Are We Up To It?

Originally posted on October 15, 2020

My research has on occasion taken me to sites that I wouldn’t ordinarily visit – sites that contain information that is mindbogglingly wrong, even stupidly wrong. And I read speeches by mostly politicians who are presumably intelligent adults and find them insultingly dimwitted. So I’ve started asking myself: “Do we Americans as a group have the discipline, knowledge and intelligence needed to maintain a civil liberal democracy?”

I’ve started asking that question of friends and acquaintances, who generally happen to be adults at least 50 years old. A typical answer is that it certainly is a good question, and almost nobody is certain that we do. A surprising number indicated that 20 years ago they certainly would have answered affirmatively, but now…

This uncertainty is present regardless of political leanings. A fair number of the answers came from new Americans who emigrated from regions that have seen the results of failed governments and even war.

We can expand the question from just Americans to human beings in general, asking about our ongoing survival in anything besides a Darwinian world. I get the same sort of answers, given the environmental degradation we’ve all witnessed over our lifetimes. Many of us remember the conditions in any number of industrial settings that was largely fixed by the EPA (passed by Nixon – can you imagine a Republican doing something so “socialist” now?) and moving our industry overseas. In spite of any local improvements the worldwide situation has deteriorated. Climate change, biodiversity, plastics, population, rising consumption – all these trends are in the process of making our world less hospitable.

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