The problem is deciding which warnings you should heed

Thinks for Yourself


 Last week, Troy Smith discussed Peter Turchin’s book, “End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration.” I am not familiar with the book. On the other hand, I read a similar book written by a renowned scientist and intellectual who was also one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century. I am referring to Isaac Asimov’s 1951 novel, “Foundation.”

Some of you may be familiar with the Apple TV series of the same name based on the Asimov book series. The television series differs slightly from the books but has the same general premise. As much as I enjoy his books, Asimov is a dry writer. Sometimes his science fiction feels like a textbook or scientific journal.

In the story, a mathematician named Hari Seldon develops a means of predicting the future of large societies he calls “psychohistory.” The rest of this series and other Asimov works introduce many ideas that have since been explored by scientists, psychologists, sociologists, and even historians.

Turchin is not a scientific fortune teller. It sounds like he restates ideas that even predate Asimov’s psychohistory. Some voices warned there would be trouble at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. They weren’t predicting the future. They merely applied a basic understanding of human nature and mob behavior. Understanding the cycle of oppression, revolution, expansion, complacency, and deterioration, followed by a return to oppression, does not take an advanced degree or scientific studies. It is a pattern repeated throughout history.

I am not a scientific giant or a magician, but I can usually predict how a group of people will react or behave when presented with specific information or situations. Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised, but rarely am I shocked by how badly mobs will behave. Humanity is flawed, and people take every opportunity to reaffirm that assumption.

Troy says that no one ever listens to the warnings. Unfortunately, Troy can’t see the forest for the trees. Troy fails to understand that the Bobs warn about the Bills, and the Bills warn about the Bobs. There are so many warnings out there about so many dangers that fear is the only motivation the mob understands. I stress thinking for yourself for this reason. A shepherd cares for and leads his flock, but it is also the shepherd who eventually dines on lamb chops.

Another writer whose books I enjoyed wrote this warning, “When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you. . . you may know that your society is doomed.” Ayn Rand wrote those words in her novel “Atlas Shrugged,” in 1957. Like Asimov, she realized that specific patterns produced certain results. George Orwell delivered his warning “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” in 1949. Aldous Huxley provided his “Brave New World” as a warning, in 1932.

Asimov, Rand, Orwell, and Huxley issued some of the warnings I heed, but one of the loudest voices constantly ringing in my ear is Thomas Paine. In “Common Sense,” Paine wrote, “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness. Society promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, government negatively by restraining our vices. Society encourages intercourse. Government creates distinctions.” Paine understood, like Ronald Reagan, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Two diverse individuals can reach a compromise, discover understanding and empathy, and even become faithful-lifelong friends. The government can only achieve these same results through the individuals’ opposition to oppression or by introducing a shared peril. When political voices issue warnings, I always question why. Those are my thoughts but think for yourself. 


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