Living in La-La Land

One of the greatest gifts of the species homo sapiens is the ability to dream of what might be. Unfortunately, that ability is also one of our greatest curses, because it allows individuals to dream up unworkable and truly terrible beliefs and inspires them to try to impose them upon others, often by force or deception, if not both. In this, mass media, like all technology, allows the amplification of human abilities to spread and impose various beliefs.

So now we live in a country where the President of the United States believes that a tax bill that conveys the majority of its benefits upon the wealthiest one percent of all Americans will improve life for everyone and where a significant percentage of Americans shares that belief. A country where the President and policy makers believe that there’s a workable military solution to the nuclear weapons efforts of North Korea [and there is, that is, if you’re willing to accept the destruction of South Korea and millions of Korean deaths]. A country where roughly half the population believes that the massive proliferation of individual weapons of death actually reduces violence, despite endless and irrefutable [factually, that is] statistics to the contrary.

These sorts of delusions, of course, aren’t limited to the United States, and some other countries are far worse, but even here in the “good ole USA,” I run across personal examples that stagger me, even as I recognize that belief is stronger than fact, stronger than rationality, and more powerful than a speeding locomotive [to totally scramble metaphorical comparisons].

This week, a student we know revealed that she was told not to come for Christmas by her mother because she had set a horrible example for her younger siblings. Her offense? She was dating a young man who was not of her faith. Rejecting your own child for that?

Then I heard the university president claim that over the past twenty years the university had more than doubled in size, but the student/faculty ratio was lower. When the full-time faculty has increased by only thirty percent, but the administration and adjunct faculty have more than tripled, is this self-delusion or deliberate deception?

Here in Utah, President Trump proclaimed that his action to cut the Bears Ears National Monument by more than eighty-five percent would allow native people to have a rightful voice over the “sacred land where they practice their most important ancestral and religious traditions.” Those Native Americans clearly didn’t think much of that, since they supported the original monument size and in fact have so far filed four lawsuits against the Administration. The president also contends that the best Senate candidate for the open seat in Alabama is a confirmed sexual predator of high school girls because the Senate needs that Republican vote, while, of course, Al Franken and John Conyers – both Democrats – should be expelled from Congress for their sexual predation.

A national poll and study revealed that Americans continue to value men on their accomplishments and women upon their appearance. And, as I’ve mentioned so many times before, educational bureaucrats and politicians keep claiming education is getting better, and that more students are going to college and graduating. That may be so, but a greater and greater percentage of them can’t learn and synthesize information or write coherent paragraphs.

All this gives me the uneasy feeling that the “true believers,” those who place belief in their political tribe or faith above facts and reality, are winning and that the United States is indeed moving toward becoming even more of a La-La Land, where all that matters is the strength of belief, whatever that belief may be.

7 thoughts on “Living in La-La Land”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    There is however, a lot of room for interpretation of statistics and other supporting information on either side of those (and doubtless many other) issues. To take just one:

    From https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-data-2016-update/
    BEGIN QUOTE
    In 2014, 139.6 million taxpayers reported earning $9.71 trillion in adjusted gross income and paid $1.37 trillion in individual income taxes.
    The share of income earned by the top 1 percent of taxpayers rose to 20.6 percent in 2014. Their share of federal individual income taxes also rose, to 39.5 percent.
    In 2014, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97.3 percent of all individual income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.7 percent.
    The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (39.5 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (29.1 percent).
    The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a 27.1 percent individual income tax rate, which is more than seven times higher than taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.5 percent).
    END QUOTE

    In other words, given what the top 1% are paying, it would be rather difficult to have a tax cut for all that did not significantly benefit them. Now, the most common counter-argument is that the FICA cap is low enough that the total taxes paid aren’t nearly so heavy on the ultra-rich. And doubtless other arguments can be made, most (IMO) of which boil down to class warfare. I don’t care which is right anymore, but the presumption (by either side) that their version is the only legitimate presentation of reality gets a little annoying.

    Some of the homilies by your choristers did a better job of showing how perspectives may _all_ be self-serving distortions.

    1. Daze says:

      Proving LEM’s point

  2. JakeB says:

    Perhaps the University president meant that the faculty/student ratio was lower but confused his numerator and denominator.

    1. Oh, no. He was quite clear that the ratio had improved slightly.

  3. Tom says:

    “Human Beings are experts at self-delusion; they rarely do anything better.”

    An observation by one of Eric van Lustbader’s characters. This is a simple defense against one’s own poor performance (that is actually laziness).

    If as an adult, you have ever been spoon fed, you realize just how dangerous this practice is even when performed by a benign person interested in your survival.

  4. Alan Naylor says:

    It’s fairly well documented that people like to hold on to their beliefs no matter what. Often times, I believe the phrase is cognitive dissonance, where people struggle to hold on to their beliefs even more strongly when presented with contrary evidence.

    This is powerfully evident when deal with the more ardent Trump supporters. You show them videos of Trump doing what he had already said he would not, or provide documentation of his activities but they will fight tooth and nail, swearing you just misunderstood what he was doing. That everything he is doing is on the up and up, or that it wasn’t wrong in the first place.

  5. CEC says:

    Since a lot of adjunct faculty only cover a course a semester and many of them specialize so they don’t teach every semester, adding all of them into the faculty denominator would certainly make the ratio decline, but in a not evenly vaguely representative way.

    As to self-delusion or deliberate deception, I’d vote for laziness. I see lots of statistics get misapplied by people too lazy to bother looking at the components driving the change in the stats over time.

    Personally, I prefer to see how average class size for required courses has changed over the years, but that’s just me.

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