I’m reading a lot to try and figure out why the world is the way it is. I can’t say it makes me feel much better, but it does help—if you can’t fix what’s wrong, at least being able to name it allows you to stay sane. The last book I finished was The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby, about why irrational thinking and anti-intellectualism have shaped the U.S. so strongly in the past few decades. She says this, which I think summarizes the most important issue we’re facing now:
As the astronomer Carl Sagan notes, real science differs from pseudoscience in that the former “thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one,” while the latter involves theories “often framed precisely so that they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated.” Then, when real scientists refuse to accept a pseudoscientific premise, “conspiracies to suppress it are deduced.”
It almost sounds like a non sequitur, but I think science—more particularly, scientific thinking—is the only thing that can save us now. Because if we can’t even agree on what reality is, there is no hope for anything. I will never be able to understand how people can use their resources to hurt others, whether intentionally or through willful self-delusion. But they do it, and if we allow even the concept of reality to be up for debate, we just pave the way for them. We can’t stop people from being terrible. But we can refuse to help them do it.
Most of us don’t have much power beyond our own lives, but the power we do have depends on our ability to think, question our beliefs, understand evidence, and discuss things with a shared vocabulary that is based on acknowledgement of the actual world around us. We have made a lot of progress as a species, even if half of us are doing everything they can to undo it. I think objectively there must be hope, even if I genuinely cannot find it most of the time. We can become better. It won’t fix the thousands of years of damage we’ve already done, the unnecessary suffering and cruelty and oppression that have ruined the lives of most of the people who’ve ever lived. Becoming better won’t fix any of that—but we can stop adding to it. Right now, I think that’s the best we can do.
I’m having such a hard time concentrating at work right now. Could be part of an upcoming migraine (hopefully not) but I don’t know how to fix it.
Maybe it’s because I have so many aborted thoughts lately—comments I start to make on Facebook, or elsewhere, then delete without posting because it seems pointless to say the words. It was happening already before The Walking Disaster, but it’s so much worse now. Like every time I see a news story, and there isn’t even the need for an actual thoughtful response anymore because there’s nothing to dissect, no questions raised—just another occasion of garbage human beings being garbage and hurting everyone they can. I should just have a stock post prepared, the same words to be shared with each new example—something like, “You are all awful, shit people and what you’re doing is absolutely unacceptable. I genuinely wish I believed in hell so you could rot there.”
The United States political system has been officially taken over by the cruelest, stupidest, most self-serving elements of humanity. I think it must only be a matter of time before violence comes along behind, open rather than camouflaged the way it is now, government-inflicted rather than just government-enabled. Calling people Nazis doesn’t even mean anything anymore, because they are (a) too stupid to see that’s what they are and (b) too callous to care even if they did. So there’s no reason to think we won’t continue heading down that path. Who would have believed we learned nothing from the Third Reich?
You have to be a real moron to think we can cut $9 billion from our already subpar education system and still beat your chest about this being “the greatest country in the world.” You have to be kind of a moron to think that anyway, or to care about such a designation, but cutting education? This isn’t rocket science.
Which is good, because pretty soon there won’t be any Americans who can understand rocket science.
People who oppose government regulation know that without it, the powerful will abuse everyone they can. It’s not that they’re naive about people’s cruelty; it’s that they’re also the kind of people who will abuse anyone they can, and they think that’s how the world should be. We’ve allowed abusers to co-opt the concept of freedom, to make it mean their freedom to abuse us. They talk about freedom from government regulation because they are the thing we need government regulation to protect us from.