Times Are Bleak

by Sam Stein | 11/7/02 6:00am

Bombings in Kuta, Indonesia, have led to the confirmed death of more than 250 people. Meanwhile in Rockville, Md., police were finally able to capture the deranged gun-owning psychopath. who believed his killing of innocent people made him the messiah. A statement attributed to Osama bin Laden recently praised the attacks on U.S. Marines in Kuwait and a French oil tanker off Yemen while warning the Western powers to "stop their aggression on us and their support to our enemies." Violence is erupting daily throughout the heart of the Middle East. Poverty levels are rising globally. Global warming is slowly becoming an uncontainable problem, while the World Wildlife Fund confirms that we are operating beyond the earth's resource capacity. Finally, our country, led by the ever-profound President Bush, is seemingly off to fight in the Middle East with the threat of nuclear war looming in the background. This forces the failing economy, corporate scandals and national health care crisis into the secondary nature of contemporary crisis. In the understatement of the young century, I proclaim that "Times are bleak."

As we spend our days here in this sheltered Dartmouth community, one has to wonder whether the rotational axis around which the world spins has grown a little slicker. But in the early morning mist of the Green recently, I encountered a Lone Ranger-esque figure, hell-bent on changing the dangerous path the humanity has been thrust upon. His maxim is to embrace something that makes you happy, his hope is that individuality will gradually be one and one with a sense of community, his name is Pat Martha, his year is '05.

What's so unique about Pat Martha is that he is the bearer of a more optimistic message, the carrier of an atypical positive news story. As the world around us seems to be deteriorating into an un-recoupable oblivion with humanity toying with self-destruction, Pat Martha delivered a simple, easy to understand message. As he posits: "The path we are weaving right now is one towards destruction. Potential is different than the nature of man. Potential is something we all have. Once we understand it, we will realize that we can use it for a good purpose. People need to make the leap from thinking individually to thinking about each other, to realizing how important we are to each other."

The paradox of the situation was that for a man advocating communal dependency, Martha, more often than not, was protesting alone. Late-night hours on the Green were spent essentially unaccompanied, apart from the occasional passer-by who stopped for a brief question session. This did not faze him. He insisted that an incremental step is the steady-progressive path. He was comforted by the maxim "One man can make a difference." And although it may seem unlikely that the Dartmouth community at large will ever hear his message, the clarity of it proves reassuring to some.

It was comical to people that he positioned himself in the middle of the Green for multiple hours a day. But this didn't bother the man. His message is still clear and more comforting to hear than the crisis of the world around us.

Martha shies away from the label of a difference maker. He, more than anyone else, realizes the limitations of his course of action. But he prides himself for his quiet activism, is satisfied that he at least had the courage to take the first step, whether people laugh, ridicule, agree or ignore him. When asked to respond to the theory that perhaps humanity has outgrown its evolutionary capabilities, that we are destroying not only each other but also the environments we depend on (a theory of Kurt Vonnegut), Martha was quick to answer: "The rain forest, the ozone, all the extremes our daily lives need to be less about absorption and more about betterment."

The simplicity of his responses was perhaps the most appealing aspect of his protest. Keep the faith, Pat Martha. Your message might not reach us all, but it does provide us with a brief moment of reflection. And while everyone is preparing for a long and arduous midterm period, they should realize that there are greater needs outside of scholastic studies, more important issues to be tackled at hand.