5/14/2011

A Nation of Assholes

This weekend, I'm polishing off a book titled, The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton. The book reinforces a lot of the arguments I've made in the past on my old Rat's Eye View website from the days when that collection of essays was mostly about business practices and management/mismanagement.

However, toward the end Sutton has a chapter titled "The Virtues of Assholes" where he attempts to explain the success of so many certifiable assholes (one prime asshole he constantly returns to is Apple's Steve Jobs). After describing how some assholes manage to become rich and powerful, he lists three "blind spots" successful assholes often have. One of those blind spots is that "experienced victims use [defensive measures) to protect themselves from cruel and vindictive actions, measures that have the side effect of shielding assholes from realizing the damage they inflict . . . victims avoid their oppressor's wrath by reporting only good news and remaining silent about, and even hiding, bad news." Sound familiar?

In 1816, the north eastern United States went through a catastrophic "year without a summer." The prevailing theory describing the reasons for that "last great subsistence crisis in the Western world" is that a record low solar activity and the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora caused record world-wide crop failures at least 200,000 deaths in Europe and similar devastation in North America and China. 200 years later, science is in a position to be able to predict the results of this kind of event and, even, allow for planning that could moderate the effects.

The real question is, are scientists likely to provide that information? I'm betting the answer is no.

The hostility aimed at scientists who have made predictions about global ocean and climate changes most likely has an effect similar to the distortion of reality created by asshole bosses. First, scientists will be inclined to keep their cultural heads low to prevent the anti-scientific "community" (read "Republicans" and pseudo-conservatives) from going ballistic with their loony counter-arguments. Unfortunately, going loony isn't all that the Republican drone crowd does. They attack scientific institution funding, eliminate critical national and state research facilities, and go after state university research funding. Since they can't understand the data, they attack the messengers. Our primitive citizens aren't the first monkey-people to use these tactics, failed empires liter history with their foolish ancestors. However, it's possible that the costs of allowing these idiots to speak in public might be a lot higher than it was in pre-industrial times.

Imagine yourself as a climate scientist, an astrophysicist, or a biologist. Your research finds that something international corporations is doing is likely to cause a worldwide disaster. Or your data tells you that our society's inability to wean itself from its excesses will cause climate change, famine, and war. Or your observations spotted a fast moving asteroid heading in our direction. The problem is, you're doing science not something simple like banking or something idiotic like pretending to know the minds of the gods. Science allows for predictions with tolerances. In the case of the asteroid, maybe the odds are 2:1 that the asteroid will strike the planet somewhere and the odds are, if the strike occurs, the same 2:1 odds exist that the strike will cause a world-wide disaster. What do you do, if you're one of those scientists? Do you tell an ignorant, superstitious world about the problem and the cure or do you keep it to yourself knowing that your fellow humans are too stupid to do the right thing even with the right information?

Based on what we've seen over the last 25 years of the global warming crisis, I'd suspect that any scientist with a lick of sense would keep quiet and let nature (human and global) take its course. Especially in the superstitious US, we're too dumb to care about our children or their planet. We're too greedy to be concerned with the welfare of any generation beyond our own. We're willing to burn up the world's natural resources in a single generation, leaving future generations to suffer for our greed. Who would step into the political cesspool for a species as foolish as that? A nation of assholes, led by a pack of corrupt and vicious corporate assholes who are as psychopathic as the worst serial killers in history.

No comments:

Post a Comment