An Early Post-Mortem: A National Day of Pouring?

national day of pouringRegardless of who “wins” and who “loses” the election,  can there be any doubt that the results will end the country’s slow downward slide… and send it plunging headlong toward disaster of the sort and scale that the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, must have foreseen when he admonished the citizenry, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

But “know nothingism” apparently knows no boundaries, either. In the current election, in the face of complexity, interconnectedness, and uncertainty, each of which has increased to levels that would dwarf what pressured Lincoln, many citizens are taking irresponsible comfort in the certainty that can only come with a “no questions zone” approach. That is the intellectual equivalent of closing one’s eyes, covering one’s ears, and shouting loudly, “la-la-la-la”.

Among such citizens, knowledge is disqualifying. Rather than “smarting up”—which usually takes thinking and can require effort—they dumb-down problems, then confidently oversimplify them away. And no, Toto, we can’t bring ourselves back to Kansas, no matter how much we assure each other that we never left it.

robert letcherLife would be much easier if saying something really would make it so. But we can’t enjoy our I-Pods and our “[wo]man up” war toys in all their glory without also accepting the complexity, interconnectedness, and uncertainty that have come to be integral to making them, having them, and keeping them.

What to do? For those who still don’t see “Just Say No” in any of its manifestations as a viable strategy, may I suggest a National Day of Pouring for the day after this election? Pouring stiff drinks, that is. It may not be much; but it may be the only thing a lot of us will be able to agree on—and, of course, we could still scream at each other about what we should be drinking.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD

Robert A. Letcher, Ph.D describes himself as “an academic with a disability instead of a portfolio, a writer, and a Qigong practitioner who tries to help people learn”.


  1. says

    Pouring is likely the best we’ll do – so long as many of even the most thoughtful and concerned among us continue to accept as reasonable and democratic a dumb (as well as anti-democratic) decision-system for public affairs.

    It’s a decision-system where we ordinary citizens, no matter how well educated, are allowed practically no power and no responsibility – and therefore little motive – to deliberatively decide any actual policy or law. Such power and responsibility are concentrated on an expensively perked long-termed officer oligarchy.

    To make this setup look populist and thereby allegedly and satisfyingly ‘democratic’, ordinary citizens are exhorted to spend a few minutes every few years in competitive non-deliberative mass voting, mainly for purposes of ratifying or replacing the oligarchs.

    No need to complain about mass know-nothingism when that’s precisely what this system rewards and promotes. In the competitive non-deliberative mass voting, a smart vote counts no more than a dumb one, and a dumb one is cast easier and swifter.

    In terms of the rudimentary science, technology and mass education of the 18-th century, this system looked good, even revolutionary, at least in comparison with absolute monarchy. In today’s terms, however, this system fails to meet even mediocre standards of reason and of legitimate broad genuine participation of an educated citizenry.

    Superior alternatives have long existed and could be instituted – e.g. a version of the citizen-jury system which was used for deciding many public affairs in ancient Athens.

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