Two Dissimilar Washington Post Articles Show Us the Fantasy World that We Are Living in — Columnist E. J. Dionne Jr. on Unrealistic Politics and Dr. Craig Bowron on Delusional Expectations about Dying — Where Has the Strength of American Realism Gone?
© 2012 Peter Free
20 February 2012
Undisciplined fantasy kills successful problem-solving.
If we misperceive Reality, it is obviously going to be difficult to deal with it.
Today’s American preference for being deluded attacks us on multiple fronts
Two serendipitously theme-unifying articles from the Washington Post illustrate a culture caught up in fantasy:
E. J. Dionne Jr., Ideological hypocrites, Washington Post (19 February 2012)
Craig Bowron, Our unrealistic attitudes about death, through a doctor’s eyes, Washington Post (17 February 2012)
First — E. J. Dionne’s point about dysfunctional hypocrisy in politics
Politicians continue lying, even when they already know (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that they are going to do the opposite of what they promise.
Columnist Dionne wrote:
Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they’re anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers.
Also: Why do they bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?
© 2012 E. J. Dionne Jr., Ideological hypocrites, Washington Post (19 February 2012)
He points out that “conservative” candidates simultaneously criticize entitlements, but try to hold onto the senior vote by vowing never to cut Medicare and Social Security.
They praise free markets, while simultaneously keeping free market operations out of artificially high defense spending.
And some candidates oppose government “bailouts,” but inconsistently support the one for Wall Street, while opposing that which saved Detroit’s auto industry.
Although Mr. Dionne was writing about “conservative” politicians, I would toss President Obama into the same dysfunctionally hypocritical group. His presidency has not been even a pale shadow of what he “promised” it would be. From populism to entrenched plutocracy in the wink of an eye.
Second — internal medicine doctor Craig Bowron on illusions about dying
Dr. Bowron wrote:
For many Americans, modern medical advances have made death seem more like an option than an obligation.
We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life’s natural conclusion.
© 2012 Craig Bowron, Our unrealistic attitudes about death, through a doctor’s eyes, Washington Post (17 February 2012) (paragraph split)
Perhaps one has to be close to medicine and nursing to experience this disconnect between reality and cultural expectation.
Dr. Bowron thinks that our increasing flight into cities and away from agricultural and hunting lives has insulated most of us against death’s realities. Affluence shields us by isolating the dying away from sight by cooping them up in hospitals and nursing homes. We lose sight of what aging brings with it.
Bowron points out that much of the advance in life expectancy since 1900 has been due, not to dramatically increased longevity, but to declines in infant, child, and maternal mortality.
For example, in 1900, if one made it to age 65, one could expect 12 more years. In 2007, the same person at 65 could look forward to another 19.
An 85-year old in 1900, could expect 4 more years. In 2007, the same person could expect 6.
Though Dr. Bowron only implies it, my experience has been that a sometimes considerable part of this extended longevity is made at the cost of medically prolonged suffering:
With unrealistic expectations of our ability to prolong life, with death as an unfamiliar and unnatural event, and without a realistic, tactile sense of how much a worn-out elderly patient is suffering, it’s easy for patients and families to keep insisting on more tests, more medications, more procedures.
© 2012 Craig Bowron, Our unrealistic attitudes about death, through a doctor’s eyes, Washington Post (17 February 2012)
Tying the larger story of shared delusion together — an insightful quotation from a retired nurse
Cultural delusion creates suffering. Delusion and Reality painfully conflict.
At a certain stage of life, aggressive medical treatment can become sanctioned torture.
A retired nurse once wrote to me: “I am so glad I don’t have to hurt old people any more.”
© 2012 © 2012 Craig Bowron, Our unrealistic attitudes about death, through a doctor’s eyes, Washington Post (17 February 2012)
This nurse’s statement can just as well apply to delusional political theater.
Big government is here to stay because History has proven it necessary, when dealing with large populations of people — at least in regard to some problems.
Rather than engaging in silly stories of how we are effectively going to go back to the Stone Age — when we lived in small clans and were mere specks on a planet large enough to absorb our impact — why not accept our new planet-populated condition? Why not choose more realistic paradigms that work better within the Third Millenium’s actual framework?
The moral? — Organized delusion bites us all
Truth-telling would be a helpful cultural reinvention.