by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, May 25, 2019
I have little hope for the future. I’m not alone, my most popular essay with over 60,000 hits is “50 Reasons Why the Human Race is Too Stupid to Survive.” So I keep asking myself: “What would give us hope for the future?”
If certain changes were made in our laws I might change my mind about the future and be hopeful. However, I seriously doubt they will be made because the current state of corruption is too ingrained. Until we can solve these five problems I don’t think there can be any hope for the future.
Our current system has wired our society for self-destruction. If we don’t do something to alter course our civilization will collapse in the next 50-75 years. Just count the countries that have collapsed around the world in recent years. There are several bald spots on civilization right now. Civilization is thinning around the globe. We need to repair those bald spots and make civilization sustainable economically and ecologically.
I no longer feel electing a new leader every four years is a solution. We need to tweak our political system so that it’s more democratic. We need to redesign capitalism so it’s equitable and ecological. Our current political polarization leaves a majority of the population depressed because we effectively have minority rule. Even we got rid of the Electoral College it will only help a little. We’d also need to get rid of all the corruption in the voting process such as gerrymandering and unfair laws to control who votes.
Even if we overhauled the voting system so that it’s 100% fair and open, we’d still have lethal problems. The most important of which is corruption. People with money control too much. We live in a plutocracy. The solution here is to remove all campaign contributions. The government should pay for all campaigning so every candidate has equal resources and no reason to be beholding to any special interests.
Ending political contributions would not end corruption. We’d also need to overhaul the tax system so businesses couldn’t strive to get a better deal. By allowing tax breaks for certain industries or to lure them to specific locations we create a structure for corruption. The influence of greed needs to be removed from politics.
Some people don’t want a true democracy because they fear it would bring mob rule. I’m not so sure. But we might need to change the definition of majority. Winning with 50% causes polarization. We’ve coalesced around two parties by forming coalitions of special interests. We need to get back to bipartisan compromises. We should change the percentage to win an election to 55%, and maybe eventually larger. We should change the percentage for a law to pass to 66%. And more laws should be based on referendums, rather than politicians.
We need to elect leaders who work for 100% of the people. Every political issue, no matter how divisive needs be base on solid compromises. Right now everyone wants extreme solutions, ban all guns – allow all guns, ban all abortions – allow all abortions, etc. We need to find middle paths that satisfy at least 66% of the country. If two-thirds of the population were satisfied, I feel the country would eventually heal itself.
And we need to stop endlessly arguing. Our polarized politics have made the country into one giant trench warfare where the lines never move. We need to find compromises, and then shut up for a while. We need to make a decision and stick with it for at least a decade before we argue over it again.
Part of our problem is we argue with lies and deception. We need to learn how to validate the information we club each other with. People with power and money know how to deceive. If we had a true democracy, those who want to influence change would have to appeal to everyone, and not just a few corruptible politicians. We need to eliminate lobbyists to politicians shift lobbying to the voters.
Part of the problem is inequality. A powerful minority are born with decisive advantages while too many are born without the opportunity to compete.
Capitalism is the only mechanism we have to create wealth and inspire innovation, but it unfairly creates too many losers. We want a system that rewards effort, but we don’t want a system that allows unjust competition. All of us are born on Lifeboat Earth without our choosing, but some were giving more of the provisions than others at the start. We are a greedy species, so we couldn’t stand a society that divided everything equally. However, for stability, we do need a fairer divvy up of what we have.
I would have hope for the future if everyone had an equal say, had equal opportunity, and the winners of society left the losers with at least a respectable life.
And we have to do all this while preserving the Earth. Seven billion people cause a lot of pollution. Climate change is a byproduct of pollution. Our pollution is destroying the environment for us and all other species. Not only should we seek equality for all humans, but other species deserve a share of equality too.
I think it’s possible to create a fairer sustainable society, but I’m not sure we will. As you consume the news each day, pay attention to these five problems. Are we moving to solve them, or increase them? Keep your own scorecard. How would you bet on the future?
26 thoughts on “What Would Give Us Hope for the Future?”
Well, Jim, you could look at the past. Was 1919 better than today? In any significant way at all? How about 1819? 1719? 1619?
Of course, that’s no guarantee that we’ll continue to advance. But it should give you a little hope, don’t you think?
Bill, I agree, we’re improving on many fronts, but I think we’re losing the war. If we graphed every problem we face there would be thousands of lines on the graph. Many would be climbing if we considered a rising vector a positive result. However, while many lines are showing progress, too many critical issues would show downward vectors.
I think the real problem is overpopulation causes too many complexities we can’t unravel.
You certainly have the ability (desire?) to see the downside of everything. There is at least as much upside for those who wish to see it. Which is the main question: do depressed people want to see any upside in anything—or would seeing others happy depress them more? For some people ideology is identity and having it overturned would be tantamount to painful death.
God bless you James. It is a beautiful day up here in the Blue Ridge. I need to water the spring flowers and walk our dogs. They are very grateful for my attention.
Interesting observation, Keith. I don’t feel depressed. I feel quite content, and I have a lot of security. If I didn’t read/watch the news I’d never worry about these problems. If I focused only on myself I could ignore all the problems in the world. But when I read about the world around me it all seems fubar. I keep wondering why we don’t fix things. They’re fixable. But we choose not to. Why? At what point do we start? When it becomes like Venezuela here? Sure, Americans have a lot to be happy over, but what happens when the underlying system breaks down? Building a wall won’t help. I guess I feel like the guy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and no one will believe me when I tell them something ominous is happening.
People often confuse reality for depression.
It’s great to be positive, but not at your own peril, as rose colored glasses can cause apathy and inaction and as one famous person said….The only thing necessary for evil to win, is when good men do nothing.
Good point Mary.
“We need to redesign capitalism so it’s equitable and ecological”
You can’t. Equitable capitalism is an oxymoron – the creation of hierarchy and concentration of money/power are the raison d’être of capitalism. As a system, it is anti-democratic on all levels, in terms of both economics and politics. Further, constant growth and externalized costs are almost as central to capitalism as concentrated power.
I’m not saying reforms can’t be made but under capitalism, but that will always be a losing rearguard battle for the majority of us.
“Capitalism is the only mechanism we have to create wealth and inspire innovation”
No it isn’t. Neither enterprise, cooperation, nor ingenuity are exclusive to capitalism. And material greed is far from being the only human motivation. I’m not sure it even tops the list.
Compromise and incrementalism are not appropriate solutions for radical problems. Often that approach actually makes the situation worse, and reform less possible (insert metaphor about Band-Aids on gaping wounds, etc). Look at the sorry (and expensive) state of healthcare provision in the US. We’ve been pursuing moderation and compromise on that front for three quarters of a century while the rest of the developed world passed us by. In fact a number of second and third world countries do better.
PJ, there’s never been a viable alternative offered for capitalism. Even the countries that claim to be communists or socialists are capitalistic. We can socialize certain aspects of capitalism, like medicine, but even then it has to be accounted for on a balance sheet. I’m all for Medicare-for-All, and other socialistic fixes to hybridize capitalism, but I can’t imagine completely replacing it. How do you see that happening?
“A little revolution now and again is a good thing”. – Captain Ramius
We are long overdue.
“We are long overdue.” – Someone who’s never actually experienced a revolution.
The genius of the U.S. Constitution is that we can change WITHOUT revolution. Yeah, it’s hard work, and none of us want to do that, huh? But I’d be wary of looking for easy shortcuts just because we’re not willing to actually VOTE (or not willing to accept it when other people don’t agree with us about everything).
I’m not that smart, James, I don’t know. But neither do I know that one hasn’t been “offered”. Prior to capitalism you might have said that there was no viable alternative to feudalism and sounded reasonable while being quite incorrect. Are you trying to claim that any arrangement that concentrates resources is “capitalism”? You sound as if you are making an Argument From Incredulity.
I’ve actually run across more than one alternate schema over the years. The most common proposals involve some kind of workplace democracy. Would you consider a widespread Basic Minimum Income setup to still be capitalism? Something like Mack Reynolds used to write novels about? At some point that would cease to be “capitalism mixed with something else” and become just… something else. There are certainly existing prototypes that could serve as the seed, such as the Alaska Permanent Fund and other sovereign wealth funds or the Basic Income experiments in Canada and Finland.
Politically “centrist” positions are not inherently more reasonable or less extreme than others just because they conform more to the status quo, despite what our media indoctrination tells us.
What I was referring to when used the label capitalism is the selling of goods and services for money. It’s a broad generalization of the term capitalism. Wouldn’t a workplace democracy be more like communism where everyone contributed their own skills to be given what they uniquely need? As long as we use money for tracking efforts and rewards I think we’ll have some flavor of capitalism. A true alternative would eliminate money.
Hunting and gathering societies could get by without money, although they might invent crude variations of it. Many people in feudal society didn’t use money. Pioneers often didn’t have to mess with money. But as soon as money is invented it brings about capitalism.
Of course, there is never pure capitalism. As soon as governments and taxes get involved capitalism is modified. People who talk about free-market capitalism like the disciples of Milton Friedman ignore all the ways capitalism is modified. The only way to achieve social equality is to add various kinds of socialism to capitalism, such as basic minimum income you mentioned.
I would argue that the five problems listed are actually a reflection of our nature to start with. All speak to an individual brain’s purpose to survive (Greed and Deception). Corruption and inequality are simply the natural outcomes of individuals competing within a social context. There will always be elites or those who are more ‘successful’ in the play for survival. Pollution is the label we place on the deleterious effects of survival.
Social institutions like government arise from the endless stream of trade offs between individuals and collaborators within societies etc. No system is perfect or the ideal that our self-awareness opines for in our conscious deliberations.
Capitalism is a natural trade off between what’s in it for each participant
Hope is what’s truly unique about being human. In spite of the constant dread of what could otherwise be, we hold for the possibility of a better future.
I agree these problems are inherent within ourselves. But laws and regulations are how we control these impulses. Societies can be shaped in countless ways. What we want is to shape society so it works with our natural inclinations because if it didn’t, the system would fail. We will never get rid of winners and losers, but we can make the system fairer. We can never get rid of pollution but we can manage it. I do believe our problems solvable. The real question is do we have what it takes to solve them. Humans have always adapted, so that’s hopeful. But overpopulation is pushing everything to the extreme.
Just before the internal combustion engine, horses were so numerous in NYC that horseshit was piled up on the side of streets like snowbanks. Switching to cars solved that problem. We are at a point in our evolution where we need to switch to something new again – but on many levels. The rich cheat every which way they can to keep $127 trillion dollars worth of fossils valuable, and that’s understandable. I imagine all the owners of horses and stables didn’t like cars coming into vogue either.
But at some point, before the horseshit gets too deep we have to make a change.
I guess it all comes down to whether one believes that we can actually determine the outcomes of our actions and behaviours, either as individuals or as groups of individuals. I believe we are not in fact agents of free will. Therefore all events unfold as they might. Discouragement and frustration with events arise from the belief that we (others) could have chosen otherwise (cognitive dissonance) For example …why can’t we all just get along?… or it isn’t fair that the few should prosper at the expense of others! I would posit that it is our self-awareness that creates the problem in the first place. Hope is how we cope with the downside of our theory of mind. Otherwise we would succumb to nihilism.
Best to accept our intentions as who we are and find fulfillment in those events that we seemingly have the most influence over. The macroscopic reality generated by the interactions of 7.7 Billion fellow humans good and bad will unfold as they may.
Mindful yes, however to expect otherwise is folly unless we lean on hope. Really it is hope that defines us.
More and more, I doubt free will too. But I think we can participate to a degree in our own fate, and the fate of our society. I believe the potential is there to do more with ourselves and with our society. Whether we can make the effort is another issue.
I fear some terrorists will get their hands on nuclear weapons and vaporize a big chunk of the U.S. or Europe. I also fear climate change will turn us into WATERWORLD.
Of course, Steven Pinker thinks the world is just great. Here’s his TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting_better_or_worse_a_look_at_the_numbers?language=en
Per this article the human government’s are failing. There is a government that is far superior and will bring true peace and happiness.
I’d rather we get our world in order. If we can’t make it on our own I’m not sure we should run home to daddy.
You are right politics will never make things better for our future and that’s because the bible tells us “it does not belong to earthly man who is walking to direct his own step”.Jeremiah 10:23. If man can’t direct his own step how can he successfully govern others. That’s why Jesus told us to pray for his kingdom to come in earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:9,10. That kingdom is the only true hope for our future. The benefits are found at Revelation 21:3,4
The interesting aspect here is seeking the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. If we assume Jesus was a human being, was he saying that we all had the potential to create a perfect society on Earth before we died? I like that idea. It’s an interesting philosophical challenge. However, if we consider that Jesus was a supernatural being, with supernatural powers, it could mean anything, and thus useless because it leads to infinite speculation.
And I don’t trust Revelation, it was written by someone way after Jesus died with a different agenda.
I would agree on the deterministic aspect of what is written in the bible. The issue remains however. We are social animals therefore the political process is a necessary evil as it were. Without this process there would be no way to arbitrate the infinitesimal interactions between humans within local and distant societies. Even if all believed in one code of conduct as the rule of law, which is what believers in scripture hold, then that’s fine. That system only works if all believe the same thing. This is not the case. So were stuck with 7.7 billion humans all with a unique world view. Some may share like beliefs, however, invariably there will be differences. That’s where the political process comes in.
Hope is what we hold, that despite our differences, peace is possible. A reflection of our ultimate purpose of survival. where individuals are able to pursue their own competitive needs including reproduction, without jeopardizing the peace of society as a whole.
The bible is able to solve this dilemma on earth with the promise of a life ever after. The ultimate carrot and stick approach. Obey the law as outlined in scripture on earth and you will be rewarded for all time with peace and want for nothing. The interesting aspect of this approach is that it requires us to deny our nature as animals. Unfortunately this approach assumes that we are agents of free will and are thus able to choose this path in the first place. As it turns out we are more than likely acting and behaving in a manner reflecting the causal nature of our particular expanding universe. So choice is not an option
Further, the downside of our self awareness is cognitive dissonance. In other words trying to solve problems that do not exist like why are we here, what is our purpose and what is the meaning of all this. On the other hand the upside of full theory of mind gives us the ability to interact as social animals in collaborative and cooperative ways in spite of our competitive instincts to survive, sometimes at the expense of our fellow humans.
If this were not the case we would not be here to have this discussion. Such are the trade offs in the process of evolution.
That’s life. We wouldn’t trade the rich experience of our existence good bad and ugly for the life of other sentient life who are unaware of their existence to the degree that we are.
Well, we’ve come full circle and no answers. Might as well enjoy the ride.
Where Can We Find Answers to Life’s Big Questions?
You are right God does allow governmental authorities to have a place to keep some form of law and order. But he plans on fulfilling his purpose for the earth to be a Paradise earth under his rule. Adam and Eve sinned and messed that up for us, but God put a plan in order so his purpose can be fulfilled. He left us his word so we can know our purpose and how he plans to fulfill it. Jesus left us signs to look for as well so we would know when we were getting close to the end if this system. The link I left above shows more and I have found it very helpful.
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/jworg-tract/#?insight%5Bsearch_id%5D=52998a75-0605-4f85-9510-1e4eaa0b97c5&insight%5Bsearch_result_index%5D=3. Sorry the link I was referring to is here.