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Ponderings during a pandemic

Crying Giant by Tom Otterness at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

By Jim Hannah

Here’s my favorite pandemic quote to date:

“We’ve all been sent to our room to think about what we’ve done.”

I don’t know who said that first, but I’d love to give them credit for a quip that has had me thinking ever since.

Just how have we acted badly?

Well, let’s see.

We’ve acted as though the Good Earth is an object separate from ourselves, to be controlled and exploited, rather than a living organism of which we are but one unique but not all-important manifestation, completely interdependent.

We’ve acted as though our species is vastly superior and solely entitled, with other animals valued largely for their utility as food, recreation, labor, entertainment, adornment, and other exploitations as varied as leather products and aphrodisiacs.

We’ve acted as though consumerism is a mark of the good life that distinguishes self-proclaimed “first world” nations—that is, those nations who in large part achieved their wealth by extracting cheap resources and labor from so-called second and third world nations.

We’ve acted as though the “seventh generation” reverence granted by indigenous peoples to those who will follow has been annulled by this generation’s “right” to immediate gratification. (My second favorite pandemic quote from a novel I wish we’d all been assigned as homework: “We’re cashing in on a billion years of planetary savings bonds and blowing it on assorted bling.” (The Overstory, Richard Powers, p. 386)

And we’ve acted as though technology will ultimately save us from all our ills, when just the existence, and growing threat, of weapons of mass destruction capable of omnicide is clear evidence that our technology has outpaced our ethics, morality, and common sense.

This has been a lot to think about during our forced stay-at-home. I hope we’ve learned our lesson because the last thing we would want is a good spanking from Mother Nature!

–Jim Hannah, of the PeaceWorks-KC Communications Team, writes, gardens, and plays horseshoes.

Tom Otterness, (American, born 1952), Crying Giant, 2002, bronze, edition 2 of 3, 132 x 78 x 173 inches.
Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Museum purchase made possible by a gift from the Kearney Wornall Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee, and the Enid and Crosby Kemper Foundation, 2002.24.01.
© Tom Otterness/tomotterness.net.

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