The human brain is not good at absorbing, understanding, and acting on the basis of abstract information that arrives from distant places. There’s no reason why evolution should have equipped our ancestors with that ability. In sub-Saharan Africa, where our ancestors lived, there was no abstract information arriving from distant places!
The only information that was important in the passing on of one’s genes was immediate and concrete. Lion over there, gotta run.
So here we are, living in a vastly different world from the one our ancestors lived in. Abstract information reaches us daily from distant places — and some of it is vitally important to our survival. But we don’t have the capacity to process it and act on it. We act like nothing is the matter. We just stroll onward, averting our eyes.
Here in the U.S. (I can’t speak very knowledgeably about other nations), we have, in no particular order:
— An entirely corrupt Congress and Administration, in which our nominally elected officials are all accepting enormous bribes on a weekly basis from multinational corporations — corporations that are, in any meaningful respect, above the law.
— A ruinously expensive overseas military operation, now six years old and counting, that cannot possibly achieve a meaningful victory, ever.
— A health care system that quite regularly and predictably bankrupts the old and the seriously ill, making of their lives and the lives of their families a needless and abysmal misery.
— A financial system that reels on the brink of collapse while those who run it award themselves billions of dollars in “bonuses” for alleged performance achievements.
— The impending collapse of the newspaper industry, which is the main channel through which ordinary people can find out exactly what the fox is doing whilst running the henhouse.
— A failed drug prohibition policy that puts tens of thousands of young people behind bars for years at a time, thus ruining their lives far more effectively than drugs ever could, while meanwhile corrupting the governments of other nations by providing a profitable market for their exported drugs.
— A president who has promised not to prosecute anybody in the previous administration for torturing innocent civilians, thereby violating international law.
I could go on, but I trust I’ve made my point. The question that interests me at the moment is, what exactly would it take for the people of the United States to say, “We’ve had enough. This shit has got to change.”
Unfortunately, I have to ask another question too: Do we really want the people of the United States to undertake to run their own country? Would they have any hope of doing it any better than it’s being done now? Arguably not.
Considerable swaths of the populace think Rush Limbaugh is right. Considerable swaths of the populace think the Ten Commandments should be taught in school. Considerable swaths of the populace think doctors should be jailed or shot for performing abortions.
Do I really want these idiots throwing their weight around any more energetically than they’re doing already? No, that doesn’t seem like a very good idea.
Meanwhile, the sun is shining, it’s a mild spring day, my stomach is full, and I have a nice computer to play with. May as well just avert my eyes and stroll onward.
But also … if they put me in the White House and gave me Barack Obama’s job, I’m not sure I’d do it any better than he’s doing it. I’d do better than Rush Limbaugh, that much I’m sure of. But really, even if Obama wanted to do the right thing every day, even if he knew what the right thing was (which is beginning to seem rather doubtful), would he be able to do it? Or would somebody who has a lot to lose put wheels in motion so as to make sure something bad happened to him, and quickly? Is Obama running things, in any sense, or is he as much a puppet and a pawn as George Bush clearly was?
Is the whole thing, as 18th century philosophers proposed, just a vast clockwork mechanism ticking away under its own power, with no one able to take charge of it or alter a jot or tittle of it?
Archimedes said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world.” He was talking about the principle of the lever, but he might have been talking about politics and government. There’s no place to stand. It’s all a quagmire.
You know the definition of a quagmire? Everything sucks.
I’m sure that since, “We’ve had enough. This shit has got to change.” fits within the 140 character Twitter limit, everything will be just fine.