The Paradox of Progress

Months ago, I attended David Swanson’s book signing in Baltimore to purchase his remarkable work, War is a Lie, and to hear Swanson, Debra Sweet, and Andy Worthington speak. During the question-and-answer period, a woman stood and introduced herself. Speaking beautifully, softly, and passionately, she gestured, pointing to lighting in the room, laptops, and cell phones. She said something like this: “It’s cold outside, but the room temperature is warm. So many here have computers, cell phones, technology?.” She paused and, then, continued, “Are people willing to sacrifice for peace.”

Afterwards, I approached, telling her she’d raised a compelling concern. I wanted to know more about her. Maia Tabet is from Beirut, Lebanon. She’s multilingual, a translator, and a chef extraordinaire.

Are people willing to sacrifice for peace?

This week at the Baltimore Museum of Art, I saw a documentary, Manufactured Landscapes. During the first minutes, I focused on the word “manufactured”. To manufacture is to build, to make. And this implies displacement or replacement. When something is manufactured, is something else destroyed?

Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, the film follows artist Edward Burtynsky through China where he photographs the effects of the industrial revolution. Viewed separately or hanging in a gallery, Burtynsky’s landscapes are gorgeous examples of abstract art. But in the documentary, the images, streaming and juxtaposed with laborers, including children, represent human beings within their world, the connection of industry and nature, and man’s impact on the environment, and raise philosophical issues about modern industry and globalization.

A question, similar to Maia’s must be asked: Are we willing to sacrifice to save our planet?

The film illustrates components of global industry, including Chinese factory workers, robot-like, as they assemble computer parts for large-scale use. Startling is the huge amount of industrial waste, most of which is shipped to China by the West to be sorted for recycling. The young, as well as the old, toil in areas of contamination. There are mountains of debris?all the stuff we toss aside when the loaded-with-more, next-generation, must-have device is manufactured and marketed.

Individual forfeiture is important, choosing to ride a bike, doing something to conserve. But, obviously, large corporations, embracing planned obsolescence, generate the vast majority of our excesses.

I thought about the wars waged for securing resources and not just oil, but, also, mineral deposits, like those found in Afghanistan. So many are essential to industry. Lithium, for example, is critical in the manufacture of cell phone and laptop batteries.

The computer is my link to the world. It’s where I turn, instead of powering on the television. It’s the way I submit my articles and it allows me to receive and answer responses to them. Obviously, I’m using it right now.

Are we willing to sacrifice for peace?

Are we willing to sacrifice for Earth’s survival?

As I watched the men, women, and children in the film, from the workers to the wealthy, all who’ve benefited from modern industry in China, I pondered the paradox of progress, thinking about us, here in Empireville, assuming, consuming, and destroying, feverishly.

We are kudzu, the vine that’s eating the world. China’s moving quickly, an eager participant in her quest for power.

Each of us can make a decision for peace and a healthy planet. But unless we stop the method-to-madness advance of multinational corporations, savaging humanity and ravaging the environment, our efforts will have minimal impact. Control must be removed from Wall Street and placed in the hands of people who understand that we are on the brink.

Are you willing to sacrifice for peace?

Are you willing to sacrifice for our planet?

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland and is troubled to suggest that you use your computer to contact her at missybeat@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography