Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m waiting for something, as if some important event is about to happen and I need to be prepared for it, but not knowing what that event might be makes it difficult to gather the necessary accoutrements.
I wonder if this sensation is a reflection of age or whether it’s an unease that derives from our collective angst. Is the divide we face merely political or do we have greater differences than seem apparent on the surface? I don’t feel much different than I did 10 or 20 or even 30 years ago.
It seems like I’m the same person. Just older. Perhaps a bit wiser. And yet, I detect more tension in the air, more dissension, more circling of the wagons by the various tribes that populate our world, as if we’re all under attack by some foreign mob – a figurative one.
I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected, a lot of democrats were concerned he’d start a nuclear war, and yet his policies helped take down the Soviet Union. And when Bill Clinton was elected, a lot of republicans thought he’d torpedo the economy, and yet his policies helped usher in tremendous prosperity.
I’m not necessarily praising these presidents; they did some bad things. Both of them. I’m just saying the things we feared did not come to pass, the doubts we harbored turned out to be unfounded, at least to the extent we prognosticated.
Fast forward to the era of Obama and Trump, and the unsettled emotions have only intensified. The “Muslim” president did not in fact install Sharia law and, so far, the orange blimp has not destroyed democracy, though he still has time to corrode the institution.
We have learned that the brains of conservatives and liberals are slightly different. Parts of each are more or less highly developed, triggering responses that are almost Pavlovian, which we seem unable to transcend.
Will those differences accelerate over the years? Will we essentially become two different species? That sounds insane to my ears and yet who knows what kind of changes might ensue from small differences if they’re allowed free rein? Perhaps in a few millennia, we might split into different subspecies.
But I digress. What concerns me is the fear that we’re working at cross purposes without being aware of the long-term consequences. We get wrapped up in short-term arguments over issues that will be meaningless in twenty years. Meanwhile, the plans we ought to be making for our progeny remain undrafted.
It feels like I ought to be doing something to solve at least a few of the intractable problems that face our world. And yet, what can I do? I’m just one person, one voice. For the moment, I speak about it; I write about it. But I’m not a fool. I know that counts for very little.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. Changing the world ought to be difficult. Otherwise it would change often – for the worse as frequently as for the better. Maybe any change should require a broad consensus of actors who care enough to make the necessary sacrifices.
But I still feel frustrated. I still feel like something is coming, something big. And I’m not prepared for it.
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