Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Is it futile to resist the avalanche of information, Oggy ponders, is it more important to maintain one's autonomy? It would be easier to succumb, to surrender, technically speaking since the moral evolution would take longer, but suppose he could just switch off the counterculture part of his brain and ignore the philosophical implications of his actions and the actions of the street sweepers of Santa Cruz or the lifeguards and doctors. This is a zoo, Oggy decides as he adjusts his wool poncho to better protect his hands from the biting Pacific wind and rain that has been lashing the coast for three days and night. A zoo with no zookeeper. Or are the zookeepers our own ethical DNA, which monitor the fences and meal times of our inner chimp? Oggy watches a first shift line cook dump a bag of trash in a dumpster and sees two scrawny Tweakers dressed in black move from the shadows of an alley to scavenge for food scrapes. There is a place to put the trash and so we create trash. But if we had unlimited amount of space then would it be justified still? Is it the limitations of space that is the problem or is there a bigger question to answer? Oggy's instincts are that a dichotomy is the answer, yes, and yes. Yes, the limitation of space is the problem. Solve that problem either with neutral waste or a bigger dump, but there is also a bigger question. Suppose mankind could jettison its waste into space. That's big enough, technically, to receive the physical waste of man without testing the limitations. Oggy has no problem accepting this assumption. Yes, the universe is big enough for the waste of man.

Oggy slows his bicycle down at a stop sign with a combination of both brakes and dragging his one good foot on the pavement. His poncho momentarily gets caught in the space between the wheel and the brakes and tugs him backwards but he stops in time and pulls the poncho out and tucks it into the hemp twine that is his belt. Yes, the universe is big enough but is that a free edict for the creation of as much waste as possible. Is there no greater responsibility to resources than space to put the trash? Money, the only globally recognized symbol of economy, keeps the shopkeepers attuned to every nut and bolt, but only because it costs money to waste. Is it not theoretically possible that waste will one day cost so little as to be negligible? Isn't that the goal of all shopkeepers? To make waste economically? Is it also not the goal of a consumer economy to produce more than is needed and is that not a matter of ethics? Oggy takes a small scrap of paper from his shirt pocket and scrawls, "Note to mayor - The culture itself is flawed."

There is no one coming at the intersection and Oggy equates his obedience to the traffic law that demands he stop at a stop sign to the larger ethical question of economy, using what is needed in principle, and not because there is space to put trash. Oggy stops in principle because that is the law and he is not a reckless citizen. But the question Oggy has to ask is if the reckless use of resources transcends law. It is legal, but it is also morally weighted. Oggy feels that if actions such as where you put carrot trimmings or, as the crank junkies are now finding out, where you put day old bread, are not tied inextricably to a moral reference point then the meaning of life is threatened. What is our function if not to answer these questions? Are we merely shopkeepers on our way to the next cup of coffee? Is that enough? Because extrapolated to the extreme terminus whether we stop at a traffic sign or don't stop is an indicator of the strength of our moral fabric.

A car honks behind Oggy. The drive has to honk twice before Oggy responds and makes a gesture of apology before rolling his bike into motion and allowing the car to pass him. What is our purpose here?

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.