“What a great country!”
The beginning of one of the many dumb jokes I love.
Yet, for me, in there is contained the kernel of a central truth. Only an immigrant experiences the shock of change. I left a dictatorship (Spain) in Dec. 1937 to experience the genius, joy and infinite rewards of America.
Traditionally we think of the material—cars, homes, TVs, and those costliest of all—education and health care. Under the withering, merciless laws of capitalism, those who plan, work hard, educate, save (invest) and experience a measure of normal luck, thrive. Quite a formula and really—although I know it’s boring—worth reflecting on. My father was a stoker, my mother a seamstress, and I became a cop. A mere 80+ years later here I am. Ta Da!
But greater than all material benefits is the joy of the interior life—the endless speculations that echo within us as we stumble from one moment to the next. The Greeks had it right and offered us the inexpressible joy of introspection.
All of this is made possible only in a climate of freedom. There we can explore endlessly. A problem arises when it is seized as license. My freedom ends where your nose begins. With freedom must come restraint, accountability, discipline and responsible behavior. Our laws are just rulers to conduct and guide our behaviors.
Freedom—democracy—is both messy and complex. It requires effort. The human animal is a slippery beast and requires guidance and monitoring. My adult life has mostly been spent in controlling the less beautiful aspects of the human spirit.
Freedom requires a measure of wisdom, a bit of tolerance, understanding and involvement. In short—effort!
And guess what? Effort can be tiresome.
A baleful look at the global scene reveals a bleak perspective. It was ever thus—yet each age faced its own, sui generis, ills. Think bubonic plagues; potato famines; droughts; wars; pestilence and those Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So it goes—the endless cycles of ruin and renewal.
And now? My amateur’s glance across the landscape reveals the usual bleakness—specific, however, to our age.
Europe is awash in crises—immigration (Germany); idiot budgets and fiscal plans (Greece and Italy); housing bubbles (Spain); nutty hiring/firing rules (France); the dark appeals of the extreme right (Poland and Hungary) and on and on.
Latin America is a mess. Brazil has just elected a totally unready Army Captain as President. Those who can are in massive exodus from a disintegrating Venezuela. Peru and Argentina writhe in corruption and nepotism. Colombia is in an agony of emergence from an endless civil war. And the rest ain’t faring so well either.
Democracy basically requires two things from us: 1) Do the right thing. 2) Tell the truth.
Again, Lenin—What is to be done?
Yet, I brindle at the thought. The notion that bubbles to the surface of my very shallow brain is Democratic Fatigue.
That is what I think is at the bottom of all this nonsense—very notably including Donald J. Trump. The planet is momentarily tired of the struggle to maintain. Just that—maintain.
The simple answers of the Hitlers and Stalins allure. Why struggle? I’ve got the answers. Don’t worry your pretty little head about it. Slavery means full employment. We can make better use of the land than they can. There is a free lunch. In this world the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.