I think a lot. Many have told me more than I should. I tend to roll things over and over and over in my mind, looking for different facets, examining my emotions and thoughts that stem from this examination.  I come up with questions, gray areas, or things that I must research in order to formulate an informed opinion. And hopefully, in the end, I come to a conclusion of some kind.

I don’t know if this is right or wrong, but I do know that one need only take a brief look around them to realize the number of idiots out there in the world.  I see examples of idiocy every day and I find myself saying, “If only people would think more.” Shortly thereafter, I hear the faint echo of one of the wisest men in history in the back of my mind saying, “You must BE the change you wish to see in the world.” And such is the reason behind my continual endeavor to think more.

I try to think of this as a good thing. But sometimes it gets me into  bind.  A mental one.  And before you know it, that bind has my mind in conflict…with itself.

In my continual thinking about public policy, socioeconomic trends, human suffering, the environment, biodiversity, energy, my own happiness, and of course, overpopulation (see my post on it here) my thought process has reached an impasse.  An impasse which I refer to as “The Liberal Dilemma.”

Here’s the crux of the problem:

I was raised as a Christian in the Roman Catholic Tradition.  Not the guilty, sin, “fire and brimstone” Catholic Church, but rather a church that only ever preached love, acceptance, and especially caring for those less fortunate.  It is these Christian principles that led me to identify with many liberal philosophies and to shun the bloodthirsty, “every man for himself,” socioeconomic Darwinism that total free capitalism intrinsically depends upon.

I believe that any creature (not just humans) has a right to exist once it is born (note I said BORN -Life is a rat race and it doesn’t start until you’re on the track).  And I believe that it is the duty of humans to care for creatures that have a harder time existing than others. By extension, therefore, I believe in domestic programs such as welfare, and energy assistance, and food stamps, and unemployment, and health care for the poor, and rent assistance, and so on.  Even with all of their negative aspects that stem from an inherently lazy, unaccountable, and as stated above, largely unthinking populace, I still want a safety net and you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

On a global level, I support foreign aid to developing countries.  I believe that children should not have to go without clean water, basic nutrition, an education, and time to play.  I believe that they (and all people) should not have to live in fear of being killed, or beaten, or orphaned, or raped. I believe that they deserve opportunities to better their station, improve their health and happiness, and yes, even to thoughtfully procreate. I believe that it is our duty, as the wealthiest country on Earth, to provide for and nurture the poor and oppressed worldwide, to alleviate suffering and increase individual happiness, and to help people help themselves.

The problem is, I also know there are too many of us.  As our population expands, we find our species pushing, pushing, pushing this planet to its very limit.  We ravenously consume its resources, its wildlife habitat, its air, its water, its soil.  The more people we make, the more room we take. The stronger developing nations become, the more fossil fuels they burn, the more expansion they require, the more luxuries their people want such as cars, and heated homes, and chemicals to clean them, and hundreds of powered devices to defend them from boredom.

In other words, the more we help humans in need, the more humans grow and consume. The more humans grow and consume, the less space there is for other species; the more pollution enters our environment; the more water is diverted from its natural course; the more wild land is torn up and transformed into monocultures of feed crops. The more all of this happens, the more threatened we actually become.

And so I am left twisting in the wind of contradictory principles.  Caught in a web of logic and necessity with the bite of cognitive dissonance behind nearly every thought and desire and it leaves me disturbed.

Is it best to alleviate human suffering in the short-term, and to whatever fate that follows for an exponentially growing humanity (and other species)…say, “let it come?”

Is it better to allow human suffering to continue in the hopes of slowing the progress of our virus-like human expansion?  This, of course, being an easy path for Americans to take since we widely do not suffer the way billions in poorer countries and continents do, even though we use the largest portion of its resources, produce the most greenhouse gases, and our corporate plutocracy wreaks havoc far and wide around the globe.

Shall we just say “every one for themselves” and “survival of the fittest” and hope that our lot in life does not toss us – sick, poor, old, or broken – by the side of the road?

Or should I somehow try to drown these all-too-obvious truths in fun, and booze, and Wii Sports and Jersey Shore and leave the mess for the next guy who gives a shit?  Such is the American way these days.

So there you have it.  The Liberal Dilemma.  How do we care for less-fortunate humans without speeding and amplifying the strains that humanity is placing on our entire planet’s ecosystems? How do we protect the world’s ecosystems and biodiversity when growing economies and populations by definition require us to encroach on them even more?

Or how do we find a way to forget it all and pretend that we have no impact on this planet or its other life forms despite so much obvious and undeniable proof to the contrary? And if we do, how do we find a way out of hell?

Any suggestions? Because I am all ears…