In a spoof of country music’s sad songs of heartache and woe, the old “Hee Haw” TV show periodically featured a couple of its regulars dejectedly wailing a song of total anguish:
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
For many Americans in 2020, that lament could be the anthem of our national despondency, expressing our dismay and exasperation at humankind, which has seemingly gone mad:
– Fanatics in “Make America Great Again” caps rabidly cheering a tyrannical, lying – and clearly insane – president.
– Avaricious corporate executives and reckless public officials spreading and prolonging the coronavirus by rushing employees into infected workplaces, thus knowingly sickening and killing thousands of them.
– Viciously xenophobic U.S. government officials cruelly separating impoverished refugee families at the border, incarcerating their terrified children – even babies – in cages.
– A militarized police system that won’t stop targeting and murdering innocent Black people and then beats, shoots and arrests the outraged citizens who protest the killings.
– Corporate profiteers who routinely poison people and our planet have no fear of being stopped or jailed for their rapacious immorality, routinely poisoning people and our planet.
– A supposed “democracy” that produces plutocratic, kleptocratic governments by autocratically rigging the rules to block millions of eligible voters from casting ballots.
– Roving gangs of goofball Proud Boys strutting around in militia costumes, puerilely proclaiming themselves heroes for beating and shooting protesters whose politics they dislike.
– A new cadre of wackadoodle extremists who advocate political violence by promoting the group hallucination that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is secretly leading a takeover of America by a fiendish Democratic cabal of child sex traffickers and cannibals.
And … holy crap. What is wrong with people? Has the savagery, selfishness and raw, animal hatred within the human species finally come out of the darkness to devour our society?!
Undeniably, 2020 has been despair-inducing – and there are still a few dicey weeks left! Indeed, Trump is still contesting November’s national election results – which will either somewhat alleviate or dramatically exacerbate the sense of gloom permeating the progressive community.
So, instead of speculating about either outcome, I’m offering up some TIMELESS TRUTHS ABOUT HUMANITY that will apply however Trump’s Lawsuit-palooza turns out. These little-discussed maxims might help all of us get a grip, step back from hopelessness and push ahead in our political work with a fresh perspective on what is possible.
Warning! These truths are so contrary to present-day conventional thinking – and so at odds with our recent sojourn through the dark jungle of Trumplandia – that when some people are first exposed, their brains get whiplash. So, brace yourself. Here goes:
No. 1 Truth: Most people are fundamentally fair-minded, kind and generous.
No. 2 Truth: The basic human instinct is not dog-eat-dog selfishness but social cooperation and sharing.
You might holler in disbelief, “How can such happy ‘truths’ jibe with that litany of horrors above?” Well, although there are obvious exceptions to the rule, decades of behavioral studies, recurring surveys, in-depth conversations, cultural histories, real-life experiences and every other kind of group observation have by and large produced the same finding: The great majority of people are guided in their daily actions and relations by deep values of fairness and sharing.
Unfortunately, these days, the small minority that rejects those democratic values for the meaner spirits of elitism, avarice, narcissism, privilege and self-aggrandizement tend to be wealthy 0.1 percenters – plutocrats who own and run nearly everything from the economy to the political system. Having deliberately and relentlessly maneuvered in the past half century to attain a controlling level of wealth and power in our country, those moneyed few are now doubling down to grab even more wealth and power at our expense.
And while that is distressingly negative, the countervailing positive is that we progressives have far more potential than generally realized to build our majority in politics, the workplace, legislation and social programs. We ought to be ardently appealing to the public’s innate preference for a society that’s equitable and cooperative.
Yes, the established order assumes We the People are, at heart, wicked beasts who must constantly be constrained, lest we return society to kill-or-be-killed barbarity. But the preponderance of real-life evidence exposes that ideological precept as an elitist canard. In fact, it turns out that humankind is, well, overwhelmingly kind.