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Posts Tagged ‘Isaac Asimov’

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There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

——Isaac Asimov, Newsweek interview, 1980

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We’re on the eve of a dramatic and historic event starting tomorrow with the impeachment trial in the Senate. The stakes from this trial are as high as we have ever faced as a nation, far more than the two previous impeachment proceedings of the last fifty years, the Nixon and Clinton affairs. Neither of those had imminent national security issues. Neither had the sitting president asking for and receiving assistance from foreign nations in gaming our elections. Neither had the president using the whole power of his office and the many agencies at his disposal to obstruct and evade investigation.

As serious as those prior impeachments were, they pale in comparison to this trial and the ramifications that emerge from its outcome. With an acquittal of charges, the current president** will be totally unrestrained in his actions with, for all practical purposes, no oversight. An acquittal basically says that any president from this point forward can do whatever he desires. He can smother any investigation, refuse to release any information and persecute those who stand against him.

The president**, if you believe the hackneyed rationale of his attorney Alan Dershowitz, is unimpeachable for abuse of power or obstruction of justice.

Dershowitz has written that this president** could allow Russia to retake Alaska, in the same way it is attempting to reclaim Ukraine, without ordering resistance from our troops. As wrong as he claims it would be, Dershowitz writes that this would not constitute an impeachable offense.

As insane as that sounds, it may not be out of the realm of possibility for this president**, given his subservient stance toward Putin and Russia.

His power, according to Dershowitz–at least at this time–is near absolute. To put it plainly, he is above the law.

That is the nightmare scenario we are facing in this trial– a man with little, if any, self-restraint who may be given the green light to indulge his deepest and darkest desires. And to think that he won’t head that way with this newly found freedom is foolishness. Can you think of a single day in the past three years where he has tried to unify this nation in any way? His time in office has been a blur of self-serving actions, befuddling lies that are pawned off by his willing accomplices as truths, attacks of retribution and an almost nihilistic attack on the functional systems of our nation.

With acquittal, the last three years of madness and stupidity will be seen as the “good old days” as we go forward.

How did we get to this point? Well, it’s been heading this way for about forty years. For one thing, there is the unrestricted money in political campaigns which allows the wealthiest among us to parlay their wealth into political power that would give them even more advantages. So they can amass more wealth and more political power.

That might be the biggest contributing factor. But much of it comes down to the words at the top of the page from Isaac Asimov.

This cult of ignorance has been nurtured greatly in the past forty years. Minds that are easily distracted and lazy are easily manipulated. Those who wish to cultivate these people feed them misinformation, disinformation and outright lies, stoking their fears and angers while at the same time bringing them to the belief that their only hope lies in the very people who are fanning the flames and profiting from it.

Ignorance is a powerful force.

Ignorance becomes a belief system. It’s almost impossible to fight this belief with rational and fact based arguments. The line my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge” could easily be replaced now with “my belief, as unfounded and ridiculous as it is, is greater than your facts.

I try to maintain a sense of hopefulness in the face of the tide of ignorance that swirls around us. But today, as we wait on a trial that whose outcome seems almost preordained to hurl us into an abyss, I am not particularly filled with optimism.

I want to be wrong and hope I am proven so.

But I don’t think I am and don’t think I will be at this point.

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Values?

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

——Isaac Asimov,

           Newsweek,  1980

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This statement from legendary sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov has been kicking around for over thirty years now and it seems like the cult of ignorance to which he refers has been growing and gathering in strength over this time.  It really struck home for me this weekend when I saw a statement from former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum from his appearance at the Values Voters Summit.  Speaking before the gathering of social conservatives, he said:

“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country.  We will never have the elite, smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do.”

Never have smart people on our side?  What a strange thing to claim as a rallying cry!

But beyond the absurdity of that statement, it really goes back to Asimov’s quote.  There has been a culture of anti-intellectualism that has been brewing for some time now, a group of people who demonize science and scientific research as being part of some left-wing conspiracy that seeks to ruin the world with their so-called “evidence” on climate change and evolution, among many other things.  Instead these social conservatives seek to usurp family values as their own , as though the “smart” people couldn’t possibly have the same level of love or care for their own families.

 A few weeks ago I read an account of a gathering of these like-minded folks in the Scranton area in support of the Romney campaign.  One of the participants said that she was there because she believed in family values which were qualities that the people that made up the Democratic side didn’t possess.  She said that these people on  the other side were single moms, minorities, gays and immigrants.  All lacking the same family values that she and her conservatives friends held high.  I could only shake my head in disbelief at the audacity and ignorance of her words.  It really pointed out the stakes in this election.

I have tried to keep politics out of this blog for some time although my political leanings are fairly evident to anyone who takes the time  to read.  I don’t want to tell anyone how to live their lives and I want to live mine as I see fit.  Plain and simple.   But this is an important election that is coming up in November and I feel as though I have to at least speak up against the shrill  and self-righteous voices coming from the right because they speak for nobody that I know.  All of the single moms, gays, minorities and immigrants that I know have more dignity, compassion and family values than this woman ever had.

I have stood by for the past several years and have heard and read all of the stupidity and exclusionary rhetoric I can stand.  I may not be the smartest guy in the world and am , in fact, very seldom the smartest guy in any room I enter.  But, unlike these people who revel in their ignorance and denial of facts and science, I aspire to and revere greater  knowledge and wisdom.  And that’s what I see this election season as being about.  It’s not just a presidential election, Obama or Romney.  It goes deeper that that, into all localities.  It is a cultural referendum.  A choice between this vision that denies science and wants to return to a  time in America that only existed in their fact-deprived minds and one that looks forward and accepts the challenges that the future presents.  It’s a time to put this celebration of  ignorance behind us.

Sorry for the detour off the art path.  I’ll try to stay on track in the future…

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