Although we technically measure the passage of time with clocks and calendars, the palpable measure of passing time is change. Life is change. If everything remained the same, static and motionless, there would be no vibrancy, no life. And life is vast, complex and mostly unpredictable; everything is always evolving, moving and affecting everything else in a dynamic cosmic network.
Nevertheless, some folks furiously strive to make time stand still. They resist, ignore, or deny inevitable changes that engulf us all. This is most apparent in America’s extreme, bipolar politics where those devoutly holding onto idealized visions of what is best and right tenaciously attempt to preserve the status quo or to restore some romanticized version of what once was or may have been.
For example, consider the economy, especially the growing wealth disparity. How do we organize society to promote a strong economy, reward effort and distribute wealth? Idealized notions of free-market capitalism in which everyone can participate with equal opportunity to realize an acceptable level of affluence was resold to the nation 30 years ago as “trickle-down economics.” Just cut taxes, loosen up government regulation and individual enterprise will boom, creating enough wealth for everybody willing to work.
That hasn’t happened has it? This is not 19th-century America in which a relatively small population has ready access to an expansive frontier and vast untapped natural resources. We are now multitudinous and crammed into huge sprawling metropolises. Exploited resources are dwindling, and there isn’t any more cheap land to homestead, or any more smokestack industries to start up that employ millions of blue-collar workers.
The nature of the economy and society itself has changed. Old economic models don’t apply any longer, so free-market, trickle-down, capitalism doesn’t work to more broadly distribute the wealth. It does, however, work well — as it always has — to concentrate wealth in the few who eventually influence government to tilt the monopoly board in their favor.
Yet, out of ignorance, blind faith or selfish greed people cling to that old model and condemn any modifications as socialism, believing that providing for the common welfare via government is a great evil that will suffocate economic enterprise and enslave the human spirit. This belief is clearly evident in the caustic contretemps over national health care.
However, when societies and economies are objectively measured for overall health, wealth and happiness, the Scandinavian countries are at the very top. Those nations all practice a form of enlightened capitalism in which social welfare is a primary factor. These nations wisely roll with the changes, modifying their models to adapt to changing conditions.
Conversely, in America rolling with the changes is like driving a car with square wheels. We sort of clunk along until things get so pervasively painful that we finally do something about it. Adapting to change here is made unnecessarily difficult and delayed because there are always enough Americans who believe they have received some ultimate, immutable truth from which they can never depart.
For example, marijuana should have been legalized decades ago everywhere in America (shame on us baby boomers). There is no credible evidence that marijuana poses a severe danger to society. In fact, millions of Americans, including high-ranking public officials, know firsthand that it does not. Yet, in a futile 40-year war on drugs we have wasted tens of billions of tax dollars, created a near police state and incarcerated millions of our citizens for exercising a victimless choice before the obstinate inertia of conventional thinking began to give way to reason — Colorado and Washington leading the way.
The same thing can be said for the delayed acceptance of homosexuals. The increasing realization that these folks are not deviants, or mentally ill or condemned by some deity became so great that it has burst the dam of persecuting prejudice and is spilling across the nation, giving gays and lesbians full, equal rights.
While some things are worth preserving because they are true, just and benefit society, many others are invalidated by changing conditions and new information. We would fare better as a nation if more of us would roll with the inevitable changes life brings rather than cling to positions, institutions and beliefs that have been nullified by reality and logic.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found one third of Americans do not believe in evolution but rather subscribe to creationism, which is the belief that all life forms have existed as-is since they were created by some divine force. The evidence for creationism is a book of fables. The evidence for evolution can readily be seen in the physical adaptations of quick-breeding species to environmental changes. The bugs roll with the changes, some humans can’t seem to do the same.