Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I wrote Adaptability in January 2003. They are still at it; yesterday, Bush decided, as the heat and pressure in Washington around NSA spying and CIA chief nominee Michael Hayden continued to rise, to dribble out a little more information to a few more Senators and Representatives.

He did it in February when Republican Representative Heather Wilson threatened to start NSA hearings. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/08/AR2006020802294.html

Their calibration skill is incredible to behold; a few more power-brokers will find themselves on the inside, and become so pleased with their access, the crumbs granted them, that they will emerge to reassure the public, and the steam from outside will be successfully blown off, and the lid will stay on.


Adaptability is arguably the primary trait distinguishing humans from other species of animals. Unlike most animals, which must live in a certain climate and ecosystem for biological survival, humans have managed to adapt -- to build shelter and obtain food -- all over the globe. In many cases, human arrival has wrecked or is wrecking the ecological balance and driving the other animals away or into extinction.

But humans do more than adapt biologically. We also adapt psychologically. Those of us who survive do so because we reconcile ourselves to the state of being refugees, driven by famine or war from the environment of our birth and early rearing -- “Home” -- into new and different environments. It’s not a mental shift other animals appear to do so readily.

This adaptability may ironically be one of human-kind’s greatest obstacles to survival. I sense this now because I feel very much like the proverbial frog in the pot. In the story, a scientist gradually turns up the heat under a pot of water until the frog inside boils to death. When the scientist throws another frog into a pot of already boiling water, the frog hops right back out again and lives.

I feel that way now because as each new piece of war news comes out --- this week that Rumsfeld has called up 15,000 reserves, last week that torture is okay with the Bush Administration, two weeks ago that North Korea is taking nuclear plants out of mothball and so on and so forth back and back --- I experience a brief intensification of distress. More thinking. Less sleeping. More worrying. Less eating. More wondering and doubting: “Am I ready, able and willing to go to jail or die in the struggle to protect life?”

And then I reach a new equilibrium: “This is the way the world is: Hotter.” I cannot hop out of this pot.

And while I am realizing this adaptation tendency, so highly developed, and enjoying, bitterly, the hot shower I take every morning with water heated by non-renewable resources stolen from the earth and its poorest people, I keep thinking about the refugees shivering and starving and dying of despair, or adapting to a world without home, in refugee camps all over the world: Palestine, Afghanistan, the Congo, the Balkans.

When will enough be enough?

Will the destroyers accidentally turn up the heat too much too fast, and make all of us frogs suddenly realize we’re being boiled alive, causing all of us to jump up at once?

Or will they maintain their careful calibration -- a little news here, a little news there -- until the experiment is over and we’re all dead?

We are already refugees from everywhere.

I think it’s time to unlearn adaptability.

And I think we must all jump up from the pot at the same time, one frog with 12 billion jumping legs.


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