KRWG

The Way Forward After Election 2020? Think Critically And Communicate

Nov 8, 2020

Commentary: My last pre-election column ended by predicting that we would “stumble out of the woods in the right direction.” Mr. Biden has won the popular vote by well over 4 million votes. Apparently he’ll garner between 275 and 306 electoral votes. Donald Trump’s threats and whining are a fleeting national embarrassment.

I hoped we’d “begin to deal like grownups with a host of serious problem,” adding, “If nothing else, losing Mr. Trump will make everything so much quieter!” Already I doubt the former, and my faith in the latter is wobbling.

We’re well rid of Trump, but we still have Mitch McConnell. Political discourse remains exceptionally rancorous; and we’re awash in a sea of irrational disinformation. A Republican Senate will prevent much progress, and might bar judicial appointments for four years.

But let’s zoom out from partisan politics. I wish we could each spend a day alone in Chaco Canyon, strolling through silent, sunlit remains of a complex society. Our far more complex society is so specialized that we can’t understand our son’s or neighbor’s work.

For centuries, folks have longed for the simpler, slower, steadier past. In the U.S., many envision the simpler nation of farmers and artisans we were in 1776. We produced much of what we needed and our shoes were made by a man we knew and trusted and who depended on us for eggs or wagon wheels, and a web of family, community, and church, supported us. But to stay independent, and improve our lives, we developed an increasingly complex society.

Complexity solves problems, but creates others. If our meat doesn’t come from my brother-in-law’s farm, butchered by our neighbor, but from distant farms through Chicago capitalists to me, someone (government) must ensure all those folks treat that meat carefully. If industries add methane or mercury to our air or water, someone must regulate that.

But a specialized society dependent complex systems is vulnerable, as this pandemic has reminded us. What would we do if we lost power or the Internet for a substantial period, or if a volcanic eruption or dust from a meteor’s impact blocked the sun’s rays for months?

History is littered with complex societies that failed. Modern global interconnectedness means any economic failure is global.

If COVID-19 were slightly deadlier and had a slightly higher R-naught, we’d be suffering even more seriously. When rising seas flood our cities (and millions are fleeing Bangladesh and other low-lying lands), and New Mexico’s land is no long arable, where do we go? People left Chaco Canyon and started again elsewhere. Now, there are others living anywhere we might go.

I agree with the young socialists and the older Trumpists that our government is highly imperfect. I regret this pandemic, although chance has sparing me (so far) significant suffering. I too long for a simpler and greener time, with less noise.

The smaller, simpler government the U.S. started with wouldn’t fit us any better than the pants we wore at age ten.

The answer is not to hide our heads in the sand. The answer to COVID-19 is not to abandon science. (COVID-21 could be worse.) Nor was the answer turning our government over to a narcissistic con artist.

Many Trump voters are angry about real problems; but they’ve been sold some dubious explanations.

Part of the answer is to think critically, and communicate as if our survival depends on it. It does!