Most who are reading this blog have heard the line quoted at the end of the Pogo comic strip below:
It’s a great reminder, if you can stomach the results of the honest self examination it inherently prescribes, that we as individuals bear responsibility for the circumstances of our lives. But that’s a tough exam to take. So it comes as no surprise that when things get tough, many of us retreat to the comfort and supposed safety of an aggrieved group that has identified someone or something as having caused us undue harm. From there we petition the powers that be, who stand ready to share in our pain and "fight" with us against the declared enemy, to provide a remedy that appropriately addresses our grievances. The facts matter very little and rights of the supposed offenders are not even a secondary consideration in our minds. In fact, they don’t exist. Those people are the enemy and they don’t deserve any consideration whatsoever. The problem is they are imaginary enemies and the time we spend trying to conquer them keeps us from ever truly equipping ourselves to vanquish the real enemy. Below in an excerpt from a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal that elaborates on the topic:
"Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots.
The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.
Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past...
....Dramatic crises—for which evidence tends to be anecdotal, subjective, invisible, tendentious and sometimes fabricated—are trumpeted on the basis of incompetently designed studies, poorly understood statistics, or semantic legerdemain. Food insecurity is not remotely the same as hunger. An abusive cop does not equal a bigoted police department. An unwanted kiss or touch is not the same as sexual assault, at least if the word assault is to mean anything. Yet bogus studies and statistics survive because the cottage industries of compassion need them to be believed, and because mindless repetition has a way of making things nearly true, and because dramatic crises require drastic and all-encompassing solutions. Besides, the thinking goes, falsehood and exaggeration can serve a purpose if it induces virtuous behavior. The more afraid we are of the shadow of racism, the more conscious we might become of our own unsuspected biases...."
By design, we humans are given to errors and shortcomings. Our flawed nature has always been the greatest source of our progress. Imagine if Thomas Edison, who once said, “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work”, had blamed someone when experiments he designed didn’t turn out as he had planned. He certainly wouldn’t have failed 10,000 times, collecting 1093 patents along the way, and we might still be reading by candlelight.
Or imagine if Joan of Arc, Neslon Mandella, Hellen Keller, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi, and Marie Curie, to name a few from this page of historical odds beaters, had stopped at the first sign of trouble and started pointing fingers instead of persisting. What might the world we live in today look like?
Yes, Pogo was right. The real enemy is us, and more specifically, it is our unwillingness to point the finger at ourselves and get on with it. For too many of us, what we already "know" leads us to blame others when times get tough and it prevents us from learning anything new that might help us make forward progress.
It's been said that the hardest thing to change is your mind. That is true, but everything gets easier after that.