We're a little crazy, about science!

The cost of freedom

Land of the free, right? Call me cynical, call me jaded, but it doesn’t feel like that these days. People often wonder why, historically speaking, no one did anything when atrocities are happening. I’m left reminded that evil people, objectively bad people who should never have a modicum of power, come into power because it’s easier to let it happen than than it is to do something about it. Put simply, it’s hard to take collective action when you are comfortable and by the time you’re discomforted enough to actually do something, oftentimes it’s far too late.

Hindsight is 20/20, right? You can look back into the history books, see how things went, and how they came out and it’s easy to lose the context. The problem is we know the outcome. We know what the bad choices were and what the good choices were because they were made long, long ago. So we form opinions about the people of the time, wondering why they let it happen. Why roll over for a genocide? But it’s not that simple.

It’s a slide, a continuum not a light switch. We don’t go from peaceable to genocide overnight, there’s a very steady march towards that end. Excuse the analogy, but if you put a frog in a boiling pot of water it will hop out, if you raise the temperature slowly, well you can guess the rest. While I’m not 100% sure that analogy is true and I don’t feel like googling to find out the answer, I think the analogy holds true for humans, it’s easier to accept a slow stripping of freedom than it is to have it happen all at once. Some may even welcome it, and that’s the danger.

I’m not saying we’re headed toward something terrible. But if we look at history, we’re well on our way if the pattern holds true. Sure in a few decades or so people will be able to look back at the outcome and judge us. Maybe I’m being alarmist, maybe we will get off the same path that we’ve seen that ends up with totalitarianism and culminating in genocide. Then again, maybe we won’t, that’s the problem with living through history, we don’t know what comes next, but it’s our choice. Ours as a whole, because if history has been any indicator it will take collective action to get off the path.

It’s ironic we’re celebrating independence day while the supreme court is overturning basic human rights, then again people are actively celebrating this fact and the fact that we’re on this path. The truth is this isn’t a self correcting issue, this takes work and the problem is that as we slide further and further toward this end, it will be harder to fix.

Again, maybe I’m being alarmist, I cannot predict the future any better than anyone else. However, those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it and as we’ve seen with the pandemic the past is a powerful predictor of future behavior. I don’t look forward to see what the next few years has in store for the US as we head down this path. I just hope we’re ready for it and the consequences of remaining comfortable while we wait for the seemingly inevitable outcome.

Just something to think about as we celebrate independence.


2 responses

  1. I wish I had more encouraging things to say. I’m worried too, for some of the same reasons and some contradictory ones. Which is distressing in itself; I wish there were obvious binary lines drawn between the good and bad players, and that my friends and I were all on the same page about who was who. But that’s not how it is. The problem in my sphere of influence feels less about comfort (though I’m sure there’s an element of that too) and more about unity. How can collective action happen when the people of goodwill can’t agree on things well enough to be a collective? How can I fight when I don’t have a side to fight on? (I take sides on issues, but my patchwork of opinions often leaves me hamstrung when it comes to picking candidates. I read down the ballot and everybody looks too evil to vote for.)

    The other problem is the seeming futility of the whole business. I’ve mentioned that I couldn’t even convince my parents to get vaccinated after putting all my social capital into that one issue. Do I have any reason to hope I can convince them that Trump really lost the 2020 election? Or that climate change is a real problem? Probably not. People’s opinions do evolve, but I’m not sure how, or whether I really have access to the levers that help move them.

    I’m not trying to tell anyone to give up on our country. Just noting complications in the situation, and lamenting the fact that I don’t really know what to do.

    My college friends and I have enjoyed a board game called Secret Hitler. It’s a hidden information game like Mafia, except the theme is that you have to stop Hitler from getting elected without knowing who he is up front. Everybody at the table pretends to be a Liberal; the actual Liberals end up forming their own opinions about who the Fascists are and arguing. It’s not exactly “fun.” A good round is emotionally caustic.

    We are all playing it in real life now, and I hate it.

    Liked by 1 person

    July 4, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    • I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I mean we’re all tired and I think that’s not an accident, maybe I’m leaning into tinfoil hat territory, but I’m pretty sure that was the intent. Divide and conquer is the oldest military strategy around. It makes organizing hard and finding common ground even harder. Or as I usually say, the system is working as designed.

      I have to say Secret Hitler does sound somewhat cathartic. I agree playing the real life version isn’t something I’m too thrilled about either.

      Liked by 1 person

      July 5, 2022 at 11:22 am

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