Nattering Nabobs

It has become a cliché for older folks to look back to a previous age as “golden” and insist that things are going to the dogs. I referred in a recent blog to Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight In Paris” which focuses on this tendency to look back to an earlier age as in every way superior to the one in which we live — no matter what age it happens to be. I get all that. But we dismiss at our peril those who see the problems of the present, the nay-sayers and “nattering nabobs of negativity.”  As someone once said “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” It behooves us to pay attention to the Chicken Littles around us and hear what they have to say: it might just be important. The sky may indeed be falling, and Woody Allen to the contrary notwithstanding, things may have been better in times past.

In a word, while it may be true that the older generations look at the past through rose-colored glasses, it is nonetheless the case that our present problems have taken a quantum jump toward calamity in ways that can seriously threaten life on this planet I don’t want to list all of the problems we have brought upon ourselves, but we have, indeed, let the technical genie out of the bottle and it is not at all clear that the genie is well-intentioned.

In past generations leaving the world unlivable was merely a theoretical possibility, now it is a very real possibility. Indeed, the likelihood increases every day we continue to ignore these threats to life on earth. This is, indeed, a new situation — the quantum leap I mentioned a moment ago. The times they are a changing’ and the changes may not be for the better. And the more we go along as if nothing has changed, assuming that everything is as it should be, and snickering when critics have the gall to point out the problems, the greater the likelihood that the worst case scenario will be realized. Until or unless we take that possibility seriously we gamble with the future generations whose lives we hold in our hands.

In light of these considerations, a poll following the President’s recent State of the Union speech has interesting ramifications. The following excerpt from HuffPost tells the good news along with the bad news. First the good news:

Sixty-five percent of Americans support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now,” including 89 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents and 38 percent of Republicans.

The survey finds that most Americans see climate change as a tangible threat, as 61 percent said climate change is already affecting them or will affect them sometime in their life. An overwhelming 93 percent say there is a moral obligation to leave an Earth not polluted or damaged to future generations, with 67 percent strongly agreeing.

The bad news is that this Congress is not in the least bit inclined to lift a finger to stop the damage we are doing to this planet. They are out of step with the majority of people they presumably “represent” because their jobs are dependent on the very corporations that would continue to exploit the earth for profit. It does appear that we have found ourselves in a game of poker with marked cards and that the people we are playing with — who have smirks on their faces — are playing with house money.

But it’s not a game, it’s a democracy in which the people are supposed to be the ultimate source of legitimate power. One does wonder if the people will ever find their voice again and if they do whether it will be loud enough to be effective.

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7 thoughts on “Nattering Nabobs

  1. The one saving grace may be that the GOP is in such disarray, some even say on the verge of becoming a fringe party, that its leaders may have to listen to such polls in order to navigate back to the mainstream. The poll results on climate change were very heartening.

  2. Perhaps I’m a naysayer too, but I believe the people have long since lost their voice to the moneyed lobbyists and huge corporations. My $10 contribution has been completely buried in the shadow of their millions of dollar contributions. My influence, like most Americans, is zilch.

  3. Great post. We also heard from the right and far right as rebuttals, but we did not hear from the rational middle. Obama is still center left, in spite of some of his latest announcements, It drives conservatives bonkers when I say that, but they have moved the bar to the right, so moderate left looks more extreme. Climate change and better gun control should be no brainers, but they are not due to the extreme, well funded right. I think we as independents should write local, state and national legislatures with even handed positions. And, we need to be clear, we are independents. Maybe the more reasonable, non-party voices they hear, maybe we can chink away at some of the armor. It is a dream, I know, but we need to try. Thanks, BTG

    • BTG makes an astute observation about the “bar” separating left & right views moving to the right. In the 9th edition of his Democracy for the Few, Michael Parenti says,

      Of the “liberal” commentators who are hailed as representing the “Left,” many are little more than “pro-capitalist, middle-of-the-road tepid centrist” as former New York Times syndicated “liberal” columnist Anthony Lewis candidly described himself. These tepid should are nowhere as far left as the conservatives are far right. The whole left portion of the political spectrum is mostly shut out of the mainstream media. (167)

      For a good review of the “liberal media” myth and how conservatives have generated & exploited it, see Eric Alterman’s 2004 book, What Liberal Media?

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