The Watchman’s Rattle is a book written by Rebecca Costa published in 2010 which, apparently, didn’t cause much of a stir. I never heard of it until last evening as I was clicking on the blog links. Costa’s overriding question is this: Are there limits to the kinds of problems humans can solve? Further, wonders the author, have we humans reached our limit in our ability to solve its most challenging, intractable problems facing humanity?
Costa cites the cultures of both the Mayans and Romans as examples of unpreventable societal collapse; both of these cultures reached their limit in attempting to solve their problems, and as a result of that, they collapsed. The author cites several warning signs from these cultures that ought to sound alarm bells for us here in the 21st century. Yet, before I list them, which of you already thinks that nothing will happen- that we humans will continue to ignore or deny the massive problems facing both the earth and the people on this planet?
The first warning sign is gridlock. Immediately my mind focussed on Congress; you too? in fact, rather than thinking globally as Ms. Costa suggests, why don’t we focus on the United States to see how these warning signs play out here in the Home of the Brave. However, there may be a catch: the author says that the most effective weapon to use to solve this problem is the human brain. Imagine that- using the brain to solve problems. How rare; how ingenious. Let’s see what might get in the way. Let’s explore some ways that the human brain has been stifled. How about these nemeses: greed, God, war and politics.
• First: gridlock. Has this governmental structure outlived its effectiveness? After all, it was invented 235 years ago for a nation that looks nothing at all like the society of the 21st century. Yet the system endures- even the oddly quirky Electoral College. How can a ‘system’ set up for a small, agrarian, all-white society serve 350 million mixed culture, non- agrarian, fast-paced, technologically-wired society as we have today? The problems our nation faces are so much more complex than our Founding Fathers ever could have imagined, yet our governmental structure sells of the 18th century manure on the boots of the congressmen.
• Second: the substitution of beliefs for knowledge and facts. This factor surely compels those in the right-wing to look backwards for ‘solutions’ to today’s problems. Many begin with, ‘If only they…’ If only they would…; if only they didn’t…; if only we…’ Longing for the imagined glories of the past as solutions for the present gets us nowhere, but conservatives are not willing to have that dream extinguished. The political gridlock above bleeds into this problem. The religionists fall here as well. God will not solve the problem of climate change no matter how many prayers are lifted heavenward. Neither will verses from a book written 3000 years ago for a wandering Semite tribe.
Ms. Costa says that if the first two symptoms are not acknowledged and addressed, then the collapse surely ensues. Irrational opposition, blame, silo thinking and ‘extreme economics’ add to the situation and catalyze the problem.
Ho hum. One more thing to keep us awake at night.
Is it just a matter of time? Should we just pull the covers over our head?