27 Feb 2018

United we stand, divided we fall.

Just over a year ago, I reviewed Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacob's 2004 book on the danger to "good institutions" and the trouble that will result if humans turn tribal. Her worries were well-founded, as the age does indeed seem to be getting darker.

I wrote the following in an email to a friend living in Hawaii, and I copy it here because I've been wanting to write on this topic for a few weeks.
I agree that humans are sometimes hard to understand (if the goal is continued existence), and I'm shaking my head at the continued decay of American culture (the Dream of achievement through hard work). I study "institutions" a lot, and they can be productive or counterproductive. Sadly it seems that the US has passed a tipping point on a path that began long ago (FDR's expansion of federal power, which increased the value of owning DC) and has gotten worse with the empowerment of greed (Reagan's tax cuts and Boomer's "I got mine, fuck you" attitudes [pdf]) and Gingrich's decision to fight political battles on a zero-sum basis. For some people, the current situation might be great, but the gun in their hands is probably pointed at their head. (Others seem determined to dose themselves into oblivion, with help from corrupt politicians) Trump is just another brick in the wall (see that PDF above) to which Bush 2 contributed several layers with his Christian-neocon fantasies of "freeing" the Middle East from Muslims and dictators. Overall, I can see a return to crude geo-poltics and the sacrifice of human rights in the pursuit of a nationalistic war of all on all, and the abandonment of the open borders that have brought so many people so much better lives. It's indeed sad.

So, I live here as a migrant returned to "the old world" my father left (he was born in India but moved after Indian independence to an English "homeland" he'd never seen), and I hope that the Dutch, with their 1,000 years of fighting seas, Spanish, French, English and Germans, will be able to stick together for as long as I can stay.

There are, of course, many happy exceptions to this sad trend, but I think that it will dominate the next 10-20 years, as China gets stronger (and more dictatorial), America wars with itself, and Russia tries to stay relevant by kneecapping its neighbors. These trends mean that action to prevent climate change will not occur and the harm from CC will be that much worse. It's a terrible shame to see such a beautiful planet with some many wonderful people getting crushed by stupid egotistical greed.
Bottom line: Trump, Putin and other "us vs them" leaders are likely to make billions miserable so they can feel good. We need to stop them to help ourselves.

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