Human nature gets in way of progress


By Jim Matthews

One of my favorite phrases from the Bible proclaims that humans are a “stiff-necked people.” And human history is replete with examples of this. Our tendency is to believe we are in an age in which we are surrounded by stiff-necked people. But I have to believe we have been this way for a very long time. And we are seeing this in a way that is disturbing now.

So how do I define “stiff-necked?” One way is to recall the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” The way we choose a course of action — or inaction, in some cases — that is satisfying in the moment but later causes us great misery.

Should a certain leader of North Korea fire an ICBM missile with a nuclear warhead, there would be a likelihood the United States and possibly many other countries would respond to the point North Korea would no longer exist. Leader Kim Jong-Un, {span}chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea,{/span} would have the momentary satisfaction of causing harm to a perceived enemy — while facing certain death for his people and himself.

Another way to define stiff-necked is President Donald Trump’s continued efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There is no doubt the act is profoundly flawed. But many of Trump’s supporters have come to appreciate what the act is doing for them, and they do not want to give it up.

If he continues to push for repeal of the act and eventually wins, he could find even his most loyal followers breaking with him.

What about his continued use of his Twitter account? People in his own Cabinet, members of his own party and many others have encouraged him to stop this nearly daily habit. He rarely gets positive feedback from his tweets. So why would he continue?

At the state level, the Interstate 69 extension seems to fit a stiff-necked definition. With most of the studies determining that laying a new roadway along the existing I-70 and U.S. 41 corridors is the most cost-effective and least environmentally damaging route, there seemed little to be gained by the new route — except, of course, for road builders and county executives.

And with extreme opposition coming from people in northwestern Johnson and southwestern Marion counties, it seems likely the cost of the new route will be even higher than anticipated. With so much road already built,it seems likely the road will be completed.

And Hancock County is not suffering from a lack of stiff-necked people. There are many examples, but the one that comes to mind for me is the refusal to move forward with efforts to remove heavy truck traffic from downtown streets. Stating it will take many years for something to be done, local officials are again pushing action down the road for others to deal with.

This is much like what was done in years past when studies showed that there needed to be a solution to traffic on downtown streets, and then nothing was done. It is a matter of asking what can be done rather than pointing out what cannot be done.

I am sure each one of us can point out examples of being stiff-necked in our own lives. Because we are all a stiff-necked people.

Jim Matthews is a longtime resident of Greenfield. Send comments to [email protected].