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Facts, Scmacts: Welcome to the New Age of Unreason

How the hell did this happen?

Thirty-five and two hundred years ago, our Founders established a nation and Constitution based on the Enlightenment conviction that science and reason was the ultimate basis for legitimacy and authority.

Now we’ve tossed aside the Age of Reason, and we’re plotting our course based on myths, irrational biases, blind faith, and for all I can tell, the random tossing of chicken bones.

A collection of Plutocratic high priests have successfully ended the Age of Reason, replacing it with the Age of Unreason, in which power and wealth are the source of legitimacy, and science and reason are scorned as “elitist.”

Catch the irony in this – a collection of the nation’s economic elite are labeling the essentially democratizing forces of knowledge and reason as “elitist,” and Americans are buying it.

It’s as if we put pyromaniacs in charge of the fire department and declared it good.

As a result, we are getting “eye-of-Newt” solutions to real world problems.

Look at the debate over our budget.

Republicans have been pushing deficit reduction like a dealer pushes smack, and Democrats, addicted to compromise, are buying it like it was the last fix in town, abandoning all thought of an aggressive stimulus package and gutting programs they once endorsed.

Yet we know that stimulus spending created more than 3 million jobs, and we know that cutting spending during an economic downturn is disastrous.

For example, in 1937, when Roosevelt’s extensive public works investments had restored wages, profits, and production to pre-Depression levels and lowered unemployment, Roosevelt was convinced to tackle the deficit by cutting government spending. The result? Unemployment jumped from 14.3% in 1937 to 19.0% in 1938, rising from 5 million to more than 12 million in early 1938. Manufacturing output fell by 37% from the 1937 peak.

But those are just facts, and the Plutocrats and their political vassals don’t want us to be confused with the facts – in the New Age of Unreason, fealty, spells and ideological incantations are the order of the day.

Or take the recent hearings on climate change. The science on global warming is simple, incontrovertible, and chilling Carbon dioxide retains heat, we’re putting huge amounts of it into the atmosphere, it has already warmed the Earth, and further warming will be disastrous.

But  Congressional Republicans assembled a collection of largely discredited denialists with a record of financial and political motivations for distorting the science and held an anti-Enlightenment hearing worthy of Dark Age necromancers dancing with the dead.

On and on it goes – embracing the belief that tax cuts, supply-side and trickle down “theory” create prosperity and that tax increases hurt the economy – a form of medieval magical thinking that real-world empirical data exposes as false.

The idea that big Gubmint’ regulation is what crashed the economy.

The idea that our largely secular founders were intent on forming a “Christian nation.” 

The belief that immigrants steal jobs from Americans.

Or the preposterous notion that the free market is the font of all good things if left to its own devices – this after all three attempts at laissez-fair economics by this country caused epic income inequality followed by catastrophic economic collapse.

And now, the cause of our current economic meltdown is being passed off as the solution to it, and no one bats an eye.

And where is the press as this retreat into abject ignorance proceeds?

They seem willing to parrot whatever is being said. ‘Balance” has become the sin-qua-non of journalism, replacing truth, accuracy, context and reality. Thus, the fool and the wise man are given equal treatment and equal authority. Somewhere, Ben Franklin is weeping.

Ah, and how about the Democrats? Where are they as the nation flirts with conjurers and tricksters intent on taking over? Except for a few brave souls, they deserve the greatest scorn of all – they have cringed, cowered and compromised with a philosophy that is guaranteed to wreck the economy, destroy the middle class and turn the average citizen into little more than later-day serf.

Obama, in particular, shares the blame for this retreat from reason. He hasn’t  confronted this dangerous slide into ignorance, he’s endorsed it.

Tax cuts during an economic slow down? Sure.

Ignore climate change? Why not?

Financial reform that doesn’t address the root problems? Oaky dokey.

Attempt to strip workers of their rights? Mums the word.

 Health care reform that strengthens the insurance industry—the source of our national health-care ripoff? Sure, you betcha.

None of these things pass any test based on reason or reality, but hey, this is the New Age of Unreason … Plutocrats, like some later day Rasputin, call the tune, not reason and empiricism.

In the pre-Enlightenment epistemology, there was a special place in hell for the cowardly -- those who witnessed evil, but did not confront it – it is the hottest and most punishing of places.

If the Democrats and Obama are going to compromise away their integrity and embrace the Age of Unreason, they’d do well to remember that.

A bedraggled and impoverished people living as serfs in a nation diminished by their cowardice and complicity will be their legacy, and they will be scorned by those they abandoned for the politically expedient compromise, and the plutocrat’s payola.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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