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No job is more difficult than the one you start having decided you are bound to fail.  Things look tough now, as we look at the slow pace of change, the persistence of corruption, the failure of those we elected to bring about the full change we wanted.

But nobody, not you, not the politicians, not everybody else gets it right all the time.  The question is, who puts the effort into continuing to try to change things, who lets the failures become the lessons that create the successes.

As I see, it the greatest enemy we face is not complacency, not apathy, it is the despair that we can gather together as a nation and change things for the better.  If we start out from that position of despair, then what's the point?  We become an anchor on our own hopes and dreams, and the ugly realities persist.

Sometimes we're faced with BS like this, the special interests seeming to win even when they really shouldn't.

But if we just accept that and sit back in resignation that a screwed up state of affairs is just to continue, what then?  Well, it really doesn't help, does it?  It only permits greater abuses, as the opportunity passes by for this country to learn from its errors.

No, we should not let this happen.  But the issue is, this has been precisely what has been happening, as the lobbyists win their victories, as the industry captured regulators and politicians.

The public just doesn't get outraged, because it's used to living in a constant state of cynicism about government that saps the will to change it, that puts Americans into a funk.  Conservatives don't spread their outrage over big government and everything else for nothing.  If everything is terrible, everything is corrupt, then why not opt for letting the whole thing just burn?

The irony, of course, is that if people went "hey, that's MY government", if they ditched the learned helplessness of years of conservative misrule, they might do something constructive about it.

The truth is, the government is not some alien thing dropped in from another galaxy.  These are the people we select from among us.  They are there, generally, at our pleasure.  If we make the hard, fast decision that they are out, short of an unthinkable military coup, they are out.

Thing is, though, our concentration has been diffused.  If the conservatives are to be believed, we only get what we want when we just let the chaotic mix of self-interests determine everything.  No, we can't make a conscious decision as a country anymore.  We can't lay down the law.  We have to just trust that the screwed-up status quo is the best we're going to get.  We just have to sit in our own mess and get used to the stink.

I am no rabid opponent of markets or capitalism.  But I don't believe we can act like the folks in the market will write rules that will orient themselves to the public good.  I believe that the interests of those industries ought to be set in some kind of balance with the interests of the public, with the public interests taking precedence, all things being equal.

Things are as bad as they are now because the consequences of a lifetime worth of negligence and carelessness don't go away overnight.  It will be hard, unpleasant work to undo all the damage, and in a society like ours, the despair that this prospect presents us can be a major source of resistance.

In fact, that's sort of how we got Reagan and all the others that followed him.  People saw all the things going wrong, and they simply gave up, and listened to those who preached getting theirs while the getting was good.  Faced with terrible problems, we listend to those who told us that the solution was to give into our thirst for instant gratification, self-enrichment.

And you know what?  The same people are saying the same things all over again.  They're making the same promises, stirring up the same false hopes.  They are hoping that people will forget the results of those policies over the last thirty years, hoping to blame everything on the liberals and on the President.  They want us to be distracted by the fury of the here and now, and forget where their actions lead us.

In facing this situation, therefore, We must appeal, yes, to hope, and not despair.  Despair is the enemy of progress here, because it saps the will to fight.  When we talk of the Seven Deadly Sins, this is what gets labelled as Sloth.  Sloth is not simple laziness, it is the kind of despair that robs you of your ability to do what needs to be done.

We need to commit ourselves to getting done what needs to be done, to defeating, rather than surrendering in the face of whatever corruption or failure of governance we see.  And I'm not just talking about the political junkies right here, I'm talking about the nation as a whole.

We have, before, as a nation, risen to meet such challenges.  Drastic reform is within our capability, as it was within those of our forefathers.  Consider the world that those who came before us changed to deliver us the prosperity and prominence we enjoy even today, and you can see that our challenge is not so great as we might think.

But we have to motivate ourselves first.  We have to stop taking for granted that this is the natural way things have to be, and understand that we can do better than this, and will do better than this, if we keep at it long enough.

I understand why some of you feel that everything's just screwed up.  Everything is.  But I assume you got into all this with the aim of changing that.  I assume that what you want to do is more than just be a spectator to your country's continued fall from grace.  There are two kinds of realism, the passive kind that just says "don't rock the boat, this is how things are, and we must adjust to it", and the active kind that says "This is how things are, they are unacceptable, but if we are to change and evolved the system for the better, we must start by acknowledge the truth of how things are now, and write up our plans from there."

Our Republic was designed to be adaptable, to change in the face of challenges in order to meet them.  We can either be one more force acting as inertia against that change, as our despair drags us down and our feelings of helplessness paralyze us, or we can make the conscious decision to be active realists, people who acknowledge reality so they can change it and help the country move on.

Crossposted at Watchblog

Originally posted to First Amendment Remedies on Wed May 05, 2010 at 10:08 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bagman, buddabelly, marykk, aravir, agoner, roumnmuw

    The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

    by Stephen Daugherty on Wed May 05, 2010 at 10:08:55 AM PDT

  •  Don't worry, Americans will NEVER dispair. (0+ / 0-)

    If this were any other country, with so many losing everything while Wall Street bankers loot the economy, there would be rioting in the streets.  Not in America.  In America, the big concern while the (once)working stiff loses everything is "Take me out to the ball game...."

    My theory is it's all the SSRIs Americans are doped up on.

    •  I don't particularly care what Americans are on.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini

      ...I care what they were doing.

      Part of the reason why we don't have rioting in the streets is that this is a radical thing to do, and we're not fond of radicals here.  Even so, we don't need to hang back here.  We're not fond of radicals, but we aren't fond of crooks or incompetents here.

      We need to appeal to the protestant work ethic.  We need to appeal to the average American's sense that things should work, and aren't working, and can work if we only put our minds to it.

      The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

      by Stephen Daugherty on Wed May 05, 2010 at 10:31:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i believe you (0+ / 0-)

    have misanalysed the situation.

    americans are not in despair.  they are anesthetized.

    some of the people here have concluded that we cannot stem the tide.

    we would be such a tiny minority that if we all went out the middle of the street and laid down, we would have no impact.

    we would be a subset of those who have not only been committed to changing all this, have worked harder than even most of those who are working.

    people cannot be motivated by lectures like this when life is short.

    one very famous african american i know has been one of the people who has worked the hardest and risked the most.

    he has said precisely what i have said above: life is short; people want to carve out a tiny measure of happiness.

    very, very few are willing to break themselves on the wheel of sacrifice and even those sometimes recognize there are some situations in which it is futile.

    despair is not a deadly sin.

    it is a human frailty.

    i wonder what you would tell the critically depressed?

    that they were committing a sin?

    this kind of logic is anathema to me.

    i am sure you have all the best intentions but this approach is itself counterproductive.

    Just say "No" to extreme capitalism.

    by fernan47 on Wed May 05, 2010 at 10:40:42 AM PDT

    •  One of the neurological hallmarks... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greengemini, fernan47

      ...of depression is the feeling that one is in a rut, and the actual hardening, at the synaptic level, of that rut.  A person gets to where they know they want to do something else, be somewhere else, but they just lack the motivation.

      Neurologists would tell you that one of the critical things to do with such people is get them out of their typical environs, out of their typical routine, because that merely reinforces the problem.

      So I am not being callous to the fact that this country may be feeling numb, anesthetized.  No, I am saying that we must get past that, that we must break through the logic that leads us right back to the same place, and rework our thinking and our actions.

      Whatever we do, we must take the approach that we cannot afford to let ourselves remain in the place we are right now.  Despair can be a deadly sin, when it saps us of the will to break from a situation that is killing us as a nation, bit by bit, and that is convincing those of us with the best ideas and the country's best interests at heart to forgo the conviction necessary to move past things.

      We cannot let the insane and the unhinged be the only people who have any kind of enthusiasm in this country.  We must match their commitment, even it is by sheer stubborn unwillingness to lose to them.

      The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

      by Stephen Daugherty on Wed May 05, 2010 at 10:54:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well perhaps (0+ / 0-)

        there is some sort of chemical exchange between humans in any society.

        maybe there is a kind of collective synaptic damage.

        i just can't see despair as a sin.

        this is blaming the victim.

        it is not a matter of commitment for someone like me.

        the commitment has always been there and the sacrifice has always been freely given.

        it is possible to run out of steam and even jesus despaired.  there is no way i can read that part of his story as his sin.

        within christian ideology jesus cannot sin.

        actually, i don't believe in sin.  there are immoral actions, but not sin in my universe.

        your rhetoric operates out of sin and guilt and it won't work.

        you can't condemn people into motivated action.

        i understand what you are reaching for, but it is unacceptable, but worse it can't work, in my opinion.

        Just say "No" to extreme capitalism.

        by fernan47 on Wed May 05, 2010 at 07:17:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sin isn't about blame. (0+ / 0-)

          It's about error, about missing the mark.  Could you not agree that human beings are inherently fallible?

          And further along, can you not also agree that people can become depressed about problems to the extent that they become discouraged, and miss opportunities to do something constructive about the problems in question?

          Despair is a sin when we choose to give up opportunities to make things better, because we let our troubles sap our will to reform and make improvements.  It doesn't have to be a sin of malice.  It just has to be an error.

          I am not condemning people, I am warning them away from error.  Is it not appropriate to warn people away from  error?

          As for Jesus?  He's sinless, I believe, because as the son of God he had insight into what the right thing to do was, the best moral instincts of any human who walked the face of the Earth. But he was human, and he did despair and become frustrated. When he despaired, he still went ahead and carried out his Father's plan for redeeming the world.  He got past his moment of despair, and worked for the greater good, despite the cost to himself.

          What's the old line about a mistake not being an error until you refuse to correct it?  Well, American made a lot of mistakes, and they only became permanent errors for us when we failed to take care of them.

          The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

          by Stephen Daugherty on Thu May 13, 2010 at 10:55:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Despair is a word that (0+ / 0-)

    is, in many respects, appropriate as a response to the conditions of the country, and the world/earth today.  I,as a psychotherapist and social worker, have been contemplating the best systems intervention I can come up with to address what the present situation is with consideration to what is to come as we hit a possible collapse situation--or minimally a power-down situation, when environmental destruction/change, energy/resource depletion, and recognition of economic limits becomes impossible to deny anymore.  There will be panic ---> despair.

    We need to build awareness and resilience now.

    Find your own voice--the personal is political.

    by In her own Voice on Wed May 05, 2010 at 11:46:00 AM PDT

  •  I think the assertion we should bring into the... (0+ / 0-)

    ...next election is the question of whether we not only want to move on from the mistakes of the past, but whether we want to remain moved on from them.  The key question each voter must ask themselves is whether voting for any Republican will achieve that.

    The predictable answer, if we've been paying attention, is not just no, but hell no.

    The Republicans have used the filibuster as a way to wait out the clock on America's discontent with the last decade's policy, to delay change until Americans lose their hunger for it.

    We cannot think that the Republicans have just given up on their last decade's worth of policy.  This year is still a referendum on the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress, because few of the people involved in either of those have shown remorse or regret as they've pushed the same old crap once again.  We cannot fool ourselves into believing, as a nation that a bad Democrat is no better than a good Republican.

    We are naive if we think we can count on Republicans to give up whatever power we let them have in the interests of punishing bad Democrats.  We have to get them early, in the primaries, and replace them with good candidates.

    The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

    by Stephen Daugherty on Wed May 05, 2010 at 01:27:04 PM PDT

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