Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Else Did I Learn?

I was going to go class by class here and I may get back to that.  Tomorrow.  Today, though, I'm going to talk about why, as is pointed out on The Yellow Fringe today, http://yellowfringe.blogspot.com/2011/05/poor-bangladesh-astonishing-number-of.html America is lagging behind China and Denmark and even, apparently, Bangladesh at moving to "green" energy. 

In Politeia (we read all or part in three different classes), poorly translated as The Republic, Plato tries to describe the "perfect city" and how it would be governed.  He uses the character Socrates, his then deceased teacher, to critique Athenian democracy and to muse about some other possibilities.

Democracy, according to Plato/Socrates, is hampered by one fatal flaw: the People are not fit rulers.  They are, by and large, not that smart.  They are easily led astray.  They can be pandered to.  They think only of their own, narrow interests, individually, or they become factions and vote based again on self-interest.  Never do they think about the greater good.

Fast forward to America, today.  Why can't we switch to a green energy platform?  See above.  We are, somewhat, at least, a nation of not very well-educated, selfish morons, easily led astray by pandering politicians.  We believe what we want to believe, someone's always there to tell us we're "right."

"Don't listen to those lefty liberal commie tree-huggers promoted by the lamestream media.  Do whatever you want!  Consume!  Pollute!  Live for today!"

Because really, why should I sacrifice one iota for the next generation?  What have they ever done for me?

Democracy: can't live with it, can't live without it.   


  1. "Live for today" is exactly how people think. Eh, who cares what life will be like for our great-great grandchildren? That's their problem.

    People are not bright enough to rule themselves, that has been proven time and time again. We humans are self destructive and carry a sense of entitlement above any other creature on the Earth and dare I say the universe. We are too emotional, and cannot allow common sense to prevail over emotion 9 times out of 10. We have our good qualities too, but, in the end they are out weighed by our panicky nature.

  2. NAC all you have pointed out I agree with, and Red Mosquito sums it up nicely if not gloomily. But I would like to take a contrarian view here and point out that we humans have an excellent record of righting the ship, overcoming great difficulties.
    The problem is all the problems you both pointed out. Sometimes the "fix" doesn't get started until the truth becomes evident, until you can taste the fear and dread. We look around and see a few examples of people making decisions to "get ahead of the problem". But we have the fable about the squirrel and the grasshopper, one planned for winters dearth of food and comfort, the other did not, imagined it was folly to do so. When it comes to the climate debate corporate and consumerism America are grasshoppers, they point out one prediction pins 15 years as a tipping point (no return from the damage) and another pins 30, so science is unsettled, needs more study, can't be trusted, a hoax. If those same guys hear from the doctor they have cancer and one doctor says without action you will die within a year and the next doctor says 14 months, do you imagine he will saunter from the office snorting about unsettled science and do nothing?
    Just as in World War II, nations when threatened with destruction, or seeing their neighbors being destroyed, overnight they changed. Within 3 days of the declaration of war Roosevelt halted the automobile companies car production, a few months later they were rolling out thousands of trucks and tanks. In a few months factories that had not existed before were making dozens of airplanes every day, and there were dozens of these new plants. Things like this happened world wide, even those we considered enemy found ways to put more troops and more airplanes on the line as they were being beaten.
    My point is when we accept that there is a problem that can concur and enslave or change us forever, the stupidity and denial and government and corporate blockade will cease, be replaced by determination and we will fix this. The question is what are we doing about getting to that point, and will we get to it before the tipping point, which is not far off no matter which model may be correct, or do we wait until the world is in chaos before we take action, action at that point will be more painful and yield a far mor disappointing result.

  3. Unfortunately, we don't live in a democracy; we live in a republic. And our representatives are not representing us, but rather those monied interests that contribute to their campaigns.

  4. We should also recognize, Bryan, that as unfit as we are to govern ourselves, there is no one who is more fit to do so. Or even as fit.

    Democracy sucks, but it's better than the alternatives. Don't you think?

  5. Thanks YF. I believe we agree on the true nature of the problem, vis a vis Global Climate Change.

    When an individual is informed of pending problems he takes action. He may seek a second opinion but he will do what is in his best interest.

    Unfortunately, when informed of a collective action problem, the individual still pursues his own best interest. Not the best interest of the collective.

    This is known to political scientists as a collective action problem. As we learned in Poli Sci 104, All Politics Is Collective Action (axiom number 2, of 5).

    So the trick is to get the individual to act in the best interest of the collective. Typically this is only accomplished when the individual sees his own interest bound up with the collective interest, as in a war, as you point out.

    And therein lies the problem for the climate. It is too hard for the average Joe to see his interest being served by making sacrifices. He sees it as him sacrificing for someone else's gain. And, for another few years, that might be true.

    Sadly, once it becomes evident to Joe average that his individual interest is joined to the collective interest it may be too late to solve the problem. Hell, it may be too late already. ; )

  6. That's an excellent point, Whit. Though, to be fair, a "true democracy" would be unwieldy in a nation of 300 million people. Or even 300 thousand. In fact, above 500 (some even say 50) pure democracy just won't work.

    So we need to do it with representatives. We now must figure a way to get them to represent us and not their big money "campaign contributors." If we can't get the money OUT we need to find a way to make it irrelevant.

    Any ideas?

  7. "Maybe martians could do better, better than we've done..we'll make great pets"- Perry Farrell

    Well, maybe not...

  8. In my History of Islam class, Bryan, we learned that they went through a period of rule by foreign kings, believing that only such a leader could rule disinterestedly.

    Plato/Socrates made the case that only a King would be strong enough to rule the people; only a philosopher would be wise enough. So the people should be ruled by a Philosopher-King or, failing that, the Philosopher should have the ear of the King.

    Maybe we could try that?

  9. The Tea Party will never support such a candidate

  10. I don't think we would be having elections anymore, at that point. Maybe the Tea Party would just have to suck on it. ; )