It seems incomprehensible to me that, given the options we have, that we seem bound and determined to drive this goddamn bus back into political and economic oligarchy, social inequity, and intellectual credulity and irrationality. But that seems to be the case in a fairly broad swath of the American and global publics.
Idiocies, ranging from tantrums of anti-science to an apparent longing for Dickensian unregulated capitalism, abound. People whose world-views range from simplistic to outright delusional find it childishly easy to convince the public to elect them to high office. Even our political "scandals" seem more boneheaded and ginned-up than the scandals of just a couple of decades ago...perhaps because we chose to deliberately obscure and forget those earlier scandals rather than look on them with critical eyes.
Obviously a hell of a lot of this that's happening in the U.S. has to do with the congealing of what's called "movement conservatism" in this country.
The U.S. GOP as currently constituted is less a political party as it is a cult. The GOP of my young adulthood believed in things like free markets, low taxes, strong armies, and "personal responsibility" as social goals and legislative objectives.
The current GOP believes in them as dogmas, the difference being that if you have a political position you can reasonably modify it or negotiate over it with people who don't agree with it to find as much of a compromise as you can but if you have an article of faith then it is either that or damnation. You would rather be dead, and your opponent be dead, and everything around you flaming wreckage than accept anything less than everything you demand.
But I think that this is just a symptom of a larger disease; the resurgence of fundamentalism.
The GOP is just one of the organizations that has been taken over by - or has deliberately absorbed within itself - people whose outlook is irrational based on belief rather than reason and conviction rather than questioning.
Human life has always been hard. Human problems have always been difficult; usually complex, often prone to messy, unsatisfactory, unpleasant outcomes. Humans have always been contrary, irritating, perverse, unruly creatures who tend to defy commonsense and logic in pursuit of unreachable and unreasonable desires.
And reasoning or questioning your way through this mess is damn deadly difficult.
It's difficult to acquire bits of evidence, it's difficult to sift through evidence to discern fact from perifact and outright fiction. It's difficult to assess our own best interests to apply this evidence to our potential courses of action to decide on the one or ones that will produce the best outcomes for us. And even more difficult is then trying to apply this to our group; our family, our village or town, our region, our nation, our world. Instead of answers you get more questions. Instead of comfort you find more trouble. You end up feeling small, and alone, and helpless, especially if you're a person who is troubled by things you don't understand or don't like going on around you. You WANT to feel strong and untroubled. You WANT answers, not more questions.
That's where "fundamentalism" helps.
Having a simplistic creed makes those decisions a hell of a lot easier. You don't have to worry about the moral or spiritual or economic or political complexities of your actions; God (or Marx, or the free market, or Allah...) says it, you believe it, that settles it.
There's only one teensy-weensy problem with that; it makes you functionally insane.
If you choose not to apply human reason to human problems, if you choose to instead effectively print yourself a set of punch cards with a small range of standard answers to the Big Questions on them, then you have made yourself into a sort of meat computer and if your inputs are wrong then your outputs will be wrong.
David Atkins does a good job of summing up the immense problems with this approach to human life and human issues:
"Fundamentalism of any nature causes extraordinary harm. Fundamentalists believe that the ends justify the means, and that their ideology cannot fail--only people can fail their ideology. Christian and Islamist fundamentalists alike attribute any ills befalling the world as a sign of inadequate obeisance to their God, and do whatever it takes to remake the world more in keeping with their scriptural dogma. Market fundamentalists elevate the "free market" as a divinely infallible authority, attributing even the most obvious market and corporate failures to intrusions of "big government", and offer up only more deregulation, tax cuts and the occasional military coup as a solution. Even Marxist fundamentalists exist, looking at the failures of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot not as refutations of their dogma, but as inadequate implementations of their ideology. The end result of all of these fundamentalist beliefs is mindless tragedy, violence and death."When I look around what I see as the basis of a hell of a lot of this Vortex of Fucking Crazy is more than a willingness; an intense desire, almost a need to retreat from cautious ratiocination into simplistic answers driven by "faith".
The problem I have with that is that "faith", by its very nature, is personal. I believe some things because I am who I am and I have seen and done and learned what I have; I cannot transfer that to you anymore than I can slide the scar on right hand I earned by shoving it through a plate glass window when I was eight off my hand and onto yours.
I can tell you about that scar. I can try and convince you that the scar is a good scar, and one that should shape the way you live your life.
But the moment I try and force you to bear that scar - whether by law or might or social pressure - I put myself in a dangerous place.
And more and more I see people who want to force others to bear their scars, for no better reason than that they believe in their scars strongly enough to want to force those others to bear them, too.
That drives me fucking crazy.
What's worse, I cannot see a way around it.
We know more now, and more of us know more, about ourselves, about our world, about the natural processes, about politics and economics and societies of every stripe.
And yet we, many of us, seem to insist not on using that knowledge but deliberately ignoring it; making others' and our own lives more difficult, meaner, crueler, less tolerant, more violent and random and loveless rather than kinder and more rational.
And I have absolutely no idea how - if all that information and knowledge and communications cannot - you change that.