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Let nature take its course

中国日报网 2013-06-07 10:29

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Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: Sometimes, it is better to let nature take its course.

My comments:

“Let nature take its course” is a cliché, something people say again and again. It is a call for people to obey the law of nature rather than change or, to use a better word, manage nature.

Yeah, modern day business managers like that word. Manage. It gives them a sense that they’re in control.

That’s the thing. People sometimes are so full of themselves that they think they can control or manage anything, even Mother Nature itself.

“Let nature take its course” is, therefore, a call for respect of nature against excessive trust in the human effort, including our physical exertions as well as our faith in the powers of technology.

People who say “let nature take its course” are not advocating laziness, of course. Instead, they are usually cautioning against human hubris, which sometimes drives them to go against the grain, so to speak.

Speaking of grain, let’s hark back to 2,000 years prior and remember the farmer who pulled his wheat saplings up a notch from the ground – in order to, you guessed it, help them grow.

This is a classic example of too much trust in the human effort instead of allowing Mother Nature to work its wonder. As most of us are very familiar with the story, this wheat farmer from the State of Song sashayed home after a morning’s field work one day and declared himself exhausted but very satisfied. “I’m very tired, son,” he told his boy. But if anyone cared to take a look, he would continue, they’d see his young weeds were much taller than all those of their neighbor’s.

The son did go out to take a look later that very afternoon – and saw with his own eyes: All the young wheat was withered and dying!

More haste, less speed. Got to let nature take its course, however slow a process that may be.

Alright, here are present-day examples of situations where people wonder whether they should let nature take its course:

1. For the past 30 years, the “Grand Bargain” on the economy that everyone seems to be talking about today consisted of America’s plutocrats telling America’s workers that in exchange for keeping wage growth virtually flat workers would be given outstanding terms on credit. That way, said the plutocrats, everyone wins: The workers would be able to maintain their standard of living and “purchasing power”; investors would get bigger returns on capital thanks to suppressed labor costs; and a US domestic economy based overwhelmingly on consumption would get to keep its consumers willing to shop ’til they dropped -- even if the reason for their collapse was the weight of all that accumulated household debt the New American Economy was urging consumers to lug around.

And now that the music has stopped and it’s time to pay the piper, the airwaves are thick with calls for “shared sacrifice” emanating from the very same oligarchs and “austerity hawks” who got us into this mess in the first place.

And by “shared” they don’t include “job creators” like themselves.

It’s apparent from reading their press that, according to free market conservatives, if America was suffering a traditional business cycle recession then counter-cyclical Keynesian fiscal stimulus measures might do the trick to shorten its duration.

But today’s recession isn’t cyclical, they say. It’s structural. And they should know. Today’s recession is the result of a financial crisis these lawless predators created with their reckless behavior but which they now want to blame on poor people who wanted bigger homes and the government that enabled them.

Trying to solve a recession like ours with a government jobs programs or stimulus investments is like trying to cure a hangover with the hair of the dog that bit you, conservatives say. Eventually the “cure” wears off and all you’re left with is a bigger hangover, say conservatives.

Therefore, say conservatives, we’ve got to let nature take its course and let capitalism’s natural recuperative powers cleanse our economy of all that toxic debt that built up in system during the capitalist go-go era when Republicans were in charge and deficits didn’t matter.

In exchange for such counter-productive liberal expedients as extending unemployment insurance, giving workers more disposable income through payroll tax cuts, or direct investments in the economy, conservatives offer what Jeb Bush did today in his Wall Street Journal op-ed: “A pro-growth strategy” that is “decidedly long term in orientation” and which “aims for higher standards of living five, 10 and 20 years out” by replacing “the false promise of entitlements” with a “solvent, dependable model that encourages work and savings.”

Perhaps not remembering what John Maynard Keynes said a long time ago about the long term - that in the long term we are all dead - Republicans single strategy seems to be to cut Social Security and Medicare, let mass unemployment fester for the five to 10 years it typically takes to a country to recover from a financial crisis, and then pretend “we won't bail out too big to fail companies when they threaten systemic risk” as Jon Chait says. That, plus hoping for the best. For the long term.

- GOP wants middle class to pay for mistakes of the rich, Salon.com, AUGUST 11, 2011.

2. Tony Nicklinson began his fight for the right to die after he said he was “fed up” of living with locked-in syndrome.

The condition left him unable to speak or move and relying on a computer to communicate.

It was caused by a stroke in 2005 which he suffered while on a business trip to Athens and left him paralysed from the neck down.

Mr Nicklinson said he did not want to potentially live with the debilitating syndrome for another 20 years.

One of his daughter’s, Lauren, said the stroke had turned him from a “loud, active ex-rugby player” to “someone who’s wheelchair bound who watches telly all day”.

The father of two and former engineer said he wished the doctors in Greece had left him to die.

“If I had my time again, and knew then what I know now, I would have not called the ambulance but let nature take its course,” he said in 2010.

Two years ago he began legal proceedings to clarify whether his wife, Jane, would have been prosecuted for injecting him with a lethal dose of drugs.

His legal team argued that the current murder law would have infringed his right to respect for his private life as part of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mrs Nicklinson said he wanted to “take his own life at a time that he chooses”.

This led to her husband giving evidence before the Commission on Assisted Dying where he said there was a “fundamental injustice with the present law”.

“A new law should restore the right of self-determination and would also help to protect those people who need protection,” he said.

“Once this is sorted out people like me can die in peace.”

- Tony Nicklinson’s legal fight for right to die, BBC.co.uk, August 22, 2012.

3. When Maria Jones-Elliot of Waterford, Ireland, was just 23 weeks pregnant, her water broke. She was carrying twin girls and doctors were worried about the survival of the babies. Despite the odds, one of the babies, Amy, was born. That was June 1, 2012. Amy was four months premature and weighed a little more than one pound. But the other baby stayed in the womb.

Maria and her husband Chris were filled with angst about the second baby, but decided to let “nature take its course.” Three months later, doctors induced delivery and little Katie was born on Aug. 27.

Today, the babies are healthy and happy, and their tumultuous entry into the world could be a Guinness World Record. If the time span between births is confirmed to be 87 days, the span of time will break the Guinness World Record title for longest interval between birth of twins. That record is held by Peggy Lynn of Huntingdon, Penn., who gave birth to daughter Hanna and son Eric 84 days apart between 1995 and 1996.

- Twins Born 87 Days Apart, Discovery.com, May 2, 2013.

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Go to Zhang Xin's column

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About the author:

Zhang Xin(张欣) has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

 

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