everyone else’s stupidity and ignorance, but we only take steps to correct our own when we are forced to by circumstances.

We are the spoiled brats of the world, and we are overdue for a spanking.

I wish I could ignore the fact that “we” includes “I”; but I can’t.


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