Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Good article on Trusting Government ... enjoyed it (and agree). I think a secret one world government is already operating and solutions will have to be global ie international corporate greed stopped.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

According to Wikipedia {the free encyclopedia} "recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Recycling generally prevents the waste of potentially useful materials, reduces the consumption of raw materials and reduces energy usage, and hence greenhouse gas emissions, compared to virgin production." The recent discussion concerning global warming has focused primarily on alternative sources of fuel for the purpose of transportation. However, another very important pro-environment tool is recycling. The effort needs to involve more than the consumer and the government. It needs to involve those who sell {and profit} from those products that can be recycled. For example, the manufactures of bottles and cans along with the producers of what's sold inside them as well as the grocery stores that distribute them must take on a greater economic role in the process of recycling. The voluntary "blue bag at the curb" approach is a good start but it relies primarily on the altruism of the consumer.

The question is: does the consumer bear sole responsibility for what happens to a can or bottle that contains the product used? or should some of that responsibility be borne by those who profit from its' use? Are these responsibilities being borne already and are they equitable? Some time ago bottlers would charge a five-cent "deposit" on a bottle to be "refunded" when the consumer returned the bottle. It would seem that this concept could be reoperationalized for a whole host of products. The consumer could clean the bottle or can, return it to the grocery story for a "refund" and the grocery store would return it to the producer then to the manufacturer etcetera each receiving a "refund" along the way. When all parties involved have an economic incentive to participate, recycling will make a much larger contribution towards preserving the environment.

Joe Bialek

Hi, Mr. Wallace:

Re your article Close Guantanamo:

Good article, I agree fully. George Mason would be rolling in his grave if he knew what the bush clique was up to. I've a theory as to why we're getting so collectively mean as a society--that's it's a natural result of forty years of women's lib. Men and women in America don't get along very well any more, and, since we're all equal under the 'law,' neither gender has the ability to end gender-based arguments--the most personal and the types that drive people to the highest levels of fury--, which consequently go on every minute of our lives with no solution in sight, and all our fuses have become extremely short. We're walking on eggs with 'political correctness,' unable to say what we really feel without provoking a fight with the spouse, and sick of it. Our basic laws of nature have been defied and defiled by the gender-equalizing laws of western man, at least theoretically to keep the population bomb from exploding, and that this is an unforseen side-effect. Observe, if you will, the divorce rate, which I believe is a q.e.d.

Muslim and other patriarchal societies, while not being 'gender-fair,' at least have the satisfaction of knowing who the boss is, once and for all, and ending such arguments. We live in a constant stew, and we're jealous of them, and since they're so different they make great punching bags to take our frustrations out upon. Note, too, that they're outbreeding us 3 to 1, so who's winning, hmmmm?

James Killian Spratt, m.sc.

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I recently read a blurb of yours (I hope it was yours!) in Wikepedia about Natural Rights. I couldn't agree more with the assessment. I have had sporadic debate on a right-of-center political blog (I consider myself a fairly conservative person) with some of the local gentry (including a State Assemblyman) about the existence of Natural Rights. They feel comforted by the notion that there exist timeless, objective, inalienable natural rights (like liberty and property) based on timeless, object Natural Law, all of which is underpinned by a benevolent Creator. I accused them of stacking two abstractions on top of an article of faith and suggested it was a pretty flimsy intellectual edifice. All I could get out of them in return was, basically, "read the Declaration"! as if God and natural rights exist because the Continental Congress said so! This debate is sure to come up again. Any helpful suggstions?

David Zenger

I knew nothing about this and was naturally stunned to find myself quoted in a Wikipedia article alongside Hobbes and Locke. The original Spectacle article is here. Life is strange.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Just found your website while I was looking up the tale of the frog and the scorpion. What a lovely refuge! I'm bathed in relief just to browse it.

I'm about your age, so I get the context. It was a weird ferment, wasn't it?

Gregory Bateson was a professor of mine at UC Santa Cruz -- a life-changing event. Have you heard of him? Your thread of thought reminds me of his -- quite the epistemologist and game/systems theorist -- and a very good man -- a "lamed-vovnik". His most interesting koan was: What was the most precipitous event in the 20th century? The answer was: the Treaty of Versailles because it so broke the rules of engagement that a rogue "defector" was created thereby (the rules of trust were broken). Interesting.

I remember and like Mo Udall too, and cherish those who value synthetic practice over the practice of divisive partisan politics. Opponents are not necessarily enemies. Good can result from opposition. Opponents can cooperate. That yields the better outcome. But the question is about trust. We act based on perception of trust.

Still, the world is filled with enemies (not mere opponents) -- those possessed of a hostile gangster mentality. There's the rub. They are not worthy of trust. Oh, what to do? Resistance to "defection" is the only sane course. How that can play out? I'm not sure. Doesn't "defection" require punishment? Can we actually behave well in the world? Would benefits outweigh cost?

I only have one thing to add to your article on romance and the "prisoners' dilemma". It's too hetero-centric. That happy co-operation is possible between any humans.

Thanks, Jonathan.

Jeffrey Linden

Hello Jonathon:

I found your review on John Krakauer's book Into Thin Air very interesting. I have always felt sympathy from Krakauer's position (and also that of Mark Inglis), but your article did make me think harder.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence - " But maybe humans should renounce going places where they can't afford morality." I think you're right. Or at least, maybe people who aren't fully capable of getting themselves up Everest without a guide should stay away. This is where I believe Ed Hillary comes from.

On the other hand, I can still have limited sympathy for people who do incredibly dangerous (foolhardy?) things like attempt solo climbing of Everest, especially with limited oxygen. Why should others risk their lives trying to rescue such people? (e.g., David Sharp?? Of course I'd never want to say such a thing to David Sharp's parents.)

David Ray