The tragedy of our circumstances

To close out a very strong piece on the lack of honesty in public discourse around housing and the economy, Matt Stoller writes:

There is no honesty among our political elites, and by that statement, I don’t mean that they are liars. There are liars everywhere, and truthtellers as well. Most of us are concurrently both. What I mean is that the culture of the political elite is one in which a genuine conversation about the actual problems we are facing as a society simply cannot be held with any integrity. Instead, we have to chalk up problems in a very busted housing market, and a generation saddled with indentured servitude disguised as a debt, as one of “hormones”.

It sounds cute that way, I guess. Eventually, we will see integrity in our discourse. It’s unavoidable. You can’t operate a society solely on intellectual dishonesty because eventually all your bridges fall down, even the ones the rich use. For a moment, from 2008-2009, there was real discourse about what to do. We’ll see a moment like that again. Only, the environment won’t be nearly as conducive to having a prosperous democratic society as it was in 2008. There will be a lot more poverty, starvation, violence, and authoritarianism when the next chance comes around. Catastrophic climate change, devastating supply chain disruptions, political upheaval, geopolitical tensions and/or war – one more more of these will be the handmaidens of honest dialogue.

The tragedy is not that our circumstances will worsen dramatically, but that it just didn’t have to be this way.

I think that this is one of the most important aspects of what’s happening in America today. I also think the forceful, honest description of what is wrong with our society is what propelled the Occupy movement to popularity last fall. What we need now is not just accurate descriptions of the problems we face, though, but honest discourse on what we need to do to get out of this situation. Stoller’s right – it’s a tragedy that we’re in a moment where it is not happening and only by things getting worse is it likely to change.

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