“Now I ask you: what can be expected of man as a being endowed with such strange qualities? Shower him with all earthly blessings, drown him in happiness completely, over his head, so that only bubbles pop up on the surface of happiness, as on water; give him such economic satisfaction that he no longer has anything left to do at all except sleep, eat gingerbread, and worry about the non cessation of world history––and it is here, just here, that he, this man, out of sheer ingratitude, out of sheer lampoonery, will do something nasty.
He will even risk his gingerbread, and wish on purpose for the most pernicious nonsense, the most non economical meaninglessness, solely in order to mix into all this positive good sense his own pernicious, fantastical element.”
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Notes from Underground, 1864)
Many of us are at a loss for words today as we watch elements run rampant who would happily see the United States destroyed to institute anarchy or rule by the elite or their own utopia. Fyodor Dostoyevsky was, however, at no loss for words as he ground away at the psychological roots of such tendencies, tendencies that likely can be found within us all. An essential message of this early work seems to be that we cannot be content and that if we had it all, we’d tear it all down just out of boredom and discontent.
As I watch the great recent, and perhaps revolutionary, crises play out in the media recently, I think that there’s another insidious and long term foible at work or perhaps a more sinister and coordinated long-term effort to undermine the world’s most prosperous and perhaps most free nation. We don’t appreciate what we have. In the inaction or lack of resistance by good people to the forces of anarchy, I think that all too many question whether the United States is really worth saving. Maybe we are patriarchal, racist, bigoted, greedy and haughty; certainly there is no shortage of voices promulgating this view. Something keeps people from the kind of stand one might expect from a people who’d like to regarded as brave.
But this isn’t the best time to take a stand. That time came decades ago when we established government schools and then stood by while, by degrees, narratives more befitting socialists than free people were inculcated into America’s children (the adults of today). We gave only mild protest as our media skewed ever leftward and we kept watching. Now rousing the American people to defend their nation and its fundamental ideas isn’t easy. Largely, we don’t know even know what those fundamental ideas are thanks, again, to our media and educational establishments. This is now an uphill battle.
We’re largely an ungrateful people, comfortable, sedate and unmindful of history. We’re insensible to the great progress of the western world over disease, poverty, tyranny, environmental destruction and yes, even racism. And so, we can rail against the agitators and anarchists but we’re all a part of the problem, as Mr. Dostoyevsky would agree.
I write about the environment and I make an effort to confine myself somewhat to this realm. But I see the same forces at work here, a constant determined narrative of environmental decline at the hands of capitalists and, particularly, led by the United States. I spend enough time digging into these matters to know better, to know that there is, at least, a strong counter-narrative based in facts and trends. Few Americans do know these things, as one might assess by a survey of what Americans like to read or what constituted their scant and propagandist environmental education. If you’re understanding of the environment was extracted from the pages of the New York Times, you might believe that we would do just as well to scrap the America we know and start over.
To be more specific, how many have encountered these trends or characterizations in the media? The following describe a few of the very positive indicators I’m aware of concerning the American environment and either I’m ill-informed or you’re following media sources that are willfully ignorant of these matter, which is kinder than simply saying that they lie.
- The forest land of the eastern United States if far more extensive than it was around 1900. The humus is also deeper and the trees older.
- Our waters are cleaner than they were at almost any time in the Twentieth Century.
- We are a rich enough nation that we can afford to institute sensible pollution control measures and have done so. Our effluents and emissions are fractions of what they were in the 1970’s.
- Our energy sources are diverse and largely clean. Coal remains the dirtiest form of fossil fuel but stack emissions of sulfur and other pollutants are less than 10% per source what they were pre-1980.
- Megafauna are more plentiful than at any time since the 1800’s. This is a trend I’m particularly aware of in the east but I believe the same trend is afoot in the west. I have much first-hand knowledge here and this trend encompasses all from fisher cats to moose. Even mountain lions are doing great on a 100-year time scale.
- Diverse native fishes are on the rise in places formerly too polluted to provide habitat or spawning sites. This follows in the wake of the east’s reforestation.
I could go on. And it’s not purely environmental progress everywhere, all the time. But that’s not the point. The point is that you never hear the good stuff, and this hints at an underlying agenda. If you believe that the United States is, overall, clean even while prosperous, you might find this nation worth preserving. If you think that the United States is the international leader of all that’s going wrong in the biome, you might be ambivalent about its preservation.
If I were to stretch beyond my own expertise, I might also remind people to give some thought to the value of
- The rule of law
- Separation of powers
- Private property
- Limited government
- An independent judiciary
- Checks and balances
- Freedom of speech
- The sovereignty of the individual
All this is to say, don’t take things for granted and please don’t rely on the singularly biased perspective of malcontents. And what if we tore down the United States only to find that it’s humans who are patriarchal, racist, bigoted, greedy and haughty, and not America after all?