The Third Wave, a centrist organization performing polls and focus groups, visited the back country of Wisconsin to interview focus groups about the 2016 election. The sessions were rich in wise, insightful statements. Mariner cites a few below:
Viroqua is a community with groups of progressives in the midst of Trump-switchers. The Viroqua representatives were eager to extol the virtues of their community. It was an oasis of sanity, an organic farmer in a pink-and-blue plaid shirt said—unlike the dismal city where he’d grown up. “There was no culture with which to identify, just television, drinking, maybe sports,” he said. “There’s nothing to aspire to. You’re just going through life with a case of Mountain Dew in your car.”
. . . What you see in these congressional meetings is a refusal to even play ball with ideas considered too extreme, like single-payer health care. “All these centrist ideals,” he said, “are just perpetuating a broken system.”
. . . A man who extols the area’s turnaround, in a section about the area’s “intense local pride.” “There’s love, beauty, and a sense of opportunity,” he is quoted as saying. “There’s been a rejuvenation of identity.”
An MRI could not have taken a better picture of the state of society in the United States. Despite The Third Way’s desire to discover that centrist values and cooperation were the answer to the nation’s problems, what is revealed are citizens without belief in an unstable, disparate society in all its manifestations: government, financial stability, religion, and therefore, nowhere to attach an identity to something that has value for a lifetime.
Mariner is not an expert historian but he believes the entire human population of the Earth is entering the greatest era of change in human history. Mariner thinks of polar bears clinging to smaller and smaller chunks of ice as the Earth’s climate inevitably reduces the number of ice floes. The bear doesn’t want change any more than we do. But the bear has no choice. We have no choice.
Imagine that the ice floes are chunks of functional society. Slowly, the establishment that represents society has become increasingly dysfunctional and does not serve the interest or need of the society’s members. Like the bear, we cling to the way things were, belief in the old ways, belief in rules that no longer work. We become defensive because we are unsure of new rules and new functions; our familiar chunks are melting . . .
We all remember many movies where the character steps through a mirror or membrane into a wholly strange and other worldly place. Unlike the movies, we can’t step through into a different world in a second or two. Stepping through the mirror into the future takes a lifetime – perhaps many generations. While we step through the mirror, part of our body is in the familiar world and part already is in the new world. Living in two realities at once makes no sense to either half and there is stress and confusion and doubt. The bear and the person both feel the change and become unsure. Unsureness needs no intellect; the soul knows things are changing beyond its control.
Today, and for the past seventy-five years, social change is accelerating. From a simple television to computers and robots and instantaneous communication with telephones that take the place of interpersonal growth and social fine tuning, we are in a swirl of change.
The only advice mariner can give is to let “progress” take its course, no matter how convoluted. Hold onto faith in one’s self; use the old rules while they work but replace them when they don’t. That sounds hollow but it is the only path through the mirror. One must make sense of the fact that guns are not the answer; racism and especially isolationism at any level may give small comfort now but in the long run, will be one’s demise; capitalism and other economically based value systems will stumble; this is a time when people must be more important than money. What primitive tools were to Paleolithic man, reason is to modern man. Separating into small prejudiced groups gives short comfort but prevents stepping through the mirror. Those who defy the mirror have the same fate as the polar bear. There will come a time when the last floe melts.