The Origin of the
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The Brotherhood of Stupid Man

Ten years ago, I lived in a small country in the eastern Caribbean. It was
a poor country, and in some ways a paradise--the people there didn't
have the revenue to screw up their natural landscape, as we have done
in the US. The country was a former British colony, and as such had
some contracts in place with the UK for preferential purchasing of
agricultural products. In other words, the mainstay of the island's
economy was the banana crop, and ex-colonial contracts guaranteed
a minimum amount of sales. However, a dark day was approaching:
in 1997, the European Common Market treaties would invalidate the
old British contracts, and there would be no more guaranteed market
for bananas. It's cheaper to grow and ship bananas from South America
than it is from Caribbean isles, so the island economy demanded a
basic change. Many of us non-locals had suggestions: grow coffee,
concentrate on tourism, cultivate rare fruit...but the local farmers
beat us to the punch. They had the solution: We'll grow more bananas!

I returned to the US, convinced that the island people I left behind
were beautiful, but simple. I returned to my native Northern California,
where timber wars continued to rage. Clear-cutting had devastated
some areas, and floods were the natural result as the treeless hills
lost their topsoil. Mills had closed, throwing many into unemployment,
and unmilled logs were being shipped abroad by rapacious timber
companies. The regional economy demanded a basic change. Many
of us urban folk had suggestions: debt-for-land swaps, renewable
crops, industrial hemp...but the local loggers beat us to the punch.
They had the solution: We'll cut more trees!

Now I live in San Francisco. In the past five years, the Internet boom
has caused a steep increase in the population. It's tight as a sardine
can around here, and the streets are entirely choked. Having grown
up in Oakland, I'm used to moving around by bike and bus--I've only
once owned a car, and that was when I lived out of the area--so I
thought that the new arrivals might wish to do the same. Parking
had become impossible; thoroughfares were impassable. The city's
transportation approach demanded a basic change. Many of us citizens
had suggestions: car-sharing, cheaper bus passes, more bike lanes...
but the driving public beat us to the punch. They had a solution:
We'll get bigger cars! Slowly, I am learning. All the world is one. And
all of us are brothers. And stupid.

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