Stupidity Wins Again

The Conservative party’s decisive win last Thursday in Britain, and the consequent path forward to a massively misguided Brexit, is only the latest in a series of increasingly ominous events circulating through the 24-hour news cycle.

Nationalism wins again. Ignorance wins again. And so the West (and indeed the world at large, cf. India) continues to march backward, steadfastly ignoring science, history and common sense.

Boris Johnson photo: ibtimes.co.uk.
Boris Johnson photo: ibtimes.co.uk.

The similarity of what’s happening in the US and the UK cannot be ignored. In both cases, discord, ignorance and resentment—and sometimes downright hatred—are ascendant. In both cases, the less educated, less affluent rural districts manage to dictate results to their more informed “betters” in urban areas. In the UK, a plurality of voters would prefer not to leave the European Union. In the US, a plurality of voters would like to impeach and remove Donald Trump from office. Neither electoral system will permit the plurality to have its way, and yet the right-wing victors on each side of the Atlantic continue to trumpet the virtues of “democracy.”

This devolution of the “special relationship” contributes nothing to progress in the world at large—see, for example, the latest failure to adequately respond to the global climate change emergency.

At the end of this year and decade, here are three wishes for a smarter, healthier decade to come:

  • That the European Union, arguably the twentieth century’s greatest political achievement, remains intact despite Brexit and other pressures;
  • That the American people, despite a skewed electoral system, manage to elect a Democratic President and Senate; and
  • That a new American administration will act quickly to tackle climate change in a meaningful way.

Happy holidays.

Denial and Destruction

I won’t spend much time on the twisted announcement reversing U. S. climate change policy that Trump made yesterday. There’s plenty of analysis regarding that already. Instead, I’d like to suggest you focus on something other than our buffoonish president for a moment. That something is the Republican Party itself, which MIT gadfly Noam Chomsky recently said is “racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life.”

Hurricane Sandy aftermath, 2012.
Hurricane Sandy aftermath, 2012. Photo: NY Daily News.

The GOP, and conservatives in general, have always been laggards when it comes to keeping pace with change—any sort of change. But today’s Republicans are another breed entirely. Motivated by a toxic combination of greed and hatred, and almost entirely devoid of empathy, the Republicans, as David Brooks puts it in today’s Times, “share [a] core worldview that life is nakedly a selfish struggle for money and dominance.”

Chomsky, in addressing the dangers this worldview and the Republicans pose, cites a 2013 Daedalus article by conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in arriving at his dire prognosis. They wrote that the Republican Party is now “ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Those words date from four years ago and their truth has only intensified in 2017. Moreover, Chomsky is not only considering climate change when he speaks of dangers to human survival but nuclear weapons as well.

Given what we saw yesterday in Washington, and given recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, we would do well to take Chomsky’s warning seriously.