This blog was begun in April of 2012, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
Titanic Eisberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today is Jan 16, 2017, so the introduction below is way behind the times but perhaps useful as an overview of what I thought I would be doing. It was still fairly valid until the rise of Donald Trump to become the captain of our ship of state over the past 17 months. His inauguration is four days hence.
My initial reaction to his candidacy was to write: “Donald Trump is a clown. ‘Nuff said.” Rather clever I thought, until I came to realize he was the ringmaster making people like me look like clowns, or puppets in his latest reality TV show. Now the man has my full attention, just what he likes.
Welcome aboard. Oh, by the way, we may be sinking. It certainly seemed that way in the fall of 2008, when the mortgage crisis pushed a number of banks towards collapse, and some did. Now it is the spring of 2013 and we are still afloat and seem to be taking in less water than we are pumping out. Not ship shape, but afloat, and the economy seems to be slowly picking up steam, though that is only really encouraging to those who have jobs. Most people I know still live at the level of 2008, but a few who fell in the water back then are still looking to get back on board. Having a job or not is one of several chasms that separate Americans here and now.
Few look upon our future with equanimity, not when our central government is borrowing $.40 of every dollar spent. At least that’s what I commonly here. Our national debt is like an ever growing iceberg that appears dead ahead. Those who want to cut spending are at logger heads with those who oppose the cuts to the least fortunate among us, while a number of the most respected economists believe by cutting spending right now we will slow down our recovery. Perhaps throw it in reverse. (*1)
Also, Europe’s financial problems lurk in the background. They too might sink us. Greece, the birth place of Western Civilization, now may prompt its collapse. The irony is juicy but the potential is frightening. Other European nations, like Italy and Spain, look pretty shaky, too, while the banking problems of little Cyprus may yet send some surprising shocks through the global economy as well.
What makes matters much worse is that our public discourse has become so polarized that we have trouble having civil discussions about possible courses of action. We have the right and left pulling so hard in opposite directions that we can’t change course. Politics has always been a touchy subject, but now it seems taboo unless you speak only with like minded folks.
As these poles have grown farther apart, we have lost figures of authority who were widely seen as arbiters between truth and falsehood. CBS anchor Walter Cronkite comes to mind, named “the most trusted man in America” in a 1972 poll.” Now is there anyone in America that most of us trust? (*2) Whatever you say, someone else pegs you as having an agenda. Even science has lost much of its stature as arbiter of truth when it comes to anything socially related, with some treating its conclusions as only more opinions among many.
Do you need a Tums yet, or maybe a stiff drink?
Adding to our problematic situation is the explosion of misinformation via the internet and social media. With a click we can forward all sorts of falsehoods far and wide, multiplied wider and wider with each subsequent click. That combined with politicians whose foremost concern is getting reelected rather than tackling our nation’s problems. In the process they pollute the waters of public discourse by spinning the truth fast enough to make us sick. These days, it is not enough to take every bit of information with a grain of salt. We need so much salt that most information is unpalatable.
Much of what I have just stated seems common knowledge, but when you get down to specifics, hardly anything is. That is what particularly disturbs me. Not only do we as a nation face huge problems, we don’t share a sense of what their causes and solutions are. And, for the most part, our public media seems more interested in analyzing the presidential prospects for 2016, than in shedding light on the complex issues that face us now.
I understand. It is more fun to discuss who might become the next captain of our sinking ship of state than to dwell on the thorny issues of an intractable political economy that is sinking it.
Is there anything we average citizens can do to help the situation? Where to start? For me it is to try to sort out as much fact from falsehood as possible regarding important issues. And to look for points of agreement among those not so polarized and rigidified as to proudly choose sinking farther as a matter of principle as opposed to patching the holes as best we can together.
When I began about a year ago, the task was intimidating, like trying to solve a Rubic’s Cube injected with steroids. I became fortified by the realization that the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic was about to take place in April – this after I had already selected the title. I interpreted the coincidence as encouragement from the universe to continue.
If you decide to string along for the ride, I usually post about once a week. (*3)
(*1) It has been speculated that the Titanic might have avoided the iceberg had the ship not been put in reverse after the siting, which reduced its turning radius.
(*2) Steven Rosenbaum has argued that Jon Stewart is today’s closest version of Cronkite. That rings true to me. Since information is so distrusted these days, brilliant parody conveys more believable truths.
(*3) Today is Good Friday, 2013. Most of the page above was written about a year ago, around the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The fact that I did not have to delete and rewrite much to make it current suggests how little has changed over the past year. Our economy does seem to be slowly on the upswing, though still wobbly, and unemployment remains high. Also, we remain on course for some kind of collision with the ever growing national debt of our own making. Praying for divine intervention is something to consider.