Profound historical moments are obvious only after they have passed. Although we permit ourselves the self-comforting illusion that we understand how and why our world is now changing, we live in profound ignorance of what is actually happening around us.
However, we do have a keen radar for the unique and unusual, and we take note when our world starts to spin off into unexpected directions. To the best of our limited abilities, we will seek to protect ourselves, but our efforts will be hindered by our inherently limited understanding of the new reality. Typically, by the time we figure out any situation, it’s too late to do that much about it.
Therefore, let me start by saying that I am certain we are on the knife’s edge of truly enormous changes in our lives that will obliterate much of our safety and security, but I cannot possibly guess at what the final form of these might be.
Why am I certain we are on the very brink?
To state that technology is outrunning our understanding of the implications of its far reaching effects is to state the obvious. Whether we are talking about the mundane, such as LED lightbulbs, or the incomprehensibly terrifying, such as hypersonic nuclear missiles, we sit at the center of rapid technological changes that are without precedent in human history. During the so-called Dark Ages of humanity’s past, technology barely budged for roughly 800 years. Today we experience technological change from moment to moment that is—whether in theory or practice—momentous at best and monstrous at worst, and the ultimate consequence of any of this is anyone’s guess. However, there is one truth we can count upon no matter what: We are under constant electronic surveillance.
What can one say about our spectacularly stupid and senseless societal self-immolation, which (Oh, the irony!) has been put in place for our own protection? The twists of logic necessary to convince ourselves to destroy our peace and prosperity because of a virus that primarily kills the already sick and very elderly are beyond my apparently limited understanding. Locking down a nation of 330 million in response to a viral infection that has so far killed 188,000 people who were, sad to say, for the most part very likely to die sooner rather than later anyway of a pre-existing health condition or simple old age is a craziness that makes much of humanity’s previous craziness seem sublimely sane by comparison.
Our post-Covid financial systems seem to be either—depending on whom you ask—demonstrating their amazing resiliency or simply burning out in one last, magnificent blaze of utter fiscal insanity. The speculators, manipulators, politicians, business executives, and bankers who are playing their own angles for their own narrow advantages are deforming any honest, natural pricing mechanisms beyond all rational recognition. The latest desperate injections of borrowed government stimulus are either a welcome salvation or a dangerously irresponsible debt trap. In the final analysis, all we know for certain is that both price and debt bubbles tend to pop with all the subtlety of a supernova. Beware of what’s ahead.
Educational institutions at all levels are facing financial catastrophe, and the future will be robbed to pay for the idiocy of the present.
As more and more K-12 parents switch to home schooling or private instruction because they are dissatisfied with the remote learning options offered by their local public school districts, there is a very good chance many will never re-enroll their children because they will finally realize just how mediocre the teaching provided actually was—long before the appearance of COVID-19. This will lead to an exodus of the most committed parents and highest achieving students, which will put public schools in the position of educating more students who do not care about learning because their parents do not care either. Expect less support for public schools—and local school budgets—as a result. This will erode our communities as surely as a cancer.
Private colleges and universities are now reaping the whirlwind of decades of excessive spending, a lack of attention to educational standards, and tuition and board charges that can only be characterized as extortionate. A Darwinian struggle for survival is now in progress. Layoffs, program closures—and enrollment practices that amount to cannibalism as everyone but the most elite colleges tries to poach students by lowering admission standards—will for many years make higher education news a grim parade of academic obituary notices regarding all that will vanish at the stroke of a Dean’s pen. Public colleges and universities will face their own unique problems as state budget crises affect both higher education funding and the financial aid available to their students.
However, all of this may be the least of our problems very soon. We live in a world of desperate nations full of desperate people, which is the perfect breeding ground for armed conflict. Whether we are talking about civil wars or wars between nations, we are now neck deep in dry tinder that requires but a spark. Never forget that 37 million people eventually died in World War I simply because Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in 1914.
Unfortunately, our potential for destroying ourselves due to overreaction is far worse than it was that day a century ago in Sarajevo. Today relatively insignificant events can very quickly escalate into hell on earth because lies, exaggerations, and misrepresentations rule on overwrought social media posts.
With many of our cities now looted and burned by rioting mobs that police and mayors simply refused to stop, social and political hatreds—I do not use the word lightly—boiling over everywhere, and frightening radicalism now becoming a mainstream norm among those who seem quite willing to wreak havoc and destruction without compunction, it is difficult to see how any of this ends with a friendly handshake.
Mob violence accomplishes little other than hardening hearts and closing minds, and the elite apologists for arson and anarchy are mistaking their own poor judgment for wondrous virtue. Those who think Molotov cocktails are tools for improving society must be called to account for their support of criminality and intimidation, which cannot ever be justified—no matter how clever the slogans. It is shocking how many of the cheerleaders for charred cities enjoy well-paying positions of respect that allow them to blithely distort reality in order to buttress their own convoluted and dangerous ideas. This should worry all Americans who love their country and cherish its ideals.
Change sometimes cannot happen without a revolt of some sort, but the revolting excuses being offered for putting the homes and businesses of the innocent to the torch cannot be countenanced.
When it is all boiled down to the essential guess work, the only prediction I feel comfortable making as I survey our nation and world is this: Few will be happy with the rough road we will need to travel today in the hope of a better future for our children and grandchildren. This will all get much, much worse before it gets better.