By J.D. ALT
I’m attracted to “big picture” vistas that put the day’s momentary developments into what at least feels like a meaningful perspective. It helps me to imagine things are more manageable than they otherwise seem to be. In reading my daily news (currently The Washington Post), I’m always on the lookout for at least two articles that fit together somehow to create a glimpse of this over-arching view. Today (Friday, 6 May) I got what feels like a pretty good peek.
First is an article about the EPA’s twenty-five year struggle to define and implement rules and regulations about lead in America’s water supply. Basically, the efforts have focused on requiring municipalities to test their water for lead on a regular basis―and then implement some kind of remediation if the lead-levels test too high. The problem lies in the complex relationship between the testing and the remediation: Testing must occur at the tap, not at the supply, because lead contamination occurs in the old, lead pipe-connections which the water, pure as it may be when it starts out, must pass through to get to the tap. The corrosiveness of the water, which is controlled by many factors and chemicals, determines how much lead is picked up along its journey through the lead-infested pipes. If the tap water tests too high, municipalities must implement a complex calculation of how to reduce the water’s corrosiveness.
The ambiguities of this complex calculation make it virtually impossible for the EPA to enforce its mandate. And, of course, municipal water utilities must, of necessity, measure the costs of remediation in terms of their municipal budgets―a factor which the EPA, of course, must realistically take into consideration. Which leads to the real underlying problem which it doesn’t even occur to anyone to talk about: The ultimate solution is quite simple and straightforward (replacing all of America’s old water-piping systems), but it requires spending more dollars than municipal utilities have, or can qualify to borrow―and more dollars than the U.S. Congress believes it can appropriate out of the “tax-payer’s pockets.”
There you have it. The new piping exists on pallets in a myriad of plumbing supply yards across the nation, the backhoes are ready, the drivers and excavators and plumbers and pipe-fitters are plenty for the task, but the U.S. doesn’t have enough dollars to pay for the marshalling of these resources. So they sit idle while the lead continues to leach into our drinking water and our children’s mental development is threatened, to one degree or another, by the poison. In my book, The Millennials’ Money, I refer to this condition as the “ideology of money scarcity.” And it is certainly a mystery how and why―in the first modern age of pure sovereign fiat-money―this ideology stubbornly retains its dominance over our collective thinking.
Which leads―by what I acknowledge is a grand leap of imagination―to the second article in today’s Washington Post: “Genomes of Ice Age Europeans reveal ancient soap opera.” This article reports on a recent in-depth study of human genetic material from the European Ice Age―that period (dramatized in the Clan of the Cave Bear) when the Neanderthal “cave-man” was replaced by “modern” man. While the article focused on the comings and goings and competition between two different human genomes―the Gravettians and the Aurignacians―there is, at the article’s conclusion, an almost paranthetical but startling aside:
“The genetic analysis allowed researchers to trace the inexorable decline of Neanderthal DNA, which was two to three times as prominent in early human genomes as it is in modern-day ones. This supports theories that early humans interbred with Neanderthals but that their DNA was toxic to us and gradually weeded out by natural selection over the course of millennia. For those among us who still carry fractions of Neanderthal DNA, that process is probably still happening…. The drama isn’t over yet.” (emphasis mine.)
This particular idea suddenly resonated with me because back in March I had written the following as a passing ( and hopeful) thought in my daily journal: “Donald Trump and the vitriolic support he incites amongst his supporters and followers represent the last and final ‘primal scream’ of white bigotry in America.”
So now, I’m saying to myself, maybe there’s an over-arching explanation for all of this―that is to say our “cave-man” approach to what “money” is, and how it can best be managed to achieve important and perhaps critical collective goals―and the Me-Tarzan-You-Jane emotions, rhetoric, and problem-solving strategies of our Republican presidential nominee. Maybe the “birther” arguments are not far off after all―only the “test” should not be what is on a birth certificate but, instead, should be a DNA test for toxic Neanderthal gene-bits that get in the way of what should be modern, rational thinking.