Saturday, August 3, 2019

Fuel and Fire

(August 4 update: This was originally posted early Saturday prior to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. It was not my intention to specifically address or ignore the mass shooting epidemic we are experiencing in this nation. Certainly this epidemic is symptomatic of the Fuel and Fire referenced in this post. May God have mercy on us.)

Recently I wrote about Fear and Anger being the most powerful motivators when it comes to people making a job change (as well as a lot of other big decisions). Writing about Fear and Anger led me to think about what’s going on socially and politically around the world, in particular here in the United States and in Western Europe.

When one looks at history we see that there are always winners and losers. Those who have more and those who have less. Those who are satisfied and those who are not. That’s just life. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being unsatisfied can motivate people to act responsibly and take action. Move somewhere and start a new life. Learn new skills. Work harder. Work smarter. Create. Invent. Find solutions. Be better and achieve at least some small measure of happiness and satisfaction.

But sometimes those who are unhappy choose a different path. When enough people become unhappy, it becomes a revolution, often a violent one. What we are witnessing today has the makings of such a time.

So what’s driving us apart and leading us to conflict and confrontation? I think it revolves around two major factors: Hopelessness and Victimhood. Hopelessness is the fuel, but Victimhood is the fire. People can feel hopeless and still not do much about it. For much of recorded history, those without hope chalked it up to the will of the gods, fate or just bad karma from a past life. Spin the wheel, do better next time. For now, lower your expectations and just try to survive. Swing low sweet chariot.

And there have been times when the “victims” had hope. The great migration of Europeans to the Americas was mostly victims of some sort: religious persecution, ethnic or social class limitations, poverty, etc. Victims who have hope often accomplish great things even while doing some not so great things. We did victimize a lot of Native Americans who didn't invite us and Africans who didn't come voluntarily. Yet still many of these "victims of the victims" and their progeny have risen up to achieve great things. In recent years, we've witnessed victims from other parts of the world come to America, legally and otherwise, and make better lives for themselves and their children. But, nowadays more and more Americans seem to be losing hope. A trend that is both sad and ominous.

I truly believe that we have come to another crisis point in history. The world has had it's bloody revolutions and deadly civil wars for ages. Most were local, regional or national affairs. Significant, but not global, until the 20th century when we were finally capable of waging World Wars. Now we find ourselves in the 21st century with even more destructive and rapidly deployable weapons of war. For decades we have told ourselves that these weapons of mass destruction have become, in effect, the greatest deterrent to war. No one wants to start a war that ends the world as we know it. Or do they?

Over the past twenty or so years, we have weaponized information and ideas, some might even say misinformation and dangerous ideas. Furthermore, we have various opposition groups each of whom feel they have been victimized. We see it most clearly and most often in this country between the progressives on the left and the hardcore conservative populists on the right. But, it’s going on all over Europe between progressives and conservatives, globalists and nationalists. Never before have extreme ideas been so broadly connected and disseminated. Around the world we are arguing over climate change, immigration, national sovereignty, religion, sexuality, equality, pollution, trade, energy policy and just about anything anyone can conjure up for a headline that triggers anger and anxiety for some group somewhere.

Bring people together who share a common victim narrative and whose only hope is radical change to “the system” that has failed them; and you have “a movement”. You have Russia in 1917. You have Italy and Germany in the 30’s and China in ’49. You have the Civil Rights movement in this country in the 60’s. Women’s rights and gay rights beginning in the 70’s. You have the collapse of the Soviet Union that began in the late 80’s and was complete in only a few short years.

And now, in many parts of the world, we have right-wing nationalists moving to take back their countries and their culture, hit the reset button and make things the way they used to be, or at least the way they want them to be. On the other side we have left-wing globalists who have a different vision. A connected, diverse, integrated global utopia that cannot co-exist with nationalism, capitalism and fossil fuels. At this point, I see no signs of compromise or surrender. Perhaps a middle ground will rise up and we’ll figure out a way to move forward. But I predict a lot of pain along the way for there is more than enough fuel and fire on both sides.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan

-The Beatles

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