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The ones with the guns 1

Dear Bradshaw,

Regarding your question about whether or not I decant wine = no, I don’t. Frankly speaking, I’ve never managed to open a bottle of wine and then wait an hour to drink it. Besides, I never drink wines that have been in a cellar long enough to contain sediment and, anyway, aerating benefits young, full-bodied wines while I prefer not-so-young, lighter-bodied ones. When I open a bottle of wine it’s because I’m ready to drink it immediately. Should it ever happen that I have to decant a bottle of wine I’ll open two bottles, one to set aside while it decants and the other to drink while I’m waiting for the first one to decant.

On another note, I’ve been meaning to address something you mentioned in your letter from last month, about holiday spending reaching $451.5 billion, enough to end starvation on the planet. I thought you might be interested in a book I read: The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard KapuĹ›ciĹ„ski.

KapuĹ›ciĹ„ski was a Polish journalist and writer, Poland’s only foreign correspondent who reported from Africa for over thirty years. From his book, I want to highlight one paragraph only, in which KapuĹ›ciĹ„ski explains that Africa receives enough food from humanitarian organizations to feed everyone on the continent but the governments, the armies, the testosterone-ridden tyrants, i.e. the ones with the guns, take the food and medicine and everything else for their regimes. After all, they have to keep the inhabitants hungry. Otherwise, the free food and medicine will no longer be needed, or sent.

Several of my students travel often to Africa. Two are doctors who volunteer a couple months a year, one works for an international adoption agency, and another just loves Africa. They’ve all confirmed the fact. The food is there. Medicine too. But it’s in the hands of the few. The human bacterium is selfish and greedy, and therefore compelled to deceive itself. (The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins offers a theory about why we’re that way.)

Very unfortunately, spending or not spending $451.5 billion during the holidays would not have solved the world starvation problem though, of course, I see the big picture in what you’re saying (trying to raise the level of social awareness, attempting to enlighten the collective human intellect) and am completely on your side.

Clearly, our values are out of whack, as if humanity has been created with a self-destruct button and insists on annihilating itself. I too am astonished that we spend so much time and money on things we don’t need and often feel obligated to buy instead of pooling our resources to seek a cure for cancer, build more hospitals and schools, or fund the development of natural sources of energy.

Anyway, Shaw, it’s evening here and I’m well wined and waiting for the second bottle (a young, full-bodied red that has been in a cellar long enough to contain sediment) to decant.


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  1. Alain le Gros says:

    It’s not a bacterium. Selfishness is part of our makeup that gets us through this world. It’s not damnable in and of itself, but selfishness unchecked becomes a blinker that obliterates the needs of others around us. We have to make adjustments to the needs our spouses, siblings, off spring, co-workers and friends. I say to those who want better results with said relationships, stop watching TV and examine your background–study the kind of family dynamics you grew up under. Were your parents fighting all the time or did they resolve their differences amicably. Work toward rectifying differences with friends, siblings, spouses, parents, etc. with less self righteousness and more understanding. BE LESS SELFISH and demand less selfishness from those around you. It can be done. Humility will exalt you. See you there.

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