Reality-based reality


“The whole political class is just getting the memo that Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore.” — Edward Hill, dean of the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University

That’s from a New York Times article reporting that poverty in US suburbs went up by 53 percent from 2000 to 2010, with a full two-thirds of that increase occurring since 2007.

Awesome … Occupy NOLA rocks:

Fantastic. As Common Dreams said, “Watch it, post it.”

Antisocial personality disorder (also known as sociopathic personality disorder): “Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may include: Disregard for right and wrong, Persistent lying or deceit, Using charm or wit to manipulate others, Recurring difficulties with the law, Repeatedly violating the rights of others, Child abuse or neglect, Intimidation of others, Aggressive or violent behavior, Lack of remorse about harming others, Impulsive behavior, Agitation, Poor or abusive relationships, Irresponsible work behavior.” (Definition by the Mayo Clinic)

Society today is behaving more and more like one giant sociopath, and nowhere is that more true than in the US.

Now, sociopathy isn’t anything new in the long history of homo sapiens. If anything, most of human history can probably be best explained by sociopathic behavior: the endless warring of tribes, city-states, kingdoms and nations; the centuries of subjugation of the poor and weak by the mighty and rich; the almost unrelenting intolerance of “the other,” while that “other” usually had its own scapegoat class, religion or race.

But the Age of Enlightenment, France-born democracy and our own nation’s Founding Fathers aimed to change all that. And, for a good couple of centuries or so, the philosophies they embraced did a pretty good job of doing so. The scientific method replaced wishful, magical thinking. The ideals of a Bill of Rights, “a government of laws, not of men,” and checks and balances were adopted to prevent the cruelties and excesses of past plutocracies and aristocracies. And the concept of civic duty provided a counterweight to civil rights. If you wanted to protect and preserve the people’s rights, you as a citizen were also obligated to participate .. at the very least, by voting, serving jury duty, paying taxes and filling out your Census form every 10 years.

It all seemed so hunky-dory for a while. But even the grandest monuments made by humans are subject to erosion, and years of a little chipping-away here, and little smoothing of the edges there have revealed an edifice that’s a lot different than the one we thought we were living in.

It’s been a slow and often insidious process, but the results are devastating nonetheless … much in the way Albert Brooks’ character described declining standards in James L. Brooks’ brilliantly prescient 1987 film “Broadcast News”:

What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing … he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance … Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.

Considering that some of the women associated with US politics at the moment are Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, that last part might not hold true. Still, you get the idea.

“Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.” That’s become a common saying among climate change activists in recent years, but the observation doesn’t go far enough.

The accurate sentiment should be something more along the lines of, “Reality doesn’t negotiate.”

However far advanced we’ve become technologically, however closely some might believe we’re approaching “the singularity,” the fact remains that the physical world remains ruled by the basic rules of physics. We can’t create energy out of nothing. No one will ever build a perpetual motion machine. The laws of thermodynamics can’t be “glamored.”

For those who would try, though, those rules don’t apply.

Remember the Bush Jr. advisor’s disdain for the “reality-based community” back in the early 2000s? Their GOP successors don’t even acknowledge such a community anymore: today’s Republicans and tea-baggers essentially believe they can legislate away any reality or truth they find inconvenient. “Reality-based” scientists these days can present as many facts, graphs, charts and models as they like, but if the right-wing doesn’t like the implications, it’s shown itself more than ready to vote the truth out of existence, as far as as laws of the land are concerned. The result, in a split Congress, is, as Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts recently put it, a “legislative Schrödinger’s cat” … alive in the House while “simultaneously being dead in the Senate.”

That might work for a while, maybe even into the next election cycle or two. But, sooner or later, reality-based reality will make its presence known. No matter how vehemently the anti-reality crowd might make its case, sooner or later, someone will eventually open Schrödinger’s box to see whether the cat inside is alive or dead.