Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Rachel Carson's Legacy

When I was 19 years old back in 1984, I started to attend Bryant College in Smithfield, RI (now called Bryant University). This is a small business school that basically caters to the children of CEOs and other executives, who really didn't do very well in high school, couldn't get into Harvard or any of the other really impressive business schools. My first day on campus, Freshman orientation, I walked through the school parking lot, after parking my '72 Dodge Dart which was overheating, through the smell of new cars. It was one of the first events that happened that quickly informed me that a youngest son of a janitor and a shoe clerk did not belong there.

My biggest motivation for going to college wasn't personal enrichment or intellectual curiosity, I reserve that right for those that can afford not to be employed after they spend $40k on an education. My motivation was to get a good enough education so that I could get the hell out of my neighborhood and never look back. I did not want to be poor. I saw what my parents went through and I would have none of it. I went to Bryant because I could drive to campus just 20 minutes away from my family's house. It served my purpose for upward mobility.

It was a decent education, but not a great one. It wasn't my education that got me where I am today but my network of co-workers. Whenever I find myself in need of a job, I find a friend who refers me to a position that fits my skills. Since they have worked with me, they understand my work ethic and my skills and I generally find a great job this way. This has little to do with my education, but a lot to do with my parents. I attribute this success to them, not to Bryant College.

I attribute one thing to my education that I never planned. At school, I achieved a cynicism about life that I could not have achieved if I had attended a state school and it has served me well. At school, I was exposed to a segment of life that I could have never found elsewhere in my life up to that time. I was exposed to the greediest, most unethical mother-fuckers that I could have ever imagined. They had acquired the art of cheating to the perfection of a masterpiece. I always thought that if they had spent as much time as they did figuring out ways to cheat, as they did to studying, I thinking we would be in a very different world now. Whenever I hear news of unethical and disgusting controversies like Enron or the Keating Five (remember John McCain's corruption), I just have think if the brats I went to school with at Bryant.

The title on my subject line is about Rachel Carson. You must be wondering what this has to do with her. I just listened to Bill Moyer's Journal's podcast about her. I knew her book, Silent Spring, was a landmark non-fiction book that is attributed with jump starting the environmental movement. What I never realized how much resistance the establishment greeted it with. It makes sense, but I never really thought about it before. This year marks the books 45th anniversary and if she were alive today, she'd be 100 this year. Some of the quotes I heard about her from the resistance involve some accusing her of having hormonal problems and a variety of other male chauvinistic comments. One said, "Why would a childless spinster care so much about genetics?" in reference to her chapter on pesticides. Attacks against her came from all sides, from all places on the political spectrum.

Hearing this kind of stuff brings me back. Working against the grain is hard. It was difficult to compete against people who were cheating and getting A's while I was getting C's thanks to the grading curve. They partied all the time while I had to work, sometimes three jobs. It tooks me 7.5 years to graduate due to the lack of funds some semesters. I remember my business ethics class where some of my classmates stated that they took it to know how to get away with "being unethical" ... really ... I am not kidding. I write this today after casting my vote yesterday in the Democratic Primary knowing full-well that the candidate that wins this thing will probably (hopefully) be our next president. They are inheriting a big mess from the current president with the worst record on the environment ever. This is only one of the messes they will inherit from him. Whoever wins will have to have the power to change the minds of people. They will have to a be a great speaker able change people's minds like Lincoln with slavery, like Kennedy with going to the moon. We can achieve great things in this country. Like Rachel Carson, the new president will have to have the ability to face great adversity from all sides. Call me a hope-monger, but I am hoping for a change ... soon.

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