Whimsy is the solution, for now
August 10, 2018
Should we worry about the future? Of course. But how far into the future? We should certainly complete the obligations we have committed to for today. And maybe next week. Beyond that, however, something unforeseen may get in the way.
In matters of politics and public policy, it’s much more complex.
How much to worry about the incompetence of the American president? Or the tilt to the right of the Israeli prime minister?
Each of those characters may be the most weighty influence on the near future of the U.S. and Israel, but there is lots else that can mess up whatever they might be planning for tomorrow or beyond. Only someone obsessed with risk would bet more than a few cents (or agorot) on which of many possible domestic or international events can intrude.
The most recent tussle between Donald Trump, his secretary of state, and vice president over what he said about Vladimir Putin suggests the coddling that a great leader may face.
Did he mean what he said about an accord with Putin? Did he even realize that he had gone 180 degrees from the agreed script while extemporizing?
Bibi’s great accomplishment in enacting a nationality law appears empty of substance, but nonetheless capable of exciting opposition from Druze and others.
Great changes in and around Israel will depend on the Palestinians putting their house in order, and getting ready for accepting something that has occurred since 1948. And that doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime soon.
It’s not a crap shoot, especially for stable democracies.
Bureaucracies in the fields of social policy, diplomacy, and security do almost all of the work, and very important in their actions is established policy and precedent. Things move incrementally, usually in small changes from what’s existed. Adjustments come in response to what’s not expected, but big changes are infrequent and unpredictable.
The headlines are likely to be dramatic, but that’s more likely to reflect a concern for media ratings than any certainty about what’s likely to be important.
Lots of Americans and Israelis may be embarrassed by details of what their leaders have been saying, tweeting, or doing, but in neither place is there a promising alternative to the man in charge worth betting on. Israel’s left and center is neutralized by the conflicts within Palestine.
Lots of Americans may be embarrassed by their president, but no fix appears to be obvious. Cynicism, or more likely whimsy, is appropriate for anyone concerned about the future.
Cynicism may be too serious an option. Whimsy is less costly, and no less effective than donating to any of the do-gooders promising to fix, or call attention to the plight of the environment, inadequate social programs, corruption in government, the dangers lurking in migration, or evil outside of one’s borders.
In a mature society, like the U.S. or Israel, there’s plenty of legislation, regulation, and administrative cadres in place. Most likely all the workable solutions have been considered on high. Security forces seem capable of defending against the likely threats. Both the U.S. and Israel, along with numerous other developed countries have programs that have helped ambitious individuals at the bottom of their societies get themselves out of misery. Nothing’s perfect, or anywhere close to ideal.
None of the do-gooders seems likely to civilize the evils or incompetence prevailing among Palestinians, or the enmity that precludes Muslims from coming together and agreeing to modernize and liberalize their societies.
For the meantime, we seem stuck with Trump’s passion and grammar, and Bibi’s symbolic moves to the right.
Those worried about Israel’s security can relax. The IDF and other organizations are active, imperfect, but largely successful. So far the damage from incendiary kites and balloons has been less costly than a military operation that will cost some Israeli lives and would not, in all probability, bring Gaza any closer to a peace-accepting, and stable locale, whose government can reach and honor agreements with the variety of armed Palestinian activists or its neighbors.
Should the next balloon that brings fire to a kindergarten actually kill or injure children, then all bets are off.
Alfred E. Neuman had it about right. There ain’t no cause for serious worry for those living in tolerable societies, at least partly because there ain’t any sure way of making them better.
Contribute what you will of your money to the do-gooders, sign petitions and demonstrate. Chances are better that it’ll make you feel good than make things better for the rest of us.
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