Ignorance is Bliss

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Recently Opher penned the question of whether we are better off now than 50 years ago and as comments showed its simply not a yes or no answer.  Most surely none of us want to go back to standing in a teller line to get cash, trying to find a pay phone and have change to make a call, or watch the outrageously usually bad television shows Hollywood served up to us (Gilligan's Island, really).  On the flip side we'd probably like to go back to an economy that concentrated on real full employment, a solid middle and upper middle class and social mobility.


One thing that was definitely different was our naivety and ignorance on a whole host of subjects.  We pretty much accepted the Warren Commission report or that Rock Hudson was a real ladies man.  We assumed the US government was a source of good around the world.  We believed what our politicians told us.  We thought for sure corporate America would never sell us an unsafe product.


A lot has changed over the past 50 or 60 years.  We're not so naïve or gullible. We have massive numbers of news outlets and people willing to dig for the real truth.  We know now that the US government isn't much better than some of our past enemies.  We know politicians will tell us anything to get elected with probably little thought or care how they are going to fulfill their promises. 


When we were much more clueless we were a much more united society, even if what we believed was total nonsense.  Sure there was the hippy era but even the hippies had no idea of the deceit being bestowed on society.  We likely found happiness more internally, today we get it from a nifty gadget or the latest adult toy to amaze and delight.


For those with some gumption and brains they see the façade that has been built.  Republican, Democrat they both claim they are for the average person but their loyalties lie with their big money donors.  It seems to me the ones that sit home on election day have it right.  You are only voting for one or another supporter and enabler of the plutocrat crowd.  Does anyone really think that either Trump or Clinton would have done anything material for the masses?  Of course not.  Goldman Sachs pays big money to buy elections and our political system and they expect a return on their investment.


The information genie is out of the bottle.  We will never go back to a 1960s world in terms of what we can know or learn.  Sure, there are the brainless twits that actually think what they are being told on Fox News or MSNBC is the truth just like hundreds of years ago when people thought the world flat. However, they are moving in the minority.


The question is will ultimately this new found source of gigantic information unite us or permanently divide us into fractures and schools of thought?  I think for sure the latter.  We have found much of our history to be false and now we have become jaded, suspicious, nervous, untrusting and really pissed off.


Tom C. Purcell Added Nov 29, 2017 - 11:44am
The hardest part is evolving the human information filter.  We are bombarded with information and it's overwhelming to many minds.  Some can't discern truth from fiction and for them it's maddening.
John J Bernard Added Nov 29, 2017 - 11:51am
I would say that while information is far more available, the value of that information is reduced and the trustworthiness of it's sources, always in question.

I would also point out that the actual knowledge/education of the average person is far less than it was 50 years ago.

I make that judgment based on a review of the curricula I was required to consume for a BS in MIS versus what the curricula is today for a similar degree.

I also make that judgment based on untold hours of debate with supposed intellectuals on a whole array of issues. Clearly, the majority of the what people "know" is based solely on first generation discussion/research or better, gleaned from commentary of others rather than actual research.

If the sources of information can be said to be gilded with the personal prejudices of the commentator or writer, then it can also be said that the casual listener who is using that information has become not much more than a Philosophe/student of the speaker/commentator.

Given that, I believe we have become far more jaded, suspicious, nervous and untrusting and thus far more divided.
Dave Volek Added Nov 29, 2017 - 12:14pm
The economic position of the average American worker in the 1950s and 1960s was an aberration in history. American become the manufacturing hub of the world because it was undamaged from WW2. If a corporation wanted to make a product, the best place was the USA because the rest of the world did not have a good infrastructure. So the American worker could demand--and often received indirectly--a bigger share of the profits. 
By about 1970, the rest of the world started catching up. The American worker was losing his competitive advantage.
If this economic fact remains buried because some cheerleaders prefer talking about the good old days (which were an aberration in history), then we should expect no practical solutions to be forthcoming.
George N Romey Added Nov 29, 2017 - 12:28pm
Dave go back and research the Powell memo. By the early 70s some titans of business saw the exploding middle class a threat to their share of the pie. It’s why by the 1980s business became political evidenced by the surge in lobbyists, PACs and special interest groups. In addition the takeover of business schools in which students were taught the mission was solely profits.  Even if one had to do carry out accounting illusions.
The decline of the Middle Class was not by accident or natural evolution tied to globalization or technology, it was by design.
Dino Manalis Added Nov 29, 2017 - 12:33pm
Critique is important, but we're all human beings with common needs, including the wealthy and powerful, that's why we should lower corporate taxes to incentivize the repatriation of trillions from abroad to boost growth; jobs; investments; and employee salaries.  We're all part of the game or pie!
wsucram15 Added Nov 29, 2017 - 12:56pm
I cant believe this..but Dave is right.  If people dont stop arguing about what was great, trying to re-create that NOW, which will never happen, we wont solve the real problems we are now faced with from today. No matter what field you are discussing..economy, politics, environment, physiology, social structure, anything.
opher goodwin Added Nov 29, 2017 - 6:23pm
George - I think the scales have fallen from our eyes - we are not so gullible and naïve. We think that the political system is run for the benefit of the wealthy. The trouble is how do you go about changing that? How could it possibly have got to the point where it was ca choice between Clinton and Trump out of the whole of America?
Even A Broken Clock Added Nov 30, 2017 - 10:21am
George - what is the Powell memo you refer to in the comments? I'm not familiar with that.
Dave - you've nailed it. And I think that Trump's reality is grounded in that economic aberration, and he believes we can undo the past half century of increased interdependency and just stand by ourselves and make things like they were when he was starting out in business.
Riley Brown Added Nov 30, 2017 - 10:50am
Most people think they are much better informed but to a large degree they are more misinformed than ever because they only what the news-media chooses to tell them.
Not only is the news often less than honest, they often cherry pick what they present and by stressing what supports their sensibilities and not sharing what doesn't support their views, they change the perception of most of their readers.
Furthermore most of the world depends heavily on so called experts, and don't have the education necessary to fairly evaluate so called facts that they are presented with on most scientific subjects.  Man Made Global Warming is a great example, how many of the public have any idea how much the Earth's climate has fluctuated ever since long before man existed?  They get shown evidence that the earth is getting warmer, told it's all our own fault, and swallow the whole story hook line and sinker, because they have no idea most of the evidence is irrelevant.
Dave Volek Added Nov 30, 2017 - 11:18am
I went to the Powell Memo. I thought this fellow was a little paranoid and wanted to invoke his own version of McCarthyism. Nonetheless, I would say that objectives of Powell are far from achieved; the politically left are still a dominant player today in American politics as they were in 1971. So it's hard for me to come to the conclusion that Powell and his followers were the forces that deliberately designed to sabotage the middle class--and could actually pull it off!
If we go back to history, we can see that average workers never really did share in a nation's prosperity. Their life was a daily grind to earn enough wages to pay rent, food, and clothing. They did not travel or take vacations or live in nice houses. Average Americans faced this struggle every day while the founding fathers (rich, white guys) wrote the constitution. This economic situation prevailed until WW2. The years 1946 to 1980 were a golden age for American workers, but it was a historical aberration.  And we may very well be heading back in that direction.
I'm not saying this is a good thing. But that is how it happened. If we fail to understand it (and insist on blaming some nebulous forces, then we are not going to solve the problem).
George N Romey Added Nov 30, 2017 - 12:33pm
Government and Fed policy during that period was geared towards full employment which increased social mobility and grew the Middle Class. This is not the normal course of capitalism or history. The current form of capitalism will always move towards wealth concentration and someone pays the price on the other end.
opher goodwin Added Nov 30, 2017 - 3:05pm
Dave/George - what Americans call the Left is more what we'd call liberal middle ground over here in Britain.
I think America is in dire need of a good solid Left that is fighting for fairness, equality and decency. I don't see it in American politics at all. Instead of representing the people all the parties support the establishment.
Dave Volek Added Nov 30, 2017 - 4:19pm
In the left/right paradigm, most viable political parties are close to the middle. They are closer to each other than to the extremes of these two positions.
America has lots of left-leaning citizens. They may not be all that electable, but they do keep both parties in line. They are ready to march in the streets in protest peacefully. 
For example, there are a few WB contributors who believe that the welfare system in America is too generous. They would advocate a total abolishment of welfare, and all those people on the dole would either find jobs or starve. If there has ever been a time where America could make this move politically, it is now. But it is not happening. The left are still very powerful. Even Mr. Trump fears them, although he won't say so. 
Doug Plumb Added Nov 30, 2017 - 5:17pm
People would have been screaming in the streets demanding change if they knew then what we know now. Most people back then did not know why we fight wars or the reality of the money system. The ridiculousness of a multicultural society would have been plainly obvious to everyone. If people knew then that Israel had real sex slaves and hadn't outlawed that, then Israel would have lost all of its support. Most people knew they faked the holocaust back then.
Pornography of today would have maybe made people actually puke back then.
  Pay phones were not so bad and Hollywood made Jaws in the 70's.
Doug Plumb Added Nov 30, 2017 - 5:35pm
re "The decline of the Middle Class was not by accident or natural evolution tied to globalization or technology, it was by design. "
No doubt. Next is the White Man's Common Law.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Nov 30, 2017 - 5:48pm
Two important things have changed I think:
1.   Our feeds of "news" are now self selective.   We filter out stuff so that we only perceive things which re-enforce our own opinions and beliefs.   Our psychology tends to make us act this way anyway.  The result is a widening gulf between people and little middle ground.
2.   We are no longer in such contact with neighbours.   We no longer see a range of people with qualities which we admire and which we abhor.   Because we hear someone express a view that we disagree with, we tend to think that they are all bad.   We used to be forced into intimate contact with more people so we would see that people are a real mix.  The absence of this contact tends to make us less tolerant
Is ignorance bliss?   Perhaps is we were not by nature curious beings.  But we are curious.  We want to know  
Robin the red breasted songster Added Nov 30, 2017 - 5:57pm
I think that the fortunes of the working class have always varied according to the power balance between them and the wealthy.
At the moment, actual manpower is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the means of production.   Capital no longer needs people to turn a profit in the way that it used to.... or at least it does not realise it.
It still actually needs people as a marketplace, even if not to produce what it makes.   Increased concentration of wealth actually means less spending... for the simple reason that a very wealthy person can only eat so much caviar, drive one car at a time, live in one house at a time etc.   So you actually need to spread wealth round a bit if you want a market for your goods.   This, aside from revolution, was how Marx envisaged that capitalism would crash and burn.
So the fact is we probably need to change our ideas if we are to find an optimum path
George N Romey Added Nov 30, 2017 - 6:50pm
Ultimately the question will be what
will replace demand when the Middle Class is even more a minority. Our entire nation is based upon consumption.
James E. Unekis Added Nov 30, 2017 - 8:20pm
Good article George.  I agree that, to some degree, that the technologies that have reduced our ability to have a group moral conscience have made depravity easier to get away with.  Consider that there were only 3 major television news sources during the days of Watergate.  But that phenomena as well as companies that cared for their employees was just history written witnessed during our lifetimes.
There have always been good and bad people, noble purposes and evil intentions.  The web is just like a giant fan spreading them faster, and farther.
Jeff Michka Added Nov 30, 2017 - 8:46pm
Ah, time for some 60s nostalgia?  When people kept jobs for 50 years, where folks like George had value, now long gone. AND Geo mourns MAGA: Ultimately the question will be what will replace demand when the Middle Class is even more a minority. Our entire nation is based upon consumption.  And making what was to be consumed, now car floor mats and some pillows are made in the US, and think the market is relatively limited. So the problems are multi-level, and the current crop of idiots buy MAGA hats from the Orange blob at $40 a throw, but made in cheap China.  That will help...Trump, but will do nothing to MAGA which it never really was.  PEOPLE ACTUALLY DEMAND ALL THIS CRAP BE BROUGHT ON THEIR HEADS DUE TO A BIG DOSE OF COWARDICE BELOW DECKS.  dOESN'T HELP HAVING A CHORUS TELLING EVERBODY "It can't be changed, fixed, whatever....so do NOTHING.  Bah!!!
Cliff M. Added Nov 30, 2017 - 8:55pm
George, Many have been forced to sharpen their survival skills. The window of opportunity has closed for many. Tech has delivered us a 24 hour news cycle and instant information at our fingertips. Any real morality or leadership has become a glaring void in the politics.
Flying Junior Added Dec 1, 2017 - 3:21am
I take exception to many of these remarks.  I am not convinced that today's keyboard warrior with all of the echo chambers and conspiracy websites only a click away is any more of a judge of reality and truth than our counterparts of fifty years ago who read their newspapers every day, frequented libraries and read periodicals and histories.  I am not ready to concede that my own parents were naïve or gullible.  I believe firmly to my core foundation that any wisdom that this generation possesses is built solidly upon the shoulders of those who came before us. 
The sins of the U.S. government were not unknown in these times.  The political sabotages in Iran, South America and Africa were well-known to those who had access to radio and printed media.  The illegal activities of the Reagan administration in Central America were documented weekly by Pacifica Radio years before it became accepted fact.  The excesses of the FBI particularly under Nixon were well understood.  Spying on U.S. citizens was well-known before even the military had an internet.
What more do we know now of the JFK assassination than we knew in the 1960s?  Was it the CIA or right-wing dickheads who hated Kennedy?  There is much evidence to point to the latter, but I haven't read any of it on WB threads concerning this matter.  Was it the mob?  Was the mob pissed off at RFK?  These things were being discussed within weeks of the assassinations.  Rock Hudson was in the closet.  Nobody really knew before his death.  Do you regret that we didn't have more paparazzi trailing him?
Maybe it's the innocence of childhood that you speak of.  I thought that all the world was one big happy family when I learned about Europe, Asia, the Americas and Africa as a child.  As far as being better-informed and savvy than our previous generations, I'm calling bullshit.
That said, it was a helluva lot more fun to be a kid in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  That's basic.  It was golden.  The run of the neighborhood.  Riding your bike to school or the local swimming hole.  Going fishing with your dad.  Out to the ball game.  The skating rink where you heard the latest top forty.  But as much as we worry about the video-addicted youth of today, somehow they figure out a way to remain joyful and connected.  Our youth are in no danger of losing their way that I can see.
opher goodwin Added Dec 1, 2017 - 4:15am
Dave - that was a good summary of American views. Those left leaning people need more of a voice in my opinion. They need a party to vote for. That party should be the Democrats but they worship at the same altar as the Republicans.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 1, 2017 - 4:29am
George-  Perhaps the scale falling away from the eyes is the absurd notion that governments solve your problems. They do not, nor are they interested in solving your problems. Regardless which script they are carrying, no matter how good the lines sound, it is evident that those in government are concerned with little more than helping themselves.
We live in a world where ignorance seems to be currency. We suffer from information inflation. Like laws or currency when there is too much of something it is lessened in value. It becomes watered down. A lot of what passes as information is more rightly placed into the column of trivia. 
George N Romey Added Dec 1, 2017 - 8:06am
My own parents were prime examples of the American dream. My father was one of 13 children growing up in the Depression, my mother a daughter of a immigrant coal miner. For them a college degree and hard work paid off. The system as it was rewarded them so naturally they had great trust in the system even though it was still corrupt.
This has been the mistake of the plutocrat crowd. Keep the average person dumb happy and fat and you can go unnoticed forever. After all if most people have a decent job, a nice home, some money in the bank and a few luxuries they for the most part will have no interest in activities that don’t impact them. 
Billy Roper Added Dec 1, 2017 - 11:02am
In 1960 the United States was still about 90% White. The change since then has not been positive. In the larger view, they have spelled the end of America. Balkanization looms.
Tom C. Purcell Added Dec 1, 2017 - 11:37am
There are increasing numbers of BLM signs in the yards of my neighborhood.  Many homes stake signs that say, "REFUGEES WELCOME".  Any recommendations?  Perhaps you  know someone that can fashion something to mass produce that concisely opposes such signs, but does not bare the same offensive undertones. 
There is a devoted member that has a centerpiece BLM sign amongst a commercially shopped Christmas light display.  It's getting a bit mad in the Pac NW...and folks wonder why I've been so moody! Beware my attitude if I post something titled, "Black Christmas".  ;)
Jeff Michka Added Dec 1, 2017 - 3:41pm
Nazi Tom Purcell writes: It's getting a bit mad in the Pac NW...and folks wonder why I've been so moody! Beware my attitude if I post something titled, "Black Christmas".  ;)-Perhaps a little madder at your place, Tom...not sleeping well or long?  Having to do things like diapers on the kid instead of "Seig Heils" with your pards?  Awwwww...BLMers instead of white nazis surround poor ol Tom.  I have to fight both city and a Trumpist neighbor over giving some space to a few homeless folks for a camping spot while they make other arrangements, so if I write I want Trumpists strangled over an open fire, I'm sure you'll understand.  Oooooo...Homeless people where they can been seen is a direct threat to someone's "way of life?"  Only for a Trumpist...or a Nazi.
Flying Junior Added Dec 2, 2017 - 2:58am
Speaking of BLM, it really disgusts me that RW reactionary racists have worked so hard to portray the Black Lives Matter movement as an organization of violent provocateurs.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The organization itself is a meeting place for African Americans to work together on issues and problems that we all face together.  RW creeps like to use the word thug.  Trayvon Martin was called a thug to justify the collective celebration of his murder.  George Zimmerman became a folk hero because he killed a black man and got away with it.  It's a sickness.
Black Lives Matter was a hashtag used by many beautiful African-Americans.  It means exactly that at face value.  Police violence and other hate crimes against African-Americans deny the black person any value as a human being.  A year ago last summer, I bought some classic BLM T-shirts.  Very likely I'm the only person who has one in my corner of Reagan Country.  The first day I wore one, a cashier at Home Depot spun me around and said, "Let me get a look at you!"  She was very surprised.  Another time I was at the post office, a young mother with her toddler whispered to me in an aside, "Nice shirt!"  Several young people at the mall and at one farmer's market spoke to me.  The most recent time it happened was at the library, a man about my age complimented me on my shirt.  I used just say, "Thanks man!"  But this time I said, "I just want to take a stand and let people know the way I feel."  He mentioned police violence saying something about, "the damn PO-lice!"
It's been quite a conversation starter.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 2, 2017 - 4:00am
Great article and interesting discussion, George. I will say that when you look at products like cars or televisions, we would not like to go back to the old ones, the new ones are so much better. No doubt technology has improved our lives, but it has also enslaved some of us. Every improvement was supposed to give us more personal time, and yet it never does. Why is that?
Robin the red breasted songster Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:29am
I seem to remember, back in the sixties, there was talk of the age of machines coming; the white heat of technology.  The talk said that we would be entering an age of leisure; that our biggest problem would be learning how to spend all of our free time.
What happened?   The machines happened.   We are producing more than ever before.    But it seems that, as people, we are either working harder than ever before or struggling with job insecurity and insufficient income.
How did we get it wrong?   Have we become slaves to "growth", the modern economic God?
Robin the red breasted songster Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:32am
Jeff:  Do you think Trump will be looking for Lebensraum?   Maybe across the northern border?  
George N Romey Added Dec 2, 2017 - 7:22am
Why did it go write big? One word, greed.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 2, 2017 - 4:10pm
When we were much more clueless we were a much more united society, even if what we believed was total nonsense. 
Except of course for the blacks who were enduring legally enforced apartheid in the US.  What you mean is that the white people were more united and on the same page.
Government and Fed policy during that period was geared towards full employment which increased social mobility and grew the Middle Class.
Government didnt create the booming economy of the 1960s, that was as much an accident of history, as a  government plan.  Less competition in the  1960s made the economy grow fast, more competition now, the economy grows slower.
Government now is doing the same thing it has always done, looking out for the rich and powerful.  Get a grip. 
Robin the red breasted songster Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:26pm
I guess that around 1500 North America was around 98% or so black or "non white".   Would Billy like to go back to those halcyon days when the American race was much purer?
Robin the red breasted songster Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:31pm
When I look at the history of the UK, most of the things that we have today which are truly valuable such as the National Health Service, the Right to Roam, Equal Opportunity, an abolished slave trade etc etc.   All of these things were achieved because of popular people's campaigns and pressure.  
We need to keep on fighting for what is right.   It is hard to do that, with all of the disinformation pumped out from the PTB (Power that be)... but it is the only way that we will get change.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Dec 2, 2017 - 5:33pm
Looking at pure growth is misleading for most people in the economy.   They don't participate in that growth.   Although, over the last 20 years or so, the economy has grown a great deal.... the average persons lot has, if anything, gotten worse.  That has to change.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 3, 2017 - 12:24pm
RRBS sez: How did we get it wrong?   Have we become slaves to "growth", the modern economic God? -The oldest "developer's foil" is that we can "grow" our way outta anything.  Growth will ALWAYS save us, we just need to grow more.  In a world of shrinking resources, how does that work, or is it just another case of "fooling ourselves?"
Bill Kamps Added Dec 3, 2017 - 12:55pm
Jeff, it isnt even shrinking resources that stops growth, it is the problem of compounding.  You cant grow economies at 3% indefinitely because people just dont need that much stuff.
High rates of economic growth were possible in the early 20th Century because people were buying the products of the industrial revolution.  In 1900 no one had a car, a washing machine, tv, radio, stereo, air conditioning, there were no planes to travel in.  Now most everyone has all that stuff, so we are only replacing things, not growing the markets. 
The population of the US is only growing .7% and it is almost impossible to grow a modern economy steadily at 4x the rate of population growth, which is what is needed to hit 3% growth.  Countries that are not yet fully industrialized can do this, the US  cant.
Cars now last longer than before, most people that want one have one.  So how will we grow production?  Most people that want an iThis or iThat, have one, how often do they need to be replaced?
Just remember, to grow car production we not only have to make the 16 million cars we made this year, we have to make 3% more next year, and every other year.  That means in 25  years we will need to be making 30 million cars a year in the US, cant happen. 
So no, we cant grow out way out of things.  We have to be smarter.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 3, 2017 - 1:42pm
Hey Bill K: it isnt even shrinking resources that stops growth,-Except for a couple of places, where are we making more land?  Where are we making more wetlands? I will agree with: So no, we cant grow out way out of things.  We have to be smarter.
Bill Kamps Added Dec 5, 2017 - 12:06pm
Jeff I wasnt disagreeing, but I said it incorrectly.  Should be not only scarce resources are a limit, but also simple demand.  We cant grow demand at 4x the rate of population growth.
George N Romey Added Dec 5, 2017 - 12:36pm
Yet the entire business world will not accept the premise of diminished returns and turns to financial gimmicks to keep it going. Rarely does this turn out well.
Jeff Michka Added Dec 9, 2017 - 5:43pm
Bill Kamp notes: Should be not only scarce resources are a limit, but also simple demand.-Can't say about where you are, but the demand for housing here has paved over most of the rural areas in three counties, and they want to build even more, yet there are 10,000 folks homeless here, most of whom cannot afford $1500 a month for a studio apt. Of the 8 homeless people sheltering here, all of them work full time for minimum wage and can't even come close to affording shelter.  Suggesting they are lazy or need to work harder is both foolish and stupid.  I know, and you may know what it's like living outdoors 24/7.  Ain't easy let alone a "choice" like most WB rightists say...

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