Perhaps you’ve noticed there are a lot of acronyms being bandied about these days, probably because of the increase in the number of groups and organizations with fairly long names. In case you’re not sure what an acronym is, it’s a word formed from the initial letters of a group of words in a set phrase and pronounced as a separate word. Examples include OPEC (for Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). LORAN (for Long Range Navigation), and RADAR (for Radio Detection and Ranging).
It can also be a set of initials representing a name or organization, with each letter pronounced separately, for instance NRA (for National Rifle Association) NFL (for National Football League), or PTSD (for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Acronyms are verbal shortcuts and express a meaning without having to say what the acronyms represent. They save time and they are convenient. Why say The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when you can say N –double A- C- P?
Acronyms can also express frustration and reached their epitome during WW II when GI’s (short for Government Issue) realized that war time was no more organized than peacetime (much less so, actually) and devised series of acronyms that conveyed their sense of dismay at how confusing and badly planned things could be. The granddaddy of these pithy opinions was (and, in some quarters, still remains) SNAFU (for Situation Normal – All Fouled Up).
Note:In place of the original, cruder term, which also begins with “F”, I have substituted a milder version to avoid offending anyone.
The historian Rick Atkinson cites the following variations of SNAFU in The Day of Battle, The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944,volume two of his Liberation Trilogy:
SUSFU –Situation Unchanged Still Fouled Up
SAFU – Self Adjusting Foul Up
TARFU –Things are Really Fouled Up
FUMTU – Fouled Up More Than Usual
JANFU – Joint Army Navy Fouled Up
JAAFU – Joint Anglo American Fouled Up
FUAFUP – Fouled Up and Fouled Up Proper
FUBAR – Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition
These linguistically creative acronyms have fallen by the wayside, though current versions may be still be used by today’s armed forces.
Of course, there’s no shortage of acronyms, and though we probably don’t need anymore, I have one that I’d like to propose. It’s called SAP. Don’t confuse it with ‘sap.’ We all know what that means, and it’s not a compliment. Nobody wants to be a sap. However, by converting its three letters into an acronym – SAP – we can re-define it to mean a Self Absorbed Person.
What’s a SAP and how can they be identified? They are, alas, our fellow citizens and their behavior is the key to knowing who they are. They’re the folks who use as much of the earth’s resources as they can, and seem to be oblivious of the consequences to others and ultimately to themselves. They drive faster in larger vehicles that use more gasoline, and often leave them running at the store. They live in larger homes that consume a larger amount of energy. They behave in general as if they were the only people on the planet and that there was an endless supply of just about everything.
That attitude is more of a problem now because there are more people now than ever. In the 1940’s, for instance, there were 130 million people in the United States. Last year, we nearly reached the 400 million mark – with no proportionate increase in land or resources to match the greater demand for both. If you think it’s more congested almost any place you go, you’d be right. And if you think people are consuming more than they ever did, you’d also be right.
It’s as if we were all seated around a gigantic dinner table, one large enough to accommodate everyone and with ample food for all to eat. But now, while the table hasn’t increased in size, there are more hungry people waiting to be fed, and it’s getting crowded. Food supplies are becoming limited, yet some people are consuming more than their share and pigging out. What’s the matter with them, we might ask? Why are they so self-centered? Don’t they see or care about the rest of us at the table? What do we do when the food runs out?
The lesson is clear. Until self-interest is replaced by community interest and we work together around the table of common humanity, the resources available to all will soon be depleted. And it’s not just about food – it’s about the air we breathe, the climate in which we live, the very earth on which we depend. Fortunately, it’s within the power of everyone to take a broader perspective than just our own personal comfort.
None of this is difficult or expensive. However, we need to think about more than just ourselves, and we may have to break old habits – but by each of us using less, all of us will have more. The table may still be crowded, and the portions may be a bit smaller, but we will all have enough to eat by sharing and conserving resources that, in the last analysis, belong to everyone.
Someone once said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That’s truer today than it ever was. There is no longer a middle ground –all the more reason not to be a SAP.
For more perspectives about Maine’s wildlife and other related matters, tune into a new radio program Into The Wilderness broadcast Tuesday evenings from 8-8:30 on WMPG FM 90.9.