Self-made versus Daddy’s boy. University of Virginia Law School versus Wharton School undergraduate economics degree. Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart as a marine captain in Vietnam versus five draft deferments for college and bone spurs.
Public service versus entitled self-indulgence. Tight management of a professional work team versus constant leaks, fights and firings characterizing the work place. Steady as she goes versus anything goes. A supreme effort to maintain order versus abdication to chaos on a daily basis.
Robert Mueller versus Donald Trump.
Which of these two models of life, profession and legacy appeals most to Americans today?
The fact that you can even ask this question is profoundly disturbing. The elevation of disorder and dunce-hood to any level of normalcy is crazy; to see it characterize the workings of the White House is beyond crazy.
It’s at least circumstantial evidence of a sea change in the conduct of American public life. It’s threatening to anyone who came of age in the baby-boomer era, when aspirations to public service and self were defined in popular culture by “the best and the brightest.” People just like Mueller.
Does the metastasizing of supremely selfish, self-aggrandizing, whoring, mocking and self-abusive behaviour foretell the end of democracy as we know it?
This seems an absurd thought but there’s a growing body of academic literature about democracy’s fragility in the social media age and its growing lack of appeal to millennials. It would appear that the social media platforms in such broad use (especially Facebook and Twitter) are creating echo chambers for political opinion, where the confirmed and committed assail the Philistines, who remain silent because increasingly they’re de-friended – or are decidedly absent by choice.
As a consequence, the skills (active listening, dialogue and accommodation), so essential to democratic discourse and respectful debate are atrophying from lack of use.
Some commentators are even arguing that human brains are realigning neurons and evolving to accommodate new means of communication.
Whereas we evolved as individuals in self-sufficient, extended family hunting groups, where effective interpersonal accommodation was a requirement of inclusion and sustainability, now we can choose to exist without making the effort. Could it be that we are consequently naturally selecting for dysfunctional attributes of human survival?
One could argue that the Mueller inquiry into potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians is aiding and abetting this natural selection process. Are we being seduced by the lead actors in this drama to choose one or the other as our defining template of acceptable social and political behaviour?
If so, the very outcome of the inquiry may be suspect. Muellerites will view the result differently than Trumpers.
One can safely assume that the due-process-of-law advocates will accept the legal outcomes prescribed and acknowledge the inherent rights of appeal.
The chaos champions will take a “No collusion” verdict as proof and vindication of their belief system, and view a “Collusion” verdict as completely unacceptable. They may stomach an appeal of such a verdict, but ultimately they’ll view a chaotic response as preferable. God knows where this could lead.
Dealing effectively with chaos is oxymoronic. Ideally, order will triumph as a principle of social organization because of education that demonstrates the efficacy of predictable outcomes based on social morality, and the values of decency and compassion.
These human concepts have served the species well over countless millennia. But how are they being inculcated in today’s schools, colleges and universities?
I don’t think these values are well taught in schooling aimed at information technology skill acquisition, the creation of algorithms or coaching tech startups. They more properly root in the humanities and social sciences, faculties that everywhere are in stress mode because they’re not conspicuously linked to employment opportunities in the disruptive economy.
If the training that society needs to avoid chaos is not purposefully linked to employment, why would anyone bother acquiring it?
It would be interesting to know what Mueller thinks of this conundrum. Asking Trump is irrelevant. He inherited his economic future from his father, and has spent 71 years demonstrating that chaos is the predictable outcome of that inheritance.
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