We live in an era of rapid and significant change in our lives. In addition, a very large fraction of the population lives with some degree of financial stress. We seem to be constantly conscious of major national and global issues. Climate change and associated weather extremes are affecting many, if not most of us – storms, flooding and fires. Many of us are concerned about healthcare and health insurance – both availability and affordability. Technology seems to be eliminating more and more jobs and at a ever increasing pace. The threat of terrorism is ever present. And government seems to be totally ineffective at dealing with the problems. So it is understandable that many of us just do not have the time to dig into the details of national issues. For most, our family’s well being is of higher priority. One could leave it there but I think that there is more to it.
We, collectively and in general, seem to be at a point where we want to be spoon fed our news and information. We all have our favorite ‘go to’ sources that we listen to and seem to trust. Few, will ask ‘why’ or ‘how’ and are content to blindly accept what we are told. If an event or trend does not have an immediate impact on me or my family, we are content to listen and move on. Never mind a trend that might have dire consequences sometime in the, foreseeable, future. We seem to say that we, or someone, can and will address the issue when the time comes. We live for today, and maybe, tomorrow, but not a year or more from now. We don’t save adequately for retirement. We assume that Social Security and Medicare will be around and with the same benefits as today. We build homes on the coast or in a flood zone assuming that if disaster strikes there will be insurance and relief services. We don’t think about continuing education; we just assume that a job will be there and, if not, unemployment benefits. Why don’t we take the time to think about the future and how we might be impacted? Why don’t we plan, and prepare, for possible future contingencies? Are We Becoming Intellectually Lazy & Nearsighted?
This trend will likely have consequences for most of us, personally. But even more importantly, it has huge implications for our democracy. I don’t think that our political class, for the most part, can be characterized as intellectually lazy, but I do think that their actions are very nearsighted. It seems that our political class, career politicians, put their personal political survival as the highest priority. Certainly higher than the national interest. They are intellectual folks, but they seem to spend their cerebral energy on political strategy for personal survival. They seem to act based on immediate impact and immediate popular reaction – forget about a long term strategy and the best way to achieve it. Similarly, most of us react to today’s news and action without spending the time to think about context and how it may or may not fit into a longer range scenario.
Two examples. First, our politicians seem to give us tax relief and social benefits in order to gain our votes. Never mind that the cost is debt that is growing at an alarming pace. In the not to distant future the benefits that we enjoy may be unaffordable. Second, our politicians pass tax relief and regulations that benefit corporations in the hope that the near term economy will be bolstered and that we all will be happy, and vote for them. Again, they ignore the long term consequence of unaffordability. If our politics and our democracy cannot handle today’s problem with regard for the future, then when the inevitable crisis hits, it may mean that it will not be able to survive as we know it today.