Posts Tagged ‘Reality Check’

How did Washington lose touch with reality?

December 10, 2014

When I was younger, I thought the great competitive advantage that democracy had over dictatorship was the reality check.

An absolute dictator such as Stalin did not have listen to what he does not want to hear—such as, for example, that his ally Hitler is planning to attack him.

Leaders of a democracy, so I thought, were saved from disconnect with reality by a loyal opposition forcing them to justify their actions, and by the fact of being accountable to the voters every so often for the state of affairs.

How is it, then, that the leaders of the United States have become so committed to a foreign policy that manifestly does not work?

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov, on his ClubOrlov web log, listed all the ways in that American foreign interventions during the past 15 years have led to the opposite result from what was desired.

With his usual sarcastic wit, he said the USA has added Defeat Is Victory to George Orwell’s War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery and Ignorance Is Strength.

The elder George H.W. Bush, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, stated that the United States would use its unchallenged power to create a “new world order”.  But everywhere that the United States has intervened, the result has been death, destruction and arenas of lawless violence in which terrorism can thrive.

Albert Einstein allegedly said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.  Why do policy-makers in Washington keep doing the same thing and expect different results?

One minor reason is the “I’ll be gone, you’ll be gone” mentality.  Too many people in government fail to look beyond their own personal careers and the next term of office.

Another is the drift away from the idea that American patriotism is loyalty to the Constitution rather than loyalty to the government.

Yet another is the unquestioned assumption that cruelty and ruthlessness are inherently more realistic than obedience to law and to codes of honor.

The most important reason, I think, is that the United States of America is too rich and powerful for our own good.

Wealth and power shield you from the consequences of your actions—up to a point.  If you’re rich enough or powerful enough, you can do stupid and morally wrong things and get away with them—up to a point.

Power not only corrupts.  It makes you stupid.  But no person and no nation, no matter how rich and powerful, can escape the consequences of stupidity forever.


Reason and human nature

June 30, 2013

All human beings are rational beings.

All human beings are emotional and intuitive beings.

All human beings are moral beings.

robert-weber-the-dawn-of-reason-new-yorker-cartoonWhen someone says he is above reason, I believe that the person is either unaware of his thinking processes or has a hidden agenda.   A person completely without the ability to think rationally would be unable to function in the world.

When someone says he is unemotional, I believe that the person is either unaware of his feelings and desires or has a hidden agenda.  A person completely without feelings or desires would have nothing with which to reason about.

When someone says he is morally neutral, I believe that the person either is unaware of the moral nature or his beliefs, or has a hidden agenda.  A person completely without morals would be a dangerous psychopath.

Experience is subjective.  Facts are real.

Everyone experiences life in a unique way which never can be fully communicated to others, although great artists come close.  In that sense, and that sense alone, we each live in our own separate reality.

At the same time, there is the reality of facts, whose existence is not dependent on our beliefs and which are the same for everyone.  Our knowledge of facts will always be partial, tentative and subject to correction, but it behooves us to understand them as best we can, because they will catch up with us if we don’t.

As someone once said, it is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

I wrote this post as a generic response to my acquaintances who tell me that my thinking is superficial because of my belief in reason.   Of course I do not believe that there is a rational philosophical or scientific system that, once  you understand it, explains everything.  What I do believe in is the reality check.   If my ideas don’t make sense, or if my ideas are contrary to the facts,  I should stop believing in them.

Does this make sense to you?  What have I got wrong?  What have I left out?