Sunday, November 07, 2010

Ain't freedom grand?

One of the paradoxes of American freedom is that no one needs to feel a sense of national responsibility. As long as we can hire an army and make a little fuss over them, no one else needs to do a thing except for themselves. The fact that almost anyone with a choice chooses not to serve their country in that way should tell us all something about the desirability of continuing with conflict as a model of interaction. So far, that message has been lost. We continue to dare each other to back up our positions with brawn. This great nation boils down to my great country club. Who let all these poor people breed? Didn't anybody tell them that if they won't work for nothing we won't employ them?

The problems are always somebody else's fault. The fact that some of the finger pointing has merit makes it even more complex and contentious.

The only hope the middle class might have had in the face of this is that the producers need consumers. But as the manufacturers build up poorer nations by sending factories over there, they also create customers. Those new consumers, nearer where the goods are produced, have a little less money than the residents of former industrial nations in decline, but the manufacturers will save a bundle on shipping.

Durable change is always evolutionary, not revolutionary. A cataclysm may alter things in the geological world, but human nature remains human nature. In years, perhaps decades, the developing nations will have caught up to the previously developed ones. Only then might we deal with the inequities between labor and management. But even that remains questionable. Several factors could keep the debate from proceeding. To name but a few:

1. Industrial development in less advanced countries could finish destroying the climate balance that makes life itself possible.

2. Some jackass could start a bigger war than has been fashionable recently. Wars are great economic engines, but when the environment is already delicately balanced the impact of major destruction could tip thing over the edge even more quickly than careless industrialism. Idiots trying to preserve the status of a nation in decline might be willing to make an "all or nothing, live free or die" effort to put their faction back on top or go down gloriously in the attempt. Similarly, idiots in one of the countries that was never great and has no industrial future might feel like detonating whatever they can get their hands on.

3. Governments in the formerly great world powers could crumble before their form of social stratification has had a chance to spread uniformly around the globe. If communication and transportation degrade, local customs and superstitions will regain their former power to promote xenophobia. English is the language of aviation. It didn't need to be English, but that's how it worked out. If the spread of one language falters, everyone who is interested has to pick up another one, should a single candidate emerge from the ruckus. Will it remain widespread if people don't do a lot of flying? We're not that far from xenophobia as it is. Take away the ability of people to mix and mingle and we're right back to eating or enslaving strangers who crawl ashore from shipwrecks. The cute ones we might have sex with first.

Because everything you do makes a difference, but nothing you do matters, future generations (if any) will simply deal with whatever reality they inherit. If we go back to the level of the 17th Century, that's what the kids will breed in. That's the ultimate truth: if anyone is left to eat and screw, that's what they'll do. The rest is just ornamentation. No one planned in the long term to get us where we are. We're here because of a combination of short term goals and philosophies intended to be observed without end. That's not a long-term development plan.

No one explained this adequately when I was growing up. I doubt if too many people thought in these terms. I was taught short term planning and lifetime philosophies. Short term includes a whole human life span. Some people like to dwell on how brief that is (tick tock), but seldom go beyond the impact that has on retirement planning or how much time we get to spend hanging out with our friends and loved ones -- short term aspects again. Humans make a big deal out of themselves when, in geological terms, they're just a passing itch on the surface of the globe. This planet doesn't need us. Only we need us.

As far as national responsibility goes, we're better off without too insular a sense of national unity and purpose. Unfortunately, as national identity shifted to a particular flag waving above personal gain, we've been slow to accept the concept of the individual human living on the human planet and needing to take care of it. Too many of us have no sense of ownership or stewardship, depending on your inclination. Those who fear one-world government see only that. They recoil in revulsion from anything that looks like global leadership. And they are right to do so. Why should one-world government work any better than the many examples of messed up national, regional and local government? But we're stuck with each other. We'd better figure out how to balance all our competing wants before we are no longer able to meet our needs.

Evolution grinds slowly. It tends to hinge on physical characteristics. Species success depends entirely on creating future generations. We've got that down. Now we deal with the trickier problem of intellectual evolution. Signs of it are obvious. So are signs of resistance to it. The mere fact of an individual's existence and breeding readiness mean nothing to the future survival and prosperity of an idea. The idea needs minds in which to flourish. So humans, always cooking up something, keep experimenting. Because so much is theoretical, we argue and argue while physical effects of previous decisions continue to accumulate.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The 2010 election in a nutshell: "I got tired of waiting for your computer to download an important update, so I hit it with a rock."

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

November 2: The Groundhog Day of politics

I predict that no matter which party controls Congress at the end of today's voting (and any necessary recounts) we will see no improvement for at least two years --if then.

If the Democrats retain control, the Republicans will continue to obstruct them. As shown in the sabotage of the health care bill, even if something big does pass, it will be so mangled as to be completely useless.

If the Republicans win, they will do as little as possible to make things better to make sure the Obama administration does not get any credit for turning things around. The financiers of the Republican Party can weather considerable hard times to squeeze the majority of voters and get them to blame the wrong people, as usual, for their difficulties.

Once the Republicans assure themselves both Congress and the White House they can return to strip mining the country as they so happily did under George Bush. They have put themselves against government for so long that they no longer know how to run one for the good of an entire nation.

The vocal factions that want even smaller government will make sure that the debate includes lots of pistol-wearing and head stomping.

Don't like my prediction? Prove me wrong.