Human beings have always operated with assumptions and presumptions, paradigms. Paradigms allow us to bypass endless proofs and self discovery. Most paradigms are founded in experience or truth, usually. We assume the water that comes out of a tap is potable, and it usually is. That paradigm saves each of us untold hours of testing and boiling water. Our society could not operate if we abandoned that paradigm.
Throughout history human beings have opted to accept false ideas in the interest of immediate needs, sacrificing long term interests for short term gain. With the incredible expansion of the world's population, and the known limits of resources, as a people we must begin addressing longer term needs and sustainability.
In the Middle East, the cradle of civilization, Two separate and distinct societies emerged. The people who became the Jews were settled farmers, they planted crops in the river bottoms and lived in small, permanent communities. They had two mortal enemies, the people who were the nomadic raiders of the desert, and pigs. Wild pigs live near water, because they do not aspirate, and, that is where the best foods grow. An active pig can ruin an acre of grain in one night. Devastating to a subsistence community. Pigs were so dangerous and destructive to those communities that they must be destroyed completely. To that end, pigs were declared "unclean", they could not even harvest the protein of that dangerous creature. Quite wisely, the nomadic raiders, who made their living primarily by raiding the crops of the farmers also declared pigs non grata. The reason was the same, pigs ate the crops of the farmers, the same crops the raiders depended on for their survival. That paradigm was so strong that it made it into the religious mythos of both cultures. With most societies of the world enjoying, or even depending on pork as a protein source, that particular paradigm could not be in effect everywhere.
When founded on relevant truth paradigms make life easier, more productive, safer. When founded on incorrect ideas, bad information, or lies paradigms can be wasteful, dangerous, destructive, or even deadly. Picasso said ", Art is a lie that reveals truth".
All Roads Lead to Rome
The Roman Empire lasted about a thousand years. Through most of that time there was a commonly help paradigm that Rome would last forever. Things change.
The walls of Troy were impenetrable, according to their paradigm, until that most wondrous deception, Menelaus' gift horse. this is Troy no more, no longer queen of Ilium. Though fortune change, endure thy lot; sail with the stream, and follow fortunes tack Hecuba in Euripides "Women of Troy."
In Germany Bismarck established a false paradigm of German elitism. This, along with the paradigm, established by Hitler, that the Jewish people were responsible for Germany's economic problems, allowed the rise of the Nazis and the consequent World War.
In America we have operated with many paradigms over the years. America is the "Land of Plenty", and, "The Land of Opportunity." Both great ideas, if true. Both were once true, neither are true today.
At present there are three dangerous and false paradigms that infect foundational beliefs of many Americans; America has a functional democracy, economies can expand infinitely, There is enough carbon fuel to operate society.
Our democracy has morphed into something unrecognizable by our Founding Fathers. Their vision was open and honest debate, by free men, honestly sharing opinions and coming to a social consensus based on wide distribution of honest information. What we have now are elections based on propaganda, with politicians who view contributors as constitutions, who view voters and citizens as feed stock to be managed, not led. As consequence, legislation is uniformly directed for the benefit of special interests, not citizens or the general good.
The idea that economies can expand infinitely is a delusion wrought by the happy experience of hundreds of years of resource plundering. While there are sufficient core needs resources available that paradigm may be true, and inventions and ideas may result in better, easier lives, or more monetary profits, in the end humans have living requirements that are core to sustainable life. When resources necessary to meet those needs are not available economic expansion (a generally higher quality of life) cannot continue.
Our economy and our society is fully dependent on the availability of cheap oil. We are gluttonously consuming 20% of the worlds production of crude. 25% of that is used for personal transportation. Shockingly, only 1% of that is used to actually move the vehicle. The scientific consensus is that world production is now at capacity. As the worlds present, rather available reserves begin to empty new resources will be much more expensive to produce, and much more valuable to the world. The rest of the world's economies are growing at stunning rates. As these economies grow, the Middle Classes' of these societies grow at rates faster than gross economic expansion. The Middle Class is the primary consumer of crude oil energy, consequently, pressure on crude consumption grows at compound rates. China already sells more new cars than the U.S. In the U.S. we have a dedicated suburban life style. That concept cannot stand in the face of the reality of energy economics. Continued acceptance of the paradigm of cheap oil will be disastrous for American life, quickly. We must abandon that idea and, as a society, culture, and country face the facts and redesign our lives for urban life, alternative energy, mass transportation. The necessity of maintaining a living environment also demand this of us. Crude oil is a valuable asset of mankind. It will only become more valuable as time passes. We must husband our resource and protect our environment.
In every area of life we base our thinking on ideas that we accept as true or virtuous. Decisions based on faulty "truths" have led to disaster throughout history. At this point in time the directions we take as a people will determine the future of our progeny. Will we give them a happy, sustainable world, or will our decisions be based on fallacy and leave them with a dangerous, painful life?