For most people, their economic well-being is most important as it allows them to take care of themselves and their families. To get an idea where things are going and what changes to rules and laws might do to impact people’s life.
In the past electing a person or party was mainly based on what it stood for and what ideas it represented. That was replaced by a “person-cult” that elevated the candidate to the top of the list of criteria. In turn, this removed content and turned what used to be a choice of ideas, facts, and data, into an emotional selection. In 2016 this became most obvious when two individuals running for highest office most people would not want to have as colleagues at work, based on how they express and treated each other, were the selection option. Ultimatly, depending if people rather wanted something radically different or not, a choice was made.
Since then, the cultural norms and with it the institutions that used to define a functioning system in the US have been more and more infected with cancers from within. The Environmental protection agency is run by fossil fuel lobbyist, the defense department by a former defense equipment provider, the FDA by pharma executives, and on and on.
The media is the enemy of the people and whenever some information is inconvenient to a politician it is just called “fake news” and that settles everything.
People have gotten polarized further and further from a common center and infused with hate. That is a state that is very hard to maintain because it takes a lot of energy. To be able to do it anyway, people just integrate a few, recently accepted speaking points into their vocabulary, to claim where they find their allegiance. Terms like “democratic socialist” on one side and “white supremacists” on the other are common now and raise no eyebrows anymore.
The RAND Corporation, an independent research organization looked into the accelerating decay of truth, and how important it is or was to people in the United States.
They open their report by saying:
“Over the past two decades, national political and civil discourse in the United States has been characterized by “Truth Decay,” defined as a set of four interrelated trends:
- an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data;
- a blurring of the line between opinion and fact;
- an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact;
- and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information.
When looking at the causes of this decay, they found 4 causes or drivers:
- cognitive bias,
- changes in the information system (including the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle),
- competing demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep pace with changes in the information system,
- and political, sociodemographic, and economic polarization.
Based on their findings they asked what the consequences of this decay would be and came to the following statement:
“The consequences of Truth Decay manifest in many ways. The most damaging effects might be the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty about U.S. policy.”
Americans have been fed the belief that the “exceptionalism” it has always claimed allows all members of this society to create rules that don’t apply in the rest of the world. That’s food for another article in the future.
What it also includes now is the fact that nobody cares about certain principles anymore. One would think that those who live and work in this exceptional place would care about truth and Christian principles, human decency, looking out for nature and how to sustain it and many many more fundamental things that especially exceptional societies and countries would be assumed to care and protect vigorously.
In reality, nobody, other than a small group of people who are members of an industry that perpetuates whatever information, opinion, or viewpoint helps sell advertising space in TV shows and news-outlets, really cares any longer. Even when confronted with a running list of lies (more than 9000 in the first 787 days of the current presidency), it’s brushed aside as irrelevant.
As the institutions, the system of civil discourse about diverse ideas, and the fundamental principles of society and human interaction, keep falling apart, we need to realize that the lack of care amounts to complicity.
I asked myself if I can do something meaningful about it. Because I belong to one of the groups that are already identified as an enemy of at least one side of the two on the current spectrum (in my case immigrants), I don’t see an option for me and have decided to leave in the next few years. For those who are not yet labeled, I hope there will be enough of you to find a way to stop the decay.