A man raps on the farmer's door and says your barn is burning! The farmer turns his back on the breathless visitor and says. "I be right with you. I have to brush my teeth." Is each of us today doing the same thing? Do our little problems appear larger than our big ones?
Are our institutions and leaders telling us, "Don't worry about driving off the cliff ahead. Experts tell us 'Gravity might be suspended.' We will do everything in our power to make your landing as soft as possible!?"
Have most of the six billion people accepted this explanation of the long term future and stopped worrying about it?
Do even the few of us who have a view of a bleak future undervalue it? Is each of us unmotivated to take the behaviors that would change course from our expected destination? Instead, does each of us take impotent behaviors to improve the world? Does each of us tell ourselves, we are acting responsibly when we know we are not? Do each of us encourage the same irresponsibility in our children?
Why do we, who have pessimistic answers, have faith that humankind will learn from experience? Why do we believe that our children will set straight what we did wrong? Why do we fail to see Isaac Asimov was right when he described each of us as being like the guy who jumped off the top of a 100 story building, and as he falls past the 10th floor someone yells out a window to him, " How are you doing?" And he answers back, "Just fine, I have fallen 90 stories and nothing bad has happened yet."
Maybe the earth has always been forgiving. Maybe the strong have both survived and prospered. But why do we fail to see that the future is not be like the past? The generation born in the great depression experienced the largest rise in well being ever in human history. For example the cost of a college education fell continuously relative to what a father earned.
However, sometime after 1968 that trend reversed. The cost of that same education in terms of hours worked by that same parent at the same job, began increasing. My father paid 2 percent of his annual income for my college tuition. I will spend 30 percent of my income for my son's.
Educational access, moving out of reach, is just one example of a more general slide downward in well being. The costs of housing and transportation are also rising. As are the costs of protecting against terrorism.
Each of us should see these slides as a barn burning problem. Each of us should see these slides as a trend to a destination we don't want.
What has caused the irrationally that ignores these slides in favor of some smaller more immediate problem?
What has us believing that people will not get frustrated when each new day is expected to be worse than the one before? That people will not get angry when every year they have to relinquish benefits to someone else that can pay more for them? That, when peaceful institutions can not reverse these trends the most frustrated individuals will turn to terrorism? What makes us believe that; these new terrorists will not produce another cycle of protection expenses, slides in well being, frustrations, angers, and terrorism?
Our barns are burning and we want to brush our teeth. What kind of drugs
are we on?
*Soma, the drug that makes everything all right in Auldus Huxley's, Brave New World. (If you want a little poke in the eye read the review of Diametric Dystopias)