Monday, November 15, 2010

Fiddle or Fight While America Burns?

I hang out on Facebook a lot. More than I should, actually, although I've decided to back off on it over the coming days. But I read a post today from one of my Facebook friends in which she says she's tried of all the doom and gloom that people are spreading about America's alleged decline, and she's going to stop listening to them and get on with her business.

She thinks that we certainly have problems, but bright minds and natural cycles will solve them unless and until we allow ourselves to become so obsessed with the dire and unflaggingly repetitious pronouncements of such pompous prophets of doom as Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and Tom Friedman that we become too demoralized and debilitated.

I disagree with her. I think our problems are very serious and that we have no chance whatsoever of solving them unless we begin by acknowledging and understanding them. This, with some minor modifications, is what I wrote to her:

I don't believe we are "functioning well" at all. Wall Street continues to grow richer while Main Street continues to grow poorer and our infrastructure continues to crumble and collapse before our eyes. Our educational system is in shambles at a time when it desperately needs to get its act together. Our political system is so polarized that very little can be accomplished. Health care is becoming more expensive and so-called Obamacare, a piss-poor patchwork substitute for single-payer but still better than what we've had before, is on its way out as Republicans continue to attack it and Democrats continue to cave to their demands. Our national debt continues to rise with no viable prospects for reversal. Soon China will be the world's dominant technological, economic and geopolitical power if it isn't already, and India and other rising countries such as Brazil may also relegate us soon enough to second tier, has-been status while our only preeminence, at least for a time, will be as militarily musclebound freaks.

These and a million other serious, serious problems eat away at our nation, and whether you want to collectively characterize them as "brokenness" or to use some other, more euphemistic term for them, they are real, and they are destroying us from the inside out while other countries chip away at us from the outside in.

If we acknowledge and understand our problems, there's always the risk that we'll succumb to debilitating and paralyzing despair and not only sink into the morass of mediocrity or worse but be miserable the whole way down. But if we don't acknowledge and understand our problems and just "fiddle while Rome burns" (pardon my mixed metaphors), expecting everything to right itself as part of some natural and inexorable cycle, we have no chance whatsoever.

The choice is ours. Fiddle or fight.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Bet

"So here’s the math: 98 climate scientists out of 100 will tell you that man’s continued carbon emissions pose the risk of disruptive climate change this century. Two out of 100 will tell you it doesn’t. And “conservatives” today tell you to bet on the two."