I don't write much here about politics because there really isn't much to write. When anyone why asks I tell the following stories:
"We are all in a bus headed toward a sharp cliff. The only difference between the two parties is who will press more firmly on the accelerator."
"Think of the US government as running their household like this: We make $25,000 a year. Each year we borrow $10,000. We have $160,000 of 0% credit card debt rolling over to 16% debt over the next few months. We owe grandma and grandpa $250,000. The current "fiscal cliff" discussion is about reducing our annual borrowing by $1,200 or $1,500 per year over ten years."
The arguments about what is wrong here in the cannot be any simpler that this.
I shouldn't have to write about this because its so patently obvious.
Yet few and especially the young seem to be able to grasp this concept.
The most interesting examples I can find for why the young are so lost come from stories I find about modern US universities.
Thirty five years ago modern "big universities" were at a turning point. The radicalism of the 1960's was coming to an end. The modern adherents to the 60's view (peace, love, etc.) had to move on with their lives due to graduation or simply drifting away from school.
Many radicals moved into positions that would decades later put them in a position of power from which to again dispense their ideals.
In the 1970's the world of the university was about "free speech." In those years "free speech" was taken literally. You could say anything. Some things people didn't like but no one prevented (nor wanted to prevent) you from saying it. Free speech was respected. Knowledge was respected.
In those days various radicals still came around to talk and a few still listened.
But one of the primary drivers of the 1960's, Vietnam, ended in 1975 so there was much less fuel for the fire.
In the intervening several years (through the 1980's and part of the 1990's) the role of the "university" changed from education and "free thinking" to ROI. Little Suzy or Johnny had to get a good job after graduation so the goal of the school for a while became to produce "workers." No longer did love for a subject matter. Instead you worried about what kind of high-paying job you could get upon graduation.
But by the 1990's and beyond the old 60's radicals had worked their way up into the management of the college. Their philosophies now had a means for expression: radical environmentalism, anti-capitalism, socialism, anti-religion, "alternate lifestyles" and so on.
Unfortunately these ideas generally don't sit well with the "real world," i.e., the land outside the university environment, so marketing had to be created and stealth used to ensure that no one would pay any attention to the fact that these concepts would be introduced to unknowing children as "gospel truth."
So over the last decade or so the campus has evolved into "closed environment" where the only people with "free speech" are those in charge: administrators, professors, and so forth. There is no "freedom of speech" as defined by the Constitution or common sense. (For a more detailed picture see this article.)
Instead it has been replaced with a sort of "Peter Pan" world of make-believe "never making anyone feel bad."
The 1960's "if it feels good do it" model has grown into the springboard for virtually all sorts of troubling philosophical and actual behavior. The big U serving as a sort of bio-weapons incubator for anti-family, anti-religion, anti-society "free thinking" imposed by entrenched, left-over 1960's idealists.
The rigors of "thinking for yourself" and "critical thinking" are replaced with the childhood fantasy of "never say anything that makes someone feel bad."
Today's college graduate has virtually no ability to drill down into an argument and articulate the pros and cons of each side. They simply don't poses the intellectual horse power to get the job done.
Instead their heads are filled with "mantras." Thus-and-such is bad, never listen to it. Only get your information from such-and-such.
The problem with this model is that it leaves no room for thinking about or understanding the "bigger picture." There simply isn't the understanding or tools necessary to get their intellectual "arms" around the problems.
So today's college graduates simply take what's presented to them as "marketing" and swallow it as the gospel truth. No though. No analysis. No means of thought or analysis. Just "yes, big brother."
Exactly what George Orwell warned us all about.
So let's look at a specific example. (I find this one particularly entertaining.)
Fordham University, originally founded as a Catholic institution in the 1800's is a modern university "in the Jesuit tradition."
Recently a group within Fordham invited Ann Coulter to speak at the university. Coulter is an abrasive, opinionated, in-your-face speaker who often speaks on conservative ratio and television shows.
This was apparently too much "free speech" for a modern university (mind you Coulter is well-published author with her very own ideas about things).
The president of Fordham University, Fr. J. M. McShane wrote in an email to all students:
There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of
view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among
them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative-more
heat than light-and her message is aimed squarely at the darker
side of our nature.
As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal with
one another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud and
impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage in
racial or social stereotyping. In the wake of several bias
incidents last spring, I told the University community that I hold
out great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain
on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual
orientation, or creed.
"Disgust" was the word I used to sum up my feelings about those
incidents. Hate speech, name-calling, and incivility are completely
at odds with the Jesuit ideals that have always guided and animated
Still, to prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to
do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of
fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from
speaking would counter one wrong with another. The old saw goes
that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially
true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty,
alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and
respectfully, and forcefully.
McShane's University's answer to Coulter as a speaker is Peter Singer (due on campus February 16 of 2013).
From the link: "In case you are not aware, Peter Singer is an advocate for abortion, as a woman’s right and as a form of population control; bestiality; and euthanasia, and he has made the moral case for infanticide, particularly for disabled infants."
McShane's email uses the quoted word "disgust" to describe implicitly what Coulter's conservative speech means to the University.
Yet "bestiality," "euthanasia," and "infanticide for disabled infants" fails to make the cut.
Now this is purely common sense. (Yes I understand that in the world of academics its not, but out here where the rubber meets the road in the real world "bestiality" and "infanticide" don't make the cut for "common sense.")
So, turning this back to finances let sum this up.
We have a supposedly (and at least traditionally) Jesuit i.e., supposedly Christian, college casting out a conservative, i.e., pro religion and ethics, speaker in favor of one that promotes "bestiality," "euthanasia," and "infanticide for disabled infants."
If we can't make this judgement correctly how can we think clearly about financial obligation?
"Bestiality," "euthanasia," and "infanticide for disabled infants" are, er, ah, personal choices at best. Ones that come from thinking only about one's self over the obligations one has to a greater society. (Yes I am sure Singer can argue the opposite but fortunately out here in the real world no one is listening - and if they are they are busy keeping there affairs in these areas out of public view.)
So with a focus so "inward" its little wonder that graduates of these institutions, upon entering "the real world," cannot add up simple budget numbers or make rational decisions about how to handle obvious and sever budgetary shortfalls.
For those who still don't understand:
"The bus is headed over cliff. Let's dis-invite someone who will shout out the alarm."
Civility. Someone screaming "we're all going to die" as the bus races toward the precipice will undoubtedly make some people "uncomfortable."
Certainly its wrong to scream "Fire!" in a crowded theater where there is no fire.
But is it wrong not to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is actually a fire because some people might feel bad or "uncomfortable" about pushing, shoving, stepping on toes, or having to wait for the elderly or infirm to get out first?
Apparently, like Nero, its better to fiddle while Rome burns...