There’s an inherent human need to look to the past and connect it with what we’re seeing around us. We seek to anchor the new that we see to something more comfortable. It helps us feel like we understand it. Like something beyond our feet has been lit on our path forward helping us to see the newly started all the way through to an understood and predictable end.
Donald Trump is like Andrew Jackson.
The election was going to be a “Barry Goldwater moment”.
Citizens United was a “Dred Scott like decision”.
None are true. No matter how true they did or didn’t turn out to be. History is not something to link back to. It doesn’t repeat itself. It has patterns, but only because it’s full of people. People have patterns. The interesting part of history is when it falls open and expands to show the ground we’ve covered between the notches of the timelines. The passing of time and the progress of man only travels one way though. Forward. Looking back is a lousy way to predict what’s best for the future.
If the history of our planet were condensed into a year, modern humans show up at 11:36 PM on December 31st. The Industrial Revolution happens with 2 seconds ’til midnight. If you do the same to the history of man, that industrial revolution happens in the middle of December. 50 of 52 weeks of our existence happened before there was ever anything more to eat or live in than we absolutely needed.
Things were once very slow. Now they’re not. We’re ill equipped to understand the impacts of our present pace.
Only 56 of the earth’s 5 billion years passed between the first manned flight and space travel. 78 passed between the invention of dynamite and the detonation of the first nuclear bomb. It took us 100,000 years to grow our first billion humans. It took us 12 to grow our last. For an incomprehensible proportion of our time on this planet, almost nothing has been possible. But since things were, the things we’ve done with it are inconceivable. And the speed with which we’re doing it is far too fast to project forward with any honest accuracy at all.
It’s been decades since the human brain was smart enough to operate the world. If you magically deleted from all known data and memory the existence of something like a smartphone, no one person on earth would be able to make it again. As recently as a century ago, you couldn’t say that about any man-made object in existence. Now, you can say it about most things.
If it seems like we’re getting worse at predictions, that’s because we are. Donald Trump trailed Hillary Clinton by the same distance Walter Mondale trailed Ronald Reagan less than 90 days from the election. Teresa May voluntarily called her own election to consolidate conservative power in the UK Parliament because she, and anyone frankly, couldn’t comprehend her losing power. She lost.
This is the new norm. We know nothing Jon Snow.
Here’s an extremely unpopular and uncomfortable truth. None of us know enough about the future at all to feel strongly enough about anything to behave unkindly to anyone because of how they feel about the great unanswerable questions of our time. Politics, after all, is the debate of perpetually unanswerable questions.
When does a fetus become a person?
What’s best for a 300 million person $17 trillion economy?
Which lives matter?
Whose safety and security is most important?
Politically specific questions have no answer. And so politically specific thought has no value. Representative government has purpose. Politics is its unfortunate bi-product for which the rational mind has no material use.
Which leads to a very freeing and raw reality:
If you troll people online for the sake of politics you can’t hide behind context. You’re simply a troll. If you treat a race or ethnicity or nation of origin differently because of your political persuasion, you’re not politically principled. You’re just a racist. If you advocate for stupid unsustainable economic policy because your political affiliation calls for it, you’re not politically compassionate. You’re being stupid and unsustainable.
And if you act out in murderous violence in the name of politics, you are a murderer. And that’s the only way anyone will ever remember you.
We’re hurdling forward at an irrational pace. Perhaps we always were and we’re just starting to realize it. Motion, after all, is by definition, relative. The only certainty that any of us can depend on is that tomorrow will include things you would not have expected. So when it comes, the only thing you can really control is how you live it.
Will you make it better?
Or will you stand on the sidelines and take sides in an argument that has no end. And has no value? How much time will you spend doing that?
Turn off cable news. Stop cheering or jeering through Tweets. Stop sharing political nonage on Facebook. And go live your life, the only thing you can actually control even the slightest part of, in a way that makes the world a better place.