By Milan Vodicka, Ph.D.
Ah, blue wave! My humble question is, “where is the national media coverage?”
Yes, I was and I am disappointed. It seems that severe reductionism prevails. It seems that all the history and inherent complexity is lost. We were left with only two dominant issues – the “booming” economy and immigration – perhaps with health care mentioned in the margin.
The commentators are puzzled. How can one reconcile apparent polled public approval of the economy with an overwhelming disapproval of the “direction of the country?”
In Steven Covey’s books is a marvelous metaphor for that. An unnamed consultant is called to assess the performance of a team making a path in the jungle. The consultant checks the qualifications of workers, the sharpness of their machetes… Everything is top notch on the ground. Then she climbs the tree, looks around and calls to the foreman below: “Wrong direction!”
This example demonstrates the difference between “efficiency” and “effectiveness.” There are many time tested wisdom expressions about that. “What one pays attention to, grows,” and “life is the art of directing attention” are the two that come to mind.
Yet another example. In my youth, deep in the communist/socialistic Czechoslovakia – after the only “correct and unalterable” way of the Soviet Union – the well-being of the country was measured by tons of steel produced. No matter that in regular grocery stores the only items for purchase were glasses with pickled cucumbers and fruit marmalades – if the country produced tons of steel, everything was good; the country – as a whole – was in excellent shape.
I trust that you, along with me, recognize the fallacy of “the US economy is booming, everything is OK.” I also trust you recognize the shortcoming of the media coverage of this topic. Why?
First and foremost, the US economy, just like any other economy of significance, is tied to the health of the environment. Measuring the “boomness” of the economic performance just by money is like wandering in the world being blind. Yep, in all of the Election Day coverage not once did I heard the mention of environmental concerns. Is having the monetary performance of the economy accompanied by cancers, eye cataracts, and birth defects worth it? Is there another way? You bet – although not under the fossilized leadership of yesteryears.
The leadership starts right at the top. A friend once asked me: “What do you have against Trump?” My response essentially boils into two points. First, his personal behavior with regard to others does not meet my standard of decency. Second, he does not know or understand, not to mention appreciates, what is science. This is manifested by his actions.
Now, can you – without reservation – tell your children or grandchildren, “look at this man and behave like him?” I cannot do that. The divisive and disrespectful incivility of his behavior, from derisive nicknames to shouting “sit down” to reporters, should be offensive to everyone. There are too many instances of that. And, there are downright contradictions and lying.
As far as the science is concerned, there is a general misconception around. “Science is a matter of opinion,” and “everyone has his or her own truth.” Both of these statements are false. Science is a collective body of knowledge that is impersonal and, ultimately, provable as true. This is predicated by three characteristics that any statement must possess in order to qualify as “a scientific fact.” These characteristics are: 1/ measurability, 2/ verifiability, and 3/ repeatability. It can be readily seen that whatever beliefs, opinions, or convictions one can hold will not satisfy all three of the above criteria. Even “scientific thinking” sometimes falls short, for example with regard to our universe and its origin.
How does this work for Mr. Trump and some of his supporters? Climate change is a Chinese hoax. Our cars emissions have no relevancy to global temperatures and to the quality of air we breathe. California wildfires are caused by “bad environmental laws.”
I started this writing with my assessment of the elections coverage by the media. If the elections indeed were a referendum on Mr. Trump’s presidency (as he himself proclaimed) the media failed. The two aspects I described were never even mentioned. And some other topics, such as gun safety. They seemed to be lost by the economy and immigration. I truly expect better.
The good news is that the Congress of USA changed hands. The media reported that.