Saturday, July 9, 2016

Look Out It's the End Times!

Recently, there has been a lot of noise on conservative sites about the "need" to vote for Donald Trump. It goes without saying, this has come, for the most part, from those who supported him all along -- though many have taken to claiming otherwise -- but it seems, of late, even a few who did not support him, and even recognize his failings, have taken to arguing that our only hope is to vote for Trump.

The reasoning is well known to any who follow conservative blogs, or conservative sites that allow user comments. Basically, the substantive argument takes three forms. First, because of the current opening on the Supreme Court, as well as the age of various justices, we need to oppose Hillary lest she get as many as three Supreme Court seats. Second, because of the move to grant immigrants amnesty, we need to oppose Hillary lest she allow in enough immigrants -- and grant them the vote -- that Democrats cannot lose future elections. Finally, we need to oppose Hillary for somewhat more nebulous reasons, as a Hillary Clinton presidency would, in the most dramatic form of the argument "equal the death of America".

One problem with this argument is that I heard the exact same thing eight years ago. Obama was going to let in so many immigrants the Republicans would hold no seats in congress, and never win another election. Obama was going to declare martial law and stop the 2012 election. Obama was going to establish a personal paramilitary force. Obama would seize all guns. And so on.

Now, I am not saying I am happy with the events of past eight years, nor would I be happy with the next four under Clinton (or under Trump, for that matter), but my point is this: We have a tendency, when seeing something we dislike, to make absurd exaggerations of the harm it will do. Our reaction to the election of Democrats is akin to getting ready to amputate your arm because you got a paper cut on a finger. We have become so used to hyperventilating over any victory of the left, that the minute they win, we prepare for disaster.

Of course, the left is just as bad, in fact they did it first. They used to predict every conservative elected would "roll back civil rights" and establish a theocracy. But we used to laugh at them for doing this, now we have joined them. We have become just as juvenile as they are.

And juvenile it is. As I describe in "Catastrophic Thinking, The Political, Economic and Social Impact of Seeing History in the Superlative" and "All Life in a Day, or, How Our Mistaken View of History Distorts Our Understanding of Events" the entire belief that our own times must be the best or worst even comes from an arrogant, childish belief that we are so special, we must live in special times. It is a very modern philosophy, yet again a result of our underlying Romantic philosophy that sees in self-centeredness a virtue.

Look at the past. Most of our ancestors had a very definite view of history. For much of history, it was a pretty pessimistic one, seeing the past as a golden age, with the present one step in the slow decline of the world. But, it was a slow decline. Except for the periodic apocalyptic hysteria, almost all of the past was inhabited by people who expected the next century to be much like the present one. They did not expect a sudden collapse.

Of course, modern times changed that. First, for a very real and good reason. With the age of reason, the industrial revolution and the explosion of technology, people came to reverse that thinking and see the present as a golden age, with progress being irresistible and the future surely better than the present. But, they still held a sensible view. They may have been optimistic, and seen progress and change as the certain outcome of time passing, but they still saw much of the future as like today. People would still be there, life would go on, just in an incomparably better world.

And those same people, when things turned south, and progress seemed to slow or stop, they generally adopted a resigned belief that things would turn around, or else would decide to struggle to make sure they did, they did not sit and bemoan the end of the world. That was left for the juvenile thinkers of our modern age to do.

Only in modern times have we adopted this belief, have we come to see every setback as the beginning of the end. As I said, it was first a trait of the left, especially of the more radical elements of the left, that saw in all opposition a conspiracy and every failure impending doom. Sadly, the right has now followed suit.

I can understand frustration, I can understand worry, but I cannot understand why we insist on joining the left in assuming every single setback is not just a loss but the harbinger of doom. We used to claim the left was ruled by the heart, the right by the head. Since when did we give that up and emulate the left in letting our emotions rule us? I cannot understand why we think this is a good idea.

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