Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I predict. . .

Yeah, sure.  If there's any thing we do that is more likely to be wrong than our political predictions I don't know what it might be.  If we ever get the impression that someone is good at prediction it's usually because we've forgotten or never examined the vast matrix of failure the occasional success is imbedded in. The best we can do is to give odds but somehow that 30% chance of rain never seems to mean much or be of much use when deciding whether to take the boat out today.  That national speed limit was sure to save lives, that drug law was supposed to make life safer and it must be someone's fault someone's failure when it didn't. Just whose fault you say it is, says much about who you are, whether it's Obama, the NRA, women, men, the Liberals or the Tea Party. Our predictions and the predictions we choose to believe give us away.

Of course the purpose of many predictions isn't to predict, but to scare, to inflame, to mislead, to further a cause and of course to generate ratings. The public loves being inflamed, scared and to be the first to know something scary and all to the point where the authority and veracity of the predictor is ignored. Hell, we passionately adhere to predictions that have proved wrong for thousands of years, telling ourselves "any day now" and we find enough to satisfy ourselves in predictions that "there will be a storm, an earthquake, a war" to keep the fantasy going.  If anything sums up the human condition I'm not sure it isn't the story of Chicken Little and when a prediction that a giant asteroid would kill us all on March 35, 2041 appeared on CNN, the cackling started before many dumb cluckers bothered to notice that no such date is currently possible or even questioned the authority of the prophet: Marcus575.  NASA says it's a hoax but of course nobody is going to forgive that buzzkill bunch of liars, and after all they're lying about climate change and that face on Mars. Like most thwarted predictions it will end in a witch hunt by angry and ever more intransigent denialists.  I predict.

I will go to heaven - he will go to hell, my enemies will be defeated, truth will prevail, peace and justice will arrive and Congress will make sensible gun laws that will make the number of  suicidal rampages vanishingly small and "not one more" innocent will be killed by a madman. If only we "raise awareness" there will be no more misogynists, if only we shut down their websites.  If only we can identify the witches, these horrible and horribly eternal animosities will go away in the pure land to come. No our problems are not diverse products of  the large spectrum of human nature, our culture, our unwillingness to identify madness in ourselves, there are specific things; large magazines, specific cartridges, certain materials and there are vague, hazy and slippery legal solutions that sane people must agree upon even without being able to define them.

The "world," whatever that means, didn't end in 1982 or on any of the countless and continuously predicted dates before or since, but it's nearly always because of some minor miscalculation or some misunderstanding about what world means or what the end means or some conspiracy of  liberals/conservatives/Jews/etc and some prophets go on predicting and making careers out of it, succeeding only when the prediction follows some random event: "that storm hit New Orleans because God doesn't like this or that."  The laws get stricter, more complex, more contradictory and more punishment oriented but mayhem persists. The laws get more liberal and don't dictate whom we marry, yet the end is still nigh and God's wrath increases. We wear more rubber bands, say more prayers, hunt more witches -- and we turn to violence.

So to avoid such depressing thoughts about the difficulty in preventing the horrors that have defined human history since before human history we demonstrate, we make up inspiring slogans, we walk around and run around and wave signs and chant hey-hey ho-ho. We hide in our feeling of community and nostalgia for the good old days of protesting real things we could really do something about and we wear rubber bands and ribbons the way we used to sacrifice goats to Yaweh -- and usually we're wrong when we think we're affecting the random nature of existence.

We go to Church, we pray for peace and for aunt Lucy not to die and for rain or for the rain to stop or for our team to win. We punish the sinners, we expel the unbelievers, because without them we'd have to consider our efforts hopeless and our passions vapid.  So sure, assemble in the stadium and shout and pretend some simple "sensible" move will end the pain and when you can't really define what that move, that law, that policy, that program might actually be, why you can just trot our the witches, the straw men and line them up in the blame gallery. After all there is an ample supply of idiots, liars and idiots out there and we must be so right because they are so wrong.

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