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History had an arrow. When I was younger, it had an arrow, a direction. It pointed toward inclusion, and social equality, and justice.

Human achievement had an arrow. It pointed toward knowledge, and science, and understanding.

And in the long run, when you back up far enough, I suppose it still does.

But for the life of me it has felt like we lost our way. For the past 30 years, there has been a reactionary force in this country (can we stop calling it "conservative", please?) trying to hold back the floodwaters of change.

"America is a Christian Nation. It is and should always be ruled by white people, white Christian people, rich white Christian people." That's the toxic stew that got us a conservative media establishment, and a conservative religious establishment, and a conservative intellectual and science establishment, all meant to provide a construct to put in place of reality. It reached an apogee, a place where it's distance from reality was greatest, under Bush, when they mocked us who lived in the "reality-based" world.

"What harm does a good fantasy do?" you might ask. Well, it allows a nation to be misled into two wars. And it allows us to pass tax cuts that will "pay for themselves." And it allows us to ignore the realities of climate change.

And the reactionaries held back the floodwaters until the reality of the economy came crashing over the walls and washed away, well, some of the illusion. So the Romney campaign had no choice but to construct its own reality of a country where women would tolerate obscene policies on reproductive freedom, and Latinos would ignore repressive immigration policies, and everyone would ignore economic policies that simply didn't add up.

But this time the demographic floodwaters washed away the absurdity of "unskewing" polling numbers, and left a political establishment scratching its head. If this was France in 1789, the GOP leadership would be headed to the guillotine - that is the scale of this defeat.

But there are real floodwaters. Real ones, that swept away homes and lives and threaten us all. And the arc of human history had better hurry because we're out of time on global warming. And there are metaphical floodwaters that continue to threaten us. Our economy continues to underperform and Serious People are debating deficit cuts that will only make unemployment worse. Our education system is failing. Our infrastructure is literally crumbling. Our electrical grid is antiquated. And our health system, it's not a system, and it's not healthy.

We need to let the floodwaters of history wash away the detritus of failed thinking. We need to cleanse our system of every vestige of reactionary thinking. It's time to re-elevate a data-driven, fact-based polity.

This election was a watershed. America is ready to resume its march toward justice, toward fairness, and toward rational politics. But if we don't engage this question directly, if we don't demand, above all, that this debate be conducted rationally, we will fail. And these arguments will continue to surface and mislead us.

What we need is a second Enlightenment, as far-reaching as the original one. There is real action needed here. People need to be discredited. They need to be made to acknowledge their failed policies and predictions, and to remove themselves from the public stage. Schools of thought need to be abandoned because their data is falsified and their conclusions baseless. We who live in the reality-based world need to fight back now.

There is no time to lose. The grip of the alternate reality must end. Or we will all face floodwaters, real or metaphorical, and we won't be ready.

Originally posted to dsmetis on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 04:19 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Absolutely right (22+ / 0-)

    Today's WashPo has a front-page article of a Red-State woman saying "I know I'll be all right, but I don't think we will be all right."

    The reason she thinks "we" won't be all right is because she has a completely fantastical notion of who "we" are. For thirty years the Scopes-monkey-trial anti-intellectual mouth breathers have shaped unenlightened perception, fueled by the infinite funding of Republican fat-cat overlords, who use the prejudices of the thinking-challenged to prop up political support for an utterly venal, selfish, and corrupt economics—which no one but an oligarch would champion unless they were being duped.

    But the dream of white supremacy dies hard, and the true believers in that dream have been only too happy to be duped by the fat-cats, so that they could preserve the dream.

    Now, if the demographic data is correct, that dream is dead. The Red Staters woke up into their greatest nightmare last Tuesday: they can never run another election to preserve the racist dream.

    Where will the duped turn now? How will the oligarchs try to steal support from the unenlightened next?

    •  Look for the new and improved bogey man to (0+ / 0-)

      be ready to pull you under your vehicle by your ankles.  It's the kind of anxiety the wingers live for.  The rest of us our stupid for owning vehicles.

      Romney went to France instead of serving in our military, got rich chop-shopping US businesses and eliminating US jobs, off-shored his money in the Cayman Islands, and now tells us to "Believe in America."

      by judyms9 on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 03:34:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you look at history however, there are (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StrayCat, bigjacbigjacbigjac, judyms9

    civilizations that came crashing down. There are civilizations that SHOULD have come crashing down and instead just went away with a whimper. Our time is short if we don't get a handle on global warming. There will be survivors but nothing like the numbers we have on earth today. There will be wars over viable land, food, water - just basics and to hell with energy.

    American Television is a vast sea of stupid. -xxdr zombiexx

    by glitterscale on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 12:01:28 PM PST

  •  I largely agree, but your conclusion needs to be (10+ / 0-)

    articulated somewhat differently:

    People need to be discredited. They need to be made to acknowledge their failed policies and predictions, and to remove themselves from the public stage. Schools of thought need to be abandoned because their data is falsified and their conclusions baseless.
    People do need to be discredited, but there is no need that they ever acknowledge their discredit and agree to move on - because frankly, they won't.  Not ever.  The only reason we ever got this far is because we just started ignoring those people and moving ahead without them.  There were social programs in communities and states all over the country well before the New Deal, which used them as its basis.  

    Step 1 to resuming progress:  STOP WAITING FOR PERMISSION from the people who are against it.  They will never give it.    

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 12:31:13 PM PST

  •  "What harm does a good fantasy do"? (4+ / 0-)

    Fantasy is fine when it is recognized by all as just that and no more. Fantasy is good for poetry, art, music and drama, but not for decisions about the lives of human beings.

    The basic problem is, we still live in an era fraught by superstitious thinking.  The belief in things without evidence holds back the ability to think about issues with clear minds and blocks the ability to come to reasoned solutions.  When one makes the claim that impossible and unproven beings and events are real, the confusion  and absolutist thinking that results from it can sometimes be deadly to the world.

      I would like to hope that any new age of enlightenment would be an expansion of the "no gods' thinking of some of the last Enlightenment leaders.

    Imagine no religion.

  •  Your diary eloquently crystallizes (6+ / 0-)

    what a lot of us are thinking.  I, too, think it's important to see much of history, in a broad sweep - and certainly here in our land - as an arrow pointing ahead to progress.  Not, of course, because it's inevitable, but because each generation sees the mission of human advance as its own and moves us forward.  And yes, the recent past has felt like a reverse.  I hope along with you that work for a more hopeful future becomes a majoritarian task again, and fast, before the weight of climate change, income disparity, sectarianism and nationalism etc becomes too great to overturn.  I'm not done with optimism - but, realism suggests that it's too late to avoid the consequences of these misguided decades.  Let's get moving with a new Age of Reason.

  •  History had an arrow? (9+ / 0-)

    In the words of the immortal Groucho Marx, "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

    It's a mistake to think we're any smarter or better than our forbears.  We just have more information at our fingertips, and that is the sum total of what progress brings.

    The seventeenth century shipbuilder who designed and rigged The Mayflower built a ship instead of a jet airliner, not because he was any less clever than a modern aerospace engineer,  but because he has less codified knowledge of physics and engineering. There is such a thing as progress, but it doesn't amount to changing people's natures; human potential is just realized to a greater degree in a more competent society.  That can take on a double-edged aspect; for example the tools and institutions that spread information also spread ignorance and propaganda.

    Since people remain more or less the same. we tend to have the same struggles, only in a more technologically advanced context. Hitler scared gullible Germans with the Jews; Stalin scared Russians with the kulaks (wealthy peasants) in a bid to drive a wedge in the working people that is startlingly modern.  Republicans scare Americans with the socialist Obama bogeyman and his 47% legion of takers.

    This won't ever change because there'll always be a certain fraction of humanity which yearns for authoritarian leadership, and somewhat smaller fraction that yearns to be that leadership.  So every generation has to be prepared to have this fight between those who want leadership that exploits them and those who want progress.

    Understanding this is what sets a liberal apart: progress isn't handed to a generation on a silver platter, people in that generation have to fight for progress.

    I've lost my faith in nihilism

    by grumpynerd on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 01:39:43 PM PST

  •  This is easily one of the best (0+ / 0-)

    articles I've ever read,
    and I've been reading various articles,
    in magazines and newspapers,
    for at least forty years.

    It does not explain the context,
    it does not give the actual details,
    but for those of us aware
    of what has been presented to us lately,
    that fit your terms,
    alternate reality,
    you make the most important point of all.

    For us to have hope,
    on all fronts,
    we need change,
    truly big change.

    I've been writing about such change,
    in my Build a Chicken Coop diaries.

    Click on my username,
    and check them out.

  •  The first enlightenment..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    .....was accompanied by inquisition and war, as old power resisted and fought the new.  In many ways this conflict continues.

    We learned just today that the powers that be, the ones that are STILL in charge in spite of the hopeful results of the last election, announced their plans for full speed ahead exploitation of our huge natural gas reserves plus a new form of hydrocarbon energy, methane hydrates.  Without going into the details, believe me, this will be a civilization ending environmental catastrophe.

    The alternative is for us to carefully reduce the human population by 2/3, and completely revolutionize the way human society is organized -- everything: transportation, agriculture, architecture, markets, communication, industry, etc., etc.. -- all without resorting to violence.

    IMHO, the chances of this happening are ZERO, considering who controls the nuclear weapons.  Instead of a new age of enlightenment, I fear we are on the brink of a new dark age.  Civilizations do fail and I see no reason that this one will be immune to the forces of history and the indifferent to human folly laws of nature.

    I hope I am wrong.

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 04:32:22 PM PST

  •  Self deportation for the unenlightened (0+ / 0-)
    People need to be discredited. They need to be made to acknowledge their failed policies and predictions, and to remove themselves from the public stage.
    I like it! But I don't expect to see it in this lifetime.
  •  Conservatism is (0+ / 0-)

    as conservatism does.  If those who own and embody the conservative movement believe certain things and take actions to turn those beliefs into reality, if they define those beliefs and actions as what conservatism is, then for others to call that conservatism is to respect their OWN choice of language.  Which is a signal difference from the manner that the self-defined conservatives and the self-designated conservative movement have poisoned the name "liberalism" with unrelated or entirely imaginary characteristics--successfully!  Why shouldn't we call them what they choose to call themselves while accurately describing the policies and politics they embody?  Sounds like more unilateral surrender being demanded of liberals.  Which liberals are good enough at doing on their own.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 07:43:57 PM PST

  •  The people cry out in thrist and despair (0+ / 0-)

    'Who will lead us safely to the river?' they cry.
    'Where are the wise that know the way?

    Now is the time. We ARE ready.
    Demand our that leaders lead us into the future.
    The Republicans refuse to lead.
    So it's left to the Democrats.
    They MUST step up.
    We ARE greater than the sum of our parts.
    When we are led by leaders of vision who believe in us,
    when we work together and stand together on our shared principles of compassion, justice and unending optimism, we ARE the light of freedom to the world and the best hope of man.
    Now is the time. They MUST lead.
    Demand it.

    start here

  •  Kudos and a caveat (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I (mostly) appreciate your description of the situation. The history most of us learned in school was an arrow, but as you dig deeper, you find that linear progress is a myth.

    The caveat is that our schools are not failing. This is yet another reactionary myth aimed at dismantling public schools. If we could fix poverty, we'd "fix" our schools. Not saying there aren't some that are in trouble. But most are doing pretty well, in spite of the standardized testing that still threatens to overtake instructional time.

  •  Magical thinking + willful ignorance. (0+ / 0-)

    Carl Sagan once said:

    We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
    There was a time when people believing stupid things was of no consequence to society.  But given our dependence on science and technology, not only to make life easier, but to provide us with vital information needed to understand and make decisions on things like climate change, we can no longer afford to tolerate prideful ignorance.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 06:05:30 AM PST

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