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LETTERS

CASCADE

Up in Smoke

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To the Editor: At first I thought the ad on page 15 of your March issue was a satirical joke. When I realized it was an actual ad, promoting a “natural” tobacco (as if that is good), I wondered if Chronogram had heard that both the European Union and WHO (World Health Organization) banned all tobacco advertising in print in 2005? They have also halted the branding of cigarettes as “light” or “mild,” which “misleads consumers about the dangers of smoking.” The label “natural” surely is even more misleading. I’d also point out the use of a Native American Indian as a symbol is misleading advertising by this cigarette company. The Indians considered tobacco to be sacred; they respected its unique properties and understood that abusing tobacco (addiction) would cause the abuser to become sick, and they were displeased with the use of tobacco as a chain-smoking recreation. If this doesn’t impress your publishers, please read your own article on page 26 [“Developing Health Care in Developing Nations”] of the same issue. —JC Deming, Kingston

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14 CHRONOGRAM 4/08

To the Editor: In the 3/08 issue of Chronogram, Larry Beinhart argues that what we call morals are societally—or even sometimes genetically—codified survival lessons from trial-and-error species experience. Every human is a cooperative community of many kinds of cells. Skin cells do not cheat liver cells out of their blood supply. Bone cells do not go to war against kidney cells. Eye cells do not compete against pituitary cells. If one wise-guy cell thinks he’s so smart for being greedy (i.e., becoming cancer), and snickers smugly at his prosperity, he eventually learns that the boring old-time cells knew what they were talking about, because the organism dies from the cancer, and the cancer dies along with it. It’s an expensive lesson, and yet no cancer lives to pass on this knowledge to aspiring future cancers. But healthy organisms do get to pass on the eons-old success of cooperation. Outside the individual human body, purity of cooperation is less critical. One individual can behave quite badly without being lethal to the species. When a significant percentage of people take more than they need, then we’re in trouble. At some point, individual property rights become greed. At some point, individual territorial claims become war and genocide. Socially, horizontal societies do not rush to war, while hierarchical ones war far more than makes any kind of sense from a societal benefit point of view. Bonobos are more cooperative than closely related chimps. In short, genetically influenced behavior that is not actually lethal to the species will get passed on as successfully as truly beneficial traits, and will be exalted by some as the right thing to do. And, too, while every cancer dies out, the mutation to make new cancers keeps cropping up. So an argument that greed is good, or war is good, or hierarchy, or any behavior, based on what humans have done, or what other species have done, is not as neatly consistent as some might posit. I have to ask, in this vein of arguable consistency, how Mr. Beinhart finds consistency in his argument re: sex. He says that the costs of raising children discourage sexual profligacy. Okay. But he then includes masturbation, gay sex, and bestiality in the effort and resource debit column, though none of these activities produce any children. If there is a commonsense value in proscribing these activities, it would be that they reduce births, and, in hard times, the species can’t afford to NOT have enough children to assure species continuity. So, morals change with conditions. Efforts by “values voters” to maintain morals beyond their usefulness is counterproductive to sustaining widespread faith in the worth of morality. —Michael Quackenbush, Hyde Park

Chronogram - April 2008  

A regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. - April 20...

Chronogram - April 2008  

A regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of New York's beautiful Hudson Valley. - April 20...

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