Where Do We Go From Here?

Last night, I spoke at the Peace and Justice Center about my most recent book, Living Together: Mending a Fractured America. Here are those remarks. (Sorry for the length)

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As most of you have noticed, we’re living in tough times.

We—by which I mean all of humanity, but especially citizens of the United States—find ourselves in the middle of a paradigm shift, a fundamental change in the basic assumptions through which most of us have been accustomed to viewing the world. I know that such shifts aren’t unprecedented (the dislocations of the Industrial Revolution are arguably an example), but while they’re occurring, people on either side of the shift find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with each other; they occupy different realities.

As we are trying to negotiate and adapt to the technological and social changes that seem to constantly be accelerating, we’re faced with a really scary number of economic, governmental and social institutions that are in crisis—or as I describe them in the book, broken. We’re just now beginning to realize how disorienting and damaging it is to occupy a fragmented and inconsistent information environment in which Americans don’t share a common reality. Our ability to choose whatever “facts” we prefer to believe has abetted a renewed tribalism, and a resurgence of populism and white nationalism. We live in an era marked by dramatic economic inequality, and if that wasn’t challenging enough, the accelerating pace of automation is eliminating a huge number of jobs—a number that is projected to grow exponentially, and sooner than most of us think.

Worse, it’s no longer possible to ignore the inadequacies and corruption of America’s current legal and political structures.

If those problems weren’t daunting enough, while we are trying to make sense of the economic and social challenges we are experiencing, we are also facing the very real possibility that climate change will cause large portions of the planet to become uninhabitable—with consequences that are, for most Americans, unimaginable.

Most of these problems have been incubating for years, but in the United States, the 2016 election and its aftermath have made it impossible to ignore them. That election forced recognition of the extent to which a longtime, steady erosion of the country’s democratic norms has hollowed out and corrupted this country’s governing institutions.

As we enter 2020, we face thorny social and economic challenges in an environment that makes it very difficult to solve them—or even agree on what they are. Changes to journalism driven by the Internet have dramatically intensified the difficulty of democratic decision-making. Actual news based upon verifiable fact is still available but diminishing, especially at the local level. Cable news and the wild west of the Internet enable and encourage confirmation bias, and are rife with spin, “fake news” and outright propaganda. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United increased public recognition of—and cynicism about– the disproportionate power wielded by corporate America through lobbying, political contributions and influence-peddling. Together with the enormous and widening gap between the rich and the rest, recognition of the outsized influence of money in America’s political system feeds suspicion of all government decision-making.

In order for democratic institutions to function, there has to be widespread trust in the integrity of electoral contests. The fundamental democratic idea is a fair fight, a contest of competing ideas, with the winners legitimized and authorized to carry out their agendas. Increasingly, however, those democratic contests are marked by disinformation and cyber-warfare, as well as by bare-knuckled power plays and mechanisms—notably gerrymandering and varieties of vote suppression—through which partisans game the system. As a result, citizens’ trust in government and other social institutions has dangerously diminished. Without that trust—without a widespread belief in an American “we,” an overarching polity to which all citizens belong and in which all citizens are valued—tribalism thrives. Racial resentments grow. The divide between urban and rural Americans widens, as does the gap between various “elites” and others. Economic insecurity and social dysfunction are made worse by the absence of an adequate social safety net, adding to resentment of both government and those considered “Other.”

Making matters worse, as we began to recognize the immensity of these challenges, America’s antiquated Electoral College facilitated the election of a President incapable of recognizing, understanding or dealing with them.

As I said in the Introduction to Living Together, citizens in 21st Century America are facing a globalized, technocratic, increasingly complex world that poses unprecedented challenges to the goal of e pluribus unum (not to mention human understanding and survival). The existential question we face is: Can government policies create a genuine “us” out of so many different/diverse “I’s” and “we’s”? Can policymakers use law and legislative processes to create a supportive, nourishing culture that remains true to the Enlightenment’s essential insights, while modifying or discarding those that are no longer so essential? If so, how? How does this nation overcome the escalating assaults on science, reality and the rule of law and create a functioning, trustworthy democratic system?

The challenges America faces tend to fall into three (interrelated and sometimes overlapping) categories: widespread Ignorance (defined as lack of essential information, not stupidity); historic Inequality (the wealth gap, civic inequality, power and informational asymmetries among others) and unapologetic Tribalism (“us versus them”—racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, the urban/rural divide, and political identity.)

An old lawyer once told me that there is really only one legal or political question: “what do we do?” How do we fashion concrete and politically tenable answers to the multitude of questions raised by social and technological change? How do we live together in what should be our brave new world?

That was the fundamental question I explored in Living Together.

In Part I, I set out the various ways in which our cultural assumptions and social institutions are being upended, and how issues we’ve dealt with more or less adequately have suddenly become much more salient and disruptive. We face once again the age-old question: how should humans govern themselves? What institutional arrangements are most likely to be perceived as fair and just by most people, even when those people have very different desires, abilities, beliefs and needs? What sorts of governance and institutional arrangements are most likely to promote what Aristotle called “human flourishing?”

In the 18th Century, Enlightenment philosophers answered that question by proposing a social contract based upon the issues and understandings of their times.  Those philosophers and scientists challenged longtime assumptions about how a society should be constructed, how it should be governed and what it should value. In the United States, the nation’s Founders built a legal and constitutional system based upon those Enlightenment insights and values and the belief that human flourishing could best be facilitated by a limited-authority government that allowed individuals to exercise personal autonomy to the greatest extent compatible with an overarching order.

That original vision and approach to governance has never been uncontested or fully realized, but it has provided the framework—the paradigm—that shaped subsequent policy argumentation. That liberal democratic framework, as it has evolved to the present, rests upon a (necessarily limited) respect for self-determination- the ability of individuals, cultures and states to determine and pursue their own ends, their own telos. Respect for the right of individuals or groups to determine their own life choices requires that we reject many legally-imposed uniformities and recognize that human diversity is not just inevitable but socially desirable.

Of course, the principles that emerged from the Enlightenment and were embraced by America’s founders are not now and never have been universally held. Furthermore, even among people who do accept the general framework and stated values that undergird America’s Constitution, there are significant differences of opinion about what individual liberty actually means and when government’s authority may be properly exercised. Ongoing tensions between the majoritarian “popular passions” that so worried the architects of America’s constitution and Enlightenment ideas about the importance of individual autonomy have spawned a long line of academic studies and a significant body of constitutional jurisprudence.  America’s civic history has been a series of conflicts between the rights of the individual and the preferences of the majority.

In the 21st Century, the increasingly frenetic pace of technological, economic and cultural change has dramatically intensified the conflict between the individual’s right to self-determination and societies’ need for social cohesion. Those changes have tested America’s purported commitment to equality—especially as previously marginalized populations have entered both the workforce and the political arena and demanded equal social and civic status. It’s no longer possible to ignore the demographic changes that threaten entrenched social privilege, and the imminent loss of dominant status feeds the white nationalist movement that has emerged with such ferocity in parts of Europe and the United States. That movement, together with certain strains of populism, appeals especially to people disdainful of diversity and the claims of previously marginalized groups—and for that matter, Enlightenment values—finding them not simply offensive, but existentially threatening.

The dramatic degree of economic inequality we are experiencing hasn’t just deepened group tensions—it has challenged what is essentially our 18th Century understanding of the nature of both liberty and equality.

As I was writing this book, fundamental and acrimonious disputes about immigration, racial equity, women’s rights, global alliances and the rule of law were being further inflamed by the daily tweets of an authoritarian President who is widely seen as corrupt, incompetent and mentally unstable. The legitimacy of the Supreme Court has been compromised by its growing politicization, and most recently by legislative tactics that allowed the unprecedented “theft” of a seat that President Obama should have filled. People are increasingly taking to the streets in protest, convinced that their grievances will not be addressed by a system they see as fatally flawed.

Assuming—as hopeful people must—that a reformed, small-d democratic order will eventually emerge from the chaos and inter-group hostility we are experiencing, it seems to me that we urgently need to revisit our basic assumptions about government and the social contract. We need to critically assess what has gone wrong, move to safeguard those elements of our governance that have proved their ongoing utility, and revise those that are no longer working. We need to learn from the country’s mistakes if we are to facilitate the building of a better, fairer and more durable society.

The questions are eternal: What do humans owe each other? What is the nature of liberty? Of equality? What is the proper role of government? What should the rules be, who should make those rules, and how should they be enforced?

The questions may be eternal, but the answers aren’t.

I wrote Living Together to describe what I see as the most daunting challenges we face as a country, and to suggest the terms of a new social contract that would address those challenges.

Part One of the book details the threat posed by contemporary manifestations of tribalism and civic polarization; explores the dramatic, accelerating changes in the economy and the nature of work; and describes the “brokenness” of an American government that embraces cronyism while rejecting science, evidence and longstanding understandings of what constitutes fair play.  Chapters also address the dangers posed by the incessant attacks on public education, by the propaganda that has become ubiquitous in the age of the Internet, and by our stubborn refusal to recognize the extent to which all of these challenges are likely to be dwarfed by the effects of climate change.

In Part Two, I proposed policy changes prompted by these analyses—policy changes that, taken together, would amount to the creation of a new, much more expansive social contract appropriate to the age in which we live; a set of policies that would address our growing inequality and moderate the hostilities that characterize current debates among America’s quarrelsome tribes.

Let me conclude with a caveat: I am not naïve enough to expect current policymakers to embrace my proposals; certainly, a sizable number of the people serving in Congress as I write this have demonstrated neither an interest in advancing the common good nor the capacity to understand the problems America currently faces. However, in my optimistic moments (which are getting fewer and farther between…) I tell myself that the increase in civic awareness and participation that followed the 2016 election, and the various political movements generated by the so-called “resistance,” will result in the election of a more thoughtful, responsive and ethical set of policymakers. If that happens, maybe some of what I propose in Living Together will prompt discussion and debate. (We can discuss what  those proposals are during the Question and Answer period.)

If America is, as I think, on the cusp of a broad upheaval triggered by dramatic social, economic and technological changes and aggravated by the broken-ness of our current governing and social institutions, this country’s “best and brightest” will need to explore a variety of potential changes to our governmental, economic and social systems.

Living Together is my contribution to those explorations.

 

18 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. Well said and summarized. Then, if your a Koch brothers libertarian, you don’t want any government at all. Free markets are supposed to run everything. Hell, those folks don’t even want a military. You know, that takes too much money out of the market and thus their fortunes and power.

    I think our problems stem from that form of capitalism and its influences that brought us willful ignorance and Donald Trump, often the same thing.

  2. Wow ! Well presented Sheila, Thank You
    When the republicans decided to take down what they perceived as big government they settled on Starve The Beast, removing funding from programs the didn’t like, Education, Safety Net Programs and Infrastructures Projects. At the same time they started giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy income producers with the idea that they would step up Faith their increasing wealth and back fill those social and commercial needs. Instead what happened was greed fought on with some able to acquire unheard of wealth and the poor left for others in the economic stratus someone to look down on. At the same time some religions chose to join the Republican effort with the idea of we will take care of the downtrodden but greed set in amount the politically religious and they amassed millions with little or no help for the needy. As I have told my friends Synch Up Your Saddles Folks 2020 is going to be one hell of a ride in America and this Decade Will Be one hell of a ride for Humanity and The Earth and all creatures we share it with.
    Thanks again for your words and insight, I stopped watching the News that I love because I can’t stand Trump 24-7, so I read but even that’s hard to do.

  3. Ray,
    Thanks for giving structure to my comments. Republicans/Libertarians/Corporatists kill everything they touch. One has to look no further than Betsy DeVos’ assault on public education to see how these unravelers are tilting the tables to our ruin as a democratic republic.

  4. My consistent thought over the last several years is that we can always hope for a better result, but then I remember God helps those who help themselves. So far the Republicans have helped themselves to wealth and power while giving us ignorance and arrogance.

    At any rate, here’s a little Alexander Pope to make us all feel better:

    “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
    Man never Is, but always To be blest.
    The soul, uneasy, and confin’d from home,
    Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

  5. I find it easiest to focus on one basic problem at a time, while recognizing that one needs to look at things together, as you try to do, because we must change the structure, not the single parts of it. Economically, I see an idealized future, where there is a clear (structured) capitalism. Within my vision, people have the right to housing, food, healthcare and the potential opportunity to make it economically. Housing requires various policies that help make affordable housing viable through taxation and limitations in some cases on what is done with private property (where housing is potentially eliminated for example). Food is dependent upon all having a basic income (see further on in this critique). Healthcare requires a system which requires those of us who have money to be able to afford to have treatment, but to pay for that treatment in reasonable ways. Co-payments of $5, for example, make me likely to seek a doctor, when I needn’t bother. Co-payments of $100 are cost prohibitive and not viable. We need to protect those who have congenital conditions. Drugs need to be affordable. A single-payer system in the long run seems necessary. Taxation though, is where I would most see the need for reform. Employers ought to be in a position where they are encouraged to hire full-time workers, not part-timers (to save on healthcare costs for example), and not independent contractors. To the degree possible, an employer hiring an employee should be a “simple labor cost” – without a necessity of paying for health insurance or other “fringe benefits”. Perhaps time off after birthing (co-birthing) a child for example, should be subsidized by the federal government. Both corporations, unincorporated businesses and individuals should be taxed in a relatively simple, progressive manner, without massive loopholes. For individuals, for example, there should be a reasonably high – standard deduction, with 2 or more likely 3 brackets of payment rates – such as: 10% of the first $50,000 above the standard deduction, 20% of the next $200,000 and 30% of income in excess of that. There should be relatively few deductions. Wages should, if anything, be taxed at a lower rate than income based upon investments/unearned income based sources to encourage work and to tax those who have wealth. Inheritance taxes should be significant for those with large estates. Business taxes should tax be similarly progressive, and should end the disgraceful situations where large corporations pay little or no taxes. In short – we should create an economic system which rewards the values that many of us have in wanting opportunities to – get by and prosper and allows for most people to live reasonable lives, and allows “the rich” to live fairly, while also treating the rest of us with respect. Obviously, my ideas are antithetical to the interest of the super-rich, but they can and must be confronted and opposed, where they act solely from their class interests.

  6. Whoops – related to food – In our basic tax system, there need to be credits for low income people that help ensure that they have a “basic income” perhaps similar to what Mr. Yang is proposing or something that simply applies to low income people alone.

  7. Woah Sheila!

    Bellissimo bravo bravo!

    I suppose there’s going to be a few complainers about the length of your letter this morning? I hope not, because one cannot make a point or explain an opinion in 200 characters or less.

    I agree with everything you’ve said, and, like you brought out and like I’ve alluded to before, there is a complete exhaustion to resist the relentless thrust of suppression. Kind of like watching my departed brother when he would be breaking a horse. The horse is getting used to a new environment, all sorts of new things are flying at him un-relentlessly, eventually the horse is broken. It surrenders “Most of its will” it conforms, unwillingly at 1st and then yields to compliance.

    Since the age of the Internet, and especially its social media aspect which is even more recent, there is a constant bombardment, every single hour of every single day. The evils of foreigners, the evils of equality, the benefits of limited rights, the unfettered and unapologetic thrust of misogyny in every aspect of social media. When one particular group or faction can control the narrative, even if it’s a minority narrative, and continues an unrelenting barrage of lies and innuendo, of alternate facts and realities, it literally “Breaks” the will to resist. It becomes so exhausting, not just physically either, but mentally.

    Your health insurance is going to put you in front of a death squad, remember that one? From Social Security, to Medicare, to the affordable care act, a certain segment demonized any sort of social safety net. I have a copy of the propaganda pins against each one of those programs, and they are almost identical. Racial equality, gender equality, religious equality, basic human rights, including civil rights, are all under assault. And yes it is a tribalistic assault.

    There are supposed certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution. But, those rights really were for white Protestant land owners. Those rights were not guaranteed for women, or those who are racially and culturally different, or those who are not of the same gender, and even freedom of speech, was only for those white Protestant landowners who were the ones that could vote. Of course we’ve had amendments to the Constitution, but in actuality, there should’ve been a complete overhaul of the Constitution. Why do you think there are those who call themselves originalists, who want the Constitution interpreted the way it was in the beginning. They don’t believe it is a living breathing document, that way it is much easier to argue for inequality. And through misleading and perverse propagandas they’ve managed to hijack a significant portion of the public to really fight against their own self interest.

    After all limited resources should be used for the benefit of the superior tribe, and it doesn’t matter the effect it would have on the “Others” because those others, it shouldn’t be here anyway. The Catholics, the Muslims, the Jews, the multiracial the multicultural, even though there were attempted protections in the original wording of the Constitution. During that time women were considered a possession and not equal.

    Jefferson and Washington saw the benefit of inclusion, but the Protestant hierarchy at the time, despised and demonized religious equality, racial and cultural equality and gender equality.
    https://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0205/tolerance.html

    https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/george-washingtons-letter-to-newport/

    As you can see by the letters concerning equality of what were considered Mohammedans and Jews, Jefferson and Washington realized the benefit of inclusion, but already, the Protestant hierarchy was formulating ways to sabotage this train of thought. This hasn’t changed throughout the history of this country, there has been eb and flow, but there always was a constant pressure against unfettered equality and human rights. And now, with the advent of social media, this can be pounded like a barrage of missiles (how appropriate) slamming into the conscience and will of a majority of Americans who deem equality as a human right.

    I said that there would be blood, and I’m sure there will be eventually, after all, the same history is being played out again, like a broken record, as it has throughout mankind’s existence on this planet. There always has been blood, there’s always been subversion and repression of basic freedoms including human rights.

    Will we have a Renaissance type moment? If you recall, the Renaissance occurred after what was rightly called the dark ages. A time of horrible existence for most humans. Plagues, starvation, complete control by a hierarchy that used religion to cause fear and trepidation in the population. Just like certain politicians claim disasters happen in certain parts of the country because the people there are somehow evil. This is exactly the same tack that was used in the dark ages. Starvation and plagues were because the people didn’t give enough or were not obedient enough to their hierarchy or hierarchal masters. Most could not read, most were not educated, so they had no way to verify what they were being told, only when the Bible was printed in many language of the time, did people see the untruths that they were being spoonfed.

    A modern renaissance? Well, it’s a thought! And the idea of a Renaissance overcome the exhaustion from the constant pounding of lies and alternate reality? The constant barrage of hatred and fear mongering makes people want to just hide their heads, at least all but those that thrive on conspiracies, but are they the ones you want to hold sway over your life?

    And yes Betty, this is my opinion, I may not have the education some do, but I do believe I’m fairly insightful. And this is definitely more than 200 characters, LOL. And really, it would not hurt to be enlightened about Scripture. Definitely, most people are leery of or even hate what they don’t understand. So instead of everyone taking someone else’s word for everything, do complete due diligence, and you can see how religion and the demonization of others is not from religion but from men using religion in a nefarious way.

    When you cut a horse’s bridle, and you let it run free, it is truly happy again, and they will actually come back and thank you for releasing them. So maybe it’s time to cut that bridle for everyone, take a deep breath, get off of social media for a while, let the wounds heal, recharge your batteries, compensate, contemplate, facilitate, and move forward.

    Please forgive any misspellings or jumbled phrasing, I have to start my granddaughters on their lessons for the day, breakfast time.

  8. Bravo, Sheila! We are in transition in more ways than one, as you correctly point out. With Locke and the Enlightenment and Jefferson’s disdain for the English king, we did in fact come up with rather new ideas for governing toward the end of the 18th century, including the then unusual idea of election of our governors. I think our democratic form of government came straight out of the library of Jefferson, lover of Greek philosophy and Athenian democracy, but as you note, that novel model he excerpted from his understanding of democracy may need adjustment in view of present day realities, realities such as the widening wage and wealth gap, among others.

    We have survived the industrial revolution initiated by Fulton’s steamboat through every idea from Marx through trickledown capitalism and libertarian nihilism and are now faced with a truly brave new world with the advent of the Silicons and their AI, which raises profound issues on the evaluation of human labor and how we are to distribute AI wealth and income generated by the new information economy. Wealth as we now know it may itself become obsolete in favor of government credits or some other means of rewarding displaced humans in the work force.

    So what will be the terms of our new “social contract?” That answer is beyond my pay grade, given all the new and unique considerations that must go into devising one, but from my vantage point of now it seems to me that given the enormous changes in economic, social and political conditions (and especially the accelerating pace of ever more sophisticated AI) we will likely be seeing an extreme degree of what we now call socialism that will end today’s capitalism and make today’s Bernies look like right wingers. Revolution? No, evolution via innovation.

    Of course, all of the above amateur guesswork or even the predictions of brilliant economists and political scientists becomes moot if we do not solve our climate crisis, since if humanity has been eradicated and the power sources for robots has been exhausted, this will be a quiet planet, so first things first? Our call.

  9. Peggy,
    I have to wonder where you learned as an axiom worth remembering…..
    “God helps those who help themselves.”
    It never was and never will be in any holy scripture.
    Certainly is nowhere in Judeo Christian tradition or teachings.
    In fact – does not appear in the holy writ nor teachings of any of the worlds’ major religions.

    The opposite, however, is always true. All major religions teach charity and compassion for others, particularly for the besieged, the ill, the poor, etc.

  10. When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil.

    But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him.

    We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
    ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

    Marcus Aurelius was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire.
    ==================================================

    The statement that, “We were born to work together”, is so true. Humans discovered early on in their evolution from hunter gathering up to day’s complex world the value of working together in concert with one another. Sometimes, the working together can produce aqueducts, roads or something destructive like nuclear weapons.

    We also as humans discovered “the other” someone who was not a part of our tribe or nation state.

    The difference I see between the Reactionary, Right Wing, bible thumping evangelicals that make up the Republican Party and their leaders, and the rest of us, is the rest of us see ourselves as a part of the same “body” rather than separate body parts. Indeed the Republican Party seeks ways and means to divide us up.

    We may have honest disagreements on how to achieve a certain goal. However, what I see with a Mitch McConnell is man that is totally 100% committed to a certain ideology, that passes into fanaticism.

  11. Gerald – kudos for the straightforward guidance – “evolution via innovation”. The Founders were innovators. Did they get it 100% right off the bat ? Of course not…it was and (hopefully) will continue as a work in progress. There is no straight line for significant change.

    The trick is to a somewhat simple assessment: what very few issues will give the “biggest bang for the buck” with the least risk of failure and unanticipated consequences. For 2020 it may be a focus
    on: climate change denial, treatment of migrants/immigrants, opioid epidemic. These seem to have an emotional resonance with the most people/appeal to a sense of what is right.

  12. We are living unsustainable lives and our world is collapsing. We expect leadership for the transition but because the situation is unprecedented they are as lost as everyone else is. We are all reacting because planning is too hard.

    Those with wealth and comfort want to hang on to what they have. Those on the edge know the risks that they face as the first to be sacrificed and that their comfortable friends want what little that they have.

    The little offense that we have is on the field but overwhelmed by the defense.

    We are all desperate for leadership to establish power to protect us from the threats closing in.

    The question of more or less government is a good one from the perspective of do we have a future to pursue and invest in or is hunkering down into what we have the best we can do?

    Understandably, the comfortable among us, those who have a power if not numerical majority, are supporting hunkering down and assuming game over so they don’t risk their lead.

    The poor have no power to survive (as compared to flourish) on so they use their guile plus the survival mode built into all of us to do what whatever has to be done.

    Putin threw us a bean ball to back us off from crowding the plate.

    Now what?

    What our system bequeathed us are two teams to choose between and root for and play with
    or against.

    Despite all of the philosophers of the world none of us will change any of us. We are used to being able to control our situation but are beyond that now. It’s come down to a race at the ballot box and my personal reaction to the situation at this critical juncture is to vote blue no matter who. We’ll have to sort the whole thing out later but if we don’t start down the path now of mitigating our demonstrated capacity to discard the only climate we’ve ever known, the one we built our civilization in accordance with, all of these other questions pale into insignificance.

  13. Sheila,
    Your statement that “we’re faced with a really scary number of economic, governmental and social institutions that are in crisis…” is supported by an article in the Post and Courier this morning that reveals that IRS answered 29% of the calls it received in 2019. Trump’s effort to make the government and all bureaucrats seem incompetent is among his most effective moves. As in other agencies, he accomplishes this goal by underfunding the effort so that there is no chance for the employees to handle the workload. Works every time. Unfortunately that leaves a lot of money that would be otherwise be collected lying on the table while the debt and deficit continue to pile up. Great strategy. I’ll spare you my thoughts on what he has done to the EPA.

    Who knew that one man who knows almost nothing and doesn’t believe in science could take down democracy, cancel the enlightenment and turn truth into falsehood in three quick years? And that he would be viewed as the “chosen one” by so many people/politicians who seem so ill equipped for choosing. What do they conceive will be their advantages when democracy goes away? Do they even understand the term “self-interest”?

  14. Thank you, Sheila.
    Thank you for your wonderful insights and the work you do every day to enlighten us. We are so fortunate to have your clear voice in the middle of all this noise. Keep up the good work.
    Joanne Classick

  15. Sheila,

    I was thinking about what you said in your post, what could the solutions be? What would cause people to be receptive to change? I think, one of the things that brought on the Renaissance, was that people got tired of misery. People were finally aware of the complete unfettered lying that kept them from reaching any sort of potential.

    People were just commodities, the government which was tied to the church in most countries, extorted as much is they could through fear mongering and willfully terrorizing and demonizing others for bringing this misery upon them. They took as much of everyone’s meager possessions while leaving the more enlightened wealthy alone. Much like what they’re trying to do today.

    So, I think that there has to be a period of time with unfettered misery, because mankind is an extremely stiffnecked species. Mankind has always been that way. It seems that mankind never listens to his conscience, he suppresses it. And because the current societal structure is patriarchal, the desire to inflict one’s will on the downtrodden and weaker is just too much to pass up, that desire is powerful.

    Personally, I would not be disappointed if we were turned into more of a matriarchal society, I’ve had very very strong women in my life, a lot of the women were backbones of my family structure. What I’ve noticed, is the women were stronger emotionally than the men. Many of the men died young, at 61, I’m one of the oldest men in my family group. Everyone else died in their 40s or 50s, and my brothers even younger than that.

    Right now, this country needs a mommy, it’s had enough daddies!

    Necessity is the mother of invention? Then misery is the mother of change!

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