The Age of Arrogance

I think the alternate term is the “Information Age,” and I’m beginning to think that, like Adam and Eve, we weren’t ready for the information we’ve accumulated, and also like our garden couple, it’s made us think we can be like God, which we obviously can’t.

I’m a teacher, so you’d think I’d be in favor of knowledge, and I am. I used to have an inscription over my classroom door that said, “Know lots of stuff.” It was a quote from a drama teacher that I once overheard in New York -- an inelegant statement, but a true one. It was my answer to the usual teenage whine of, “Why do we have to know this?”

So why am I complaining? Information is everywhere now; we live in a world filled with experts who know everything and can make all my decisions for me – I can relax. Really? This common assumption begs some questions:

Q1. What does it take to be an expert? College, one would presume, but a lot of people have even advanced degrees and we don’t call them all experts. Experience? You’d assume that, but how much is enough? Was the experience successful or just something the “expert” in question muddled through? Is success in one’s field necessary and if so, how do we measure that?

Q2. This is a corollary to Q1: Can expertise be purchased? Is it possible that one can attain “expert” status by saying the right things, kissing up to the right people, by singing the right song? Can one lose “expert” status by refusing to do so? I think here of Guillermo Gonzalez, the astrophysicist who lost tenure at Iowa State because his heavenly observations brought him to some heavenly conclusions. He was denied expert status because he wasn’t singing along with the Darwinist/atheist chorus.

Q3. Can experts be wrong? Obviously. Look at the changes that have rippled through the area of nutrition. 1. Butter, bad – margarine, better 2. Trans-fats (margarine) bad, butter better. 3. No to all fats – yes to good fats – yes to
all fats and no to carbs. You all know how hard it is to actually apply all the contradictory dietary information thrown at us.

Look at the global warming nonsense. There has been no warming in 18 years. So the experts tried saving face with changing the term to “climate change” and calling the cooling we’re experiencing a mere “hiatus” a “pause” in the warming, which brings up another question:

Q4. Does being an expert make you an honest, trustworthy person? Does it make you foolproof? Why would a person with expert status lie? That answer is too easy for comfort – to keep, or get, funding; to keep, or get tenure; to belong, to publish and make a name for himself; to further a political goal. Reasons to be dishonest are crawling out of every dark corner. And here’s another troubling question: if you are the expert, who’s going to say you’re wrong?

That puts us in a quandary.
    There’s so much information out there that we feel overwhelmed and, therefore, depend on the experts to sort it out for us.
    However, we don’t know what the experts actually know and what they just want to believe, or think they have to say.
    We don’t even know what makes these people “experts.” Note that the new Ebola czar is not even a doctor.
    This predicament is intensified a thousand-fold by the fact that people no longer share the same values. Questions that were once answered on the basis of principle can no longer be addressed that way. We expect a decision on legalization of marijuana to be determined by “studies” performed by “experts.” We no longer understand that numbing our mental acuity is disrespectful to the body God gave us. No. We have to rely on the experts, none of whom agree, and few of whom seem to be open and honest.

Time was when we didn’t have to decide if it would be legal for a doctor to end the life of someone who was tired of being sick, or just tired of being tired. Time was when abortion wasn’t a reasonable way out of having to bear and raise a child. Time was when we didn’t presume to know what the climate was doing or how human beings might be affecting it.

I am reminded of Edith Wharton’s charming book The Age of Innocence. She couldn’t have known how really innocent the early 20th century was, and we’re no longer there. We’ve wandered into a place where the only knowledge that really matters is being denied a chair at the table of public discourse. The one piece of information that can answer the dilemmas of modern life, the Bible, is pointedly not invited, is in fact, barred. That leaves us with nothing to go on but contradictory, anonymous, and doubtful “studies.”

What’s even more concerning is the fact that expertise seems to have a deleterious effect on humility. In a time when information – raw data – rules, one of the finest traits a person can claim is intelligence, as if one can’t be smart and wrong. If you are blessed enough to be born with an efficient brain, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t give you a leg up in the virtue department, and if you get told too often how bright you are, and nothing happens to contradict that, you could well end up way too taken with your own good fortune. So often in discussions I hear people give as a person’s credentials his “brilliance.” We heard that about our president, and with no corroboration whatsoever, people voted him into the highest office in the land.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that in this age of incredible arrogance we’d end up with a president who is the very definition of hubris. He, along with many of our younger generation, is un-teachable; they already know it all.

Now, because of the arrogance of information and the glut on “experts,” we can no longer read with charity, with curiosity, only with suspicion. I rarely peruse anything without raising that shield of doubt – “Oh balderdash!” or “How do they know that?” Not that it’s a bad thing to exercise some caution and keep our credulity under tight control, but when those “experts” have so abused the public trust that we’re drowning in misinformation and downright disinformation we’re in serious intellectual trouble.

We have knowledge, or are arrogant enough to think we do, but we have no wisdom; we have no understanding of the importance of absolute truth, the glory of real righteousness, let alone the principles of justice. To have a balance of both must be our goal.


Apples and Their Tendency to Rot; The Power of the Presidency

From the beginning America has worked to avoid the tyranny of the monarchy; our forefathers saw up close and personal the disastrous effects of a king gone bad. George III (1738 to 1820) reigned for almost 60 years – which would have been bad enough without the fact that for the last 10 or those years George was stark raving mad. We’re only 6 years into a presidency gone bad and I, for one, am profoundly thankful that there won’t be another 50+ years of this terrifying laughingstock of a regime.

Barrack Obama has created so much havoc with his ideology and policies that it will take us years to recover. His high-handed, pen-and-phone end runs around the Constitution ought to land him in prison, but he is creating the biggest mess by just being who he is.

A president is powerful not just because he can sign laws into being, declare war, sign executive orders, negotiate treaties, and select Supreme Court justices. He has much more influence than that which is delegated to him through our constitution.

Any person in power, whether he is a parent in the family, a teacher in the classroom, a county commissioner, a newscaster or a writer, has the power of his personality. The president, because of the press and the efficiency of modern technology, has the power to change the way people think just through his personality.

I saw that happen during the Clinton years – I can’t tell you how often I overheard high school students using Slick Willy as an example when they were discussing sexual exploits. “Well, if it’s OK for Clinton…”

The truth of the matter is that when a human being is in a prominent position we can all feel it. Trickling down from the White House is Obama’s carelessness, his narcissistic self-indulgence, his sneaky, dishonest, divisive demeanor. These attributes poison all that happens in Washington and much that happens elsewhere.

The press daily treats us to photo ops of the president grinning, laughing, leaning back in his Oval Office chair with his feet on the historic presidential desk. We see him hopping around in glee on golf courses, yucking it up at cocktail parties stocked with the latest Hollywood celebs. We watch him casually “saluting” with coffee-filled Styrofoam. This is the Obama that pops up in my mind and this is his conduct while horrors abound – horrors he could have prevented and may have set in motion. What message does this send? Coolness? I-don’t-careness? It tells the American people that it’s OK to live it up at someone else’s expense as long as you occasionally act angry and say a few stern words. It says that reality is unimportant and the less pleasant the reality the less it matters.

So? Note the behavior of his immediate underlings. Look back at the GSA’s scandalous conferences. The Secret Service has certainly learned how to party in spite of the seriousness of their jobs. Joe Biden stumbles around the country tripping over his own intoxicated tongue and embarrassing all of us. I have no idea what Tom Freidan has been doing at the CDC, but preparing the nation for an Ebola epidemic hasn’t been on the list. And while we’re at it, let’s look at the nonchalant way the hospital in Dallas handled Thomas Duncan the first time he came in. Take two aspirin and call us in the morning. Gees. But if the most powerful man in the history of the world can just go golfing when the going gets rough, why can’t we? Why should anyone take anything seriously?

And who knew that Americans could be so self-indulgent? So self-involved? Yet, it seems to be a very stylish attitude these days. Any speech our Orator-in-Chief gives is heavily peppered with 1st person pronouns. Me. Me. I. His policy decisions all seem to concern his fantasies, his success, his legacy – not the country’s well being.

It is no wonder that it has been during his presidency that selfish bullies are now front and center in social policy-making. Look at what’s happening in Houston with its gay mayor’s efforts to silence evangelical pastors’ ability to teach the biblical stance on homosexuality. I’m sure she feels very comfortable abusing her position to force others to support her lifestyle; evidently it’s all about her. Lois Lerner has absorbed the lesson – damn the Constitution and those pesky conservatives; full speed ahead. She doesn’t like us and that’s all that matters. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor at NBC, saw no problem with breaking her Ebola quarantine because she wanted soup. Look at the rioting that has rocked Ferguson, Missouri. The rioters don’t seem at all interested in what is right and true, but in whatever will push their poor-me agenda.

A stolid belligerence backs this burgeoning egocentricity. Amnesty. Gay marriage. Obamacare. Gun control. I want what I want. No society can survive if this becomes the modus operandi for too many people. How many is too many? That’s the tricky part. See Abraham’s discussion with God about the fate of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33).

Worst of all, however, is Obama’s comfort with the lie, his willingness to dissemble and to do it right in our faces. Truth? What’s that?. He doesn’t hesitate to hide things for electoral convenience (the Bergdahl investigation, for instance) – and he does it even when he knows we know why he’s doing it. He is unflinching in the face of video after video showing him lying.

And look at the rest of his administration: a DOJ who obstructs justice over and over and over. An IRS that can conveniently “lose” important records. A Secretary of State who has covered up her involvement in one of the biggest tragedies to ever befall an American embassy. I could go on and on. Lying has become the way you play the game in Washington.

Has this falsehood-loving corruption flowed any further into American life? Take a close look at Planned Parenthood and their willingness to hide what they’re really up to. Look at the quiet perfidy in the implementation of Common Core. And look, please look, at the number of Americans willing to subvert the voting process. This attitude has saturated all of our institutions.

The lying and the divisiveness are worse than anything I’ve ever seen in government, in American government, and I’m old enough to actually remember Eisenhower. I have never before been attacked and demonized by a president. Even as much as Bill Clinton embarrassed and disgusted me, he never made me feel like persona non grata in my own country.

This us-against-them mentality produced the IRS scandal, the Fast and Furious mess, the voter ID controversy, and has polarized all of us. I used to see Democrats as just Americans with slightly different ways of doing things. That’s gone. Now they are people who call me a racist, homophobic, Islamophobic bigot. How did that happen? Hmm.

A president has power he doesn’t even know about. He is, without most of us even noticing, the current pattern for Americans. His personal values and attitudes seep down into our daily lives. Barack Hussein Obama is ashamed of and angry with America, and now we are, too. It only takes one rotten apple.

Or is this, after all, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Was the barrel going bad before Obama even came on the scene? Did this man get elected by an electorate who saw itself in him?

Quite possibly so. It is my prayer that our compatriots, those who are going soft and attracting fruit flies, will look in the mirror and be horrified at the Obama-esque face that looks back at them. Perhaps the bushel has not all foul and we know that God is patient, loving, and merciful.


Did No One See this Coming? Why Liberals Wear the What-me-worry? Face

We’re not supposed to worry about what Obamacare will do to the nation, or what Islamic purists will do to us, or whether or not we’ll catch Ebola. We’re not supposed to look far enough ahead to see the damage that unlimited immigration will do to our society. We’re not supposed to worry about the results of widespread abortion and sexual promiscuity. If we do any of these things we’re called racist, homophobic, intolerant bigots – just for looking ahead with what Thomas Sowell calls “Stage Two” thinking.

It’s one thing for a group of children to walk through the wardrobe into a world of winter for a grand adventure and quite another for those children to have dragged all the neighborhood kids in there with them. It was one thing for Eve to defiantly take a bite of that “apple”, ignoring what God had warned them not to do, never thinking at all that there will be repercussions. Eve didn’t believe what God told her about that fruit and the eating thereof. She thought she knew better. Liberals think they know better, too.

It was another thing for Adam – who had a clearer view of the consequences – to take that bite. Perhaps he couldn’t have known the mind-boggling effect that would have on the billions of offspring he would produce, but he knew that both of them would have to suffer some consequence. And he did it anyway.

Look back at Eve. She remembered God’s warning, but the serpent told her it would be all right; she’d just be a lot smarter (Was she blonde?). A lot of the liberal left functions the same way. These folks know the warnings. Back in the dark places of their souls their common sense still struggles for breath, but it must be stifled at all cost.

If one thinks ahead, factoring in the fallen nature of man (liberal no-no #1), the likelihood that not everything on this planet is physical – that we’re trapped in a much bigger battle (liberal no-no #2), that decisions have consequences, as Adam and Eve discovered the hard way, then one can clearly see what results will accrue if we walk too abruptly away from the morés of the past.

I listened the other day to a discussion (a shouting match, actually) between a Ben Affleck and author Sam Harris about the dangers of Islam. Harris knew the facts, the history, the actual texts of Islamic dogma and was sounding the alarm: this ideology is dangerous. Affleck got hysterical, claiming loudly that over a billion of the world’s Muslims were nice people and we couldn’t lump them in with a few bad apples. No pun intended.

He didn’t want to look that far down the hallway because he’d already committed to the Doctrine of Non-Judgment – never judge another person, and to avoid having to think too hard, never even judge an idea or a belief system.

Affleck didn’t realize that Harris wasn’t dissing Muslim people; he was pointing out the heinous nature of the ideology of Islam, it’s historic, consistent, scripture-validated violence and barbarity. He wasn’t calling all Muslims barbarians, but he was pointing out that people who strictly adhere to those Islamic scriptures tend to commit barbaric acts. I don’t think Affleck ever considered how much damage just a few of those people can and will do if we let them. He wasn’t looking ahead that far.

ISIS will kill a lot of us before the left will admit that maybe there’s something rotten at the core of Islam. Apples can be like that – rotten cores with still some good fruit around the edges. If we don’t face the vile worm that is thriving at the center of this ideology it will cost us dearly. Of course there are nice Muslims – no one is advocating killing them all.

But that’s not the only danger skulking about unrecognized. The federal government, the CDC, and the White House are more concerned with slogging through their ideological swamp than they are about looking ahead and realizing the danger the country is in from the Ebola virus. We can’t stop flights from West Africa because we once held slaves from that part of the world? Really? Is that an actual mental illness, to be so guilt-ridden that you’re OK with having medical workers in Dallas pay the penalty for regrettable acts committed 200 years ago by people not even their ancestors? Looking back selectively is evidently OK (note they miss the bit about us getting rid of slavery.), but looking ahead and seeing the likely damage to innocent people is not allowed.

Let’s do look down that road:
ν    We live in an extremely mobile society.
ν    We live in an extremely social society.
ν    Very few of us have ever lived in areas where the virus is endemic; we’ve not built up a natural immunity.
ν    This disease looks at first a lot like the flu.
ν    And doctors are trained to expect the flu and not look for exotic diseases. “If you hear hoof beats behind you, don’t assume it’s a zebra.” But Ebola is a zebra, a deadly one. The doctor(s) in Dallas thought “horse” instead of “zebra” and sent the man home with an antibiotic.
Given that scenario, which road should we travel? The we’re-dreadfully-sorry-about-slavery route? Or the let’s-protect-as-many-people-as-we-can route?

That seems self-evident, but if the left admits to what it sees down this terrible road, it will have to admit that its backward-looking, guilt-ridden stance is all wrong, and people will die before the folks caught up in national flagellation will admit they were wrong.

Not only that, but we’ve walked into the whole mess of gender fluidity with no thought at all about the social problems we are creating. I think of the white lesbian couple that is upset because their in-vitro baby is black. Did no one see that coming? Now schools are having trouble figuring out whether transgendered students should play on the boys’ or girls’ teams. Evidently no one thought about those tangles before we started slicing and dicing the human sexual anatomy. Some schools now have unisex bathrooms and dressing rooms where teens can decide on their own gender du jour. Couldn’t be any problems lurking there, right?

And what happens when those of us who still have a common sense crystal ball speak up and point out the rough roads ahead? We get called names, shouted down, and generally picked on. Why? Because the left knows darn well that the road ahead is falling off the cliff and instead of being honest and saying, “Whoa – guess we’d better turn around, “ they clamp their hands over their ears and shout, “La, la, la, la,” as loud as they can. Don’t want to interrupt the fantasy – not even if people die.