Can nations be insane? We hear that repeating past actions expecting a different result is a definition of insanity; one may parse that to equal ignoring reality in conducting one’s life. We consider kids who murder innocents in schools and theaters for no obvious reason, insane. Mobs can act insanely and nations too, for a time. Governments, it seems to me, can be insane; politics itself may be thought a sort of insanity, depending too often upon illusion, unlikely promises and obfuscated reality.
Consider the government of the United States in Washington. It owes some $146,000 per taxpayer and continues to spend 40% more than it receives every year but the President assures that there is no spending problem. The GOP complains of spending but its Congressfolk continue appropriating every dollar the government spends. The voters, like the governors, know this and all tacitly agree to pretend it’s not happening. Is that sanity?
It seems a form of ignoring reality on all sides in an unvoiced hope that reality will somehow, go away and leave everybody alone. Even though every man jack aboard has experience that says such is illusory. Mob behavior? Insanity?
Perhaps government is the illusion, itself. Maybe our leaders do not–cannot–steer the ship of state; maybe they’re just helpless passengers as much as the rest of the citizens, forced to playact that they are steering to maintain their positions. Is it then the ship that’s insane? Surely not, it has no intelligence of its own, merely reflecting the doings of its passengers.
We have then to look at our species, the passengers, whose history displays periodic collisions with reality followed by resulting destruction, a long recovery and ultimately, a repetition of the cycle. Our civilizations rise and fall and rise and fall again, each time better than before but never stable. The Greeks saw it and gave us the legend of the Phoenix.
It seems less insanity than a trap we build ourselves, over and again because we are what we are. As Pogo put it: “We has met the enemy, an he is us.” Which may explain why we are one of few species lacking a major predator to keep us in bounds.
In youth, the vicissitudes of poor judgment and miscalculation were often dismissed with: “Boys will be boys;” but when adulthood was reached, such indulgence was dismissed; adults paid the prices of their mistakes. It was assumed that they had learned during youth not to make them. Though as individuals we pay the prices of our follies, we seem confined in collective youth, repeating our mistakes in spite of thousands of years of unremitting experience. Hmnn…Can a species be insane?