Going to Hell

Going to Hell is a page of opinions about the prospect of humanity declining into some sort of hell, arguably the nearly inevitable result of the ever-accelerating vehicle of technology and wealth creation spinning out of control with a tragic result.

People getting screwed? They ain't seen nuthin' yet. Post-Brexit & post-Trump, the great ripoff will have left the vast majority with nothing and with little or no recourse, as liberal democracy will be dead & buried. Just watch the GOP here, the Tories there, and their billionaire owners, they're partying like there's no tomorrow. - RAYMOND BKLYN, Comment on Roger Cohen's The Madness of Crowds, NYT, FEB. 28, 2017

Yes, people are angry. Yes, people are getting screwed. But they're angry at the wrong people (immigrants, Muslims, minorities, women) who they think are "taking over" their country. And they're getting screwed (and about to get even more screwed) by the buffoon they elected to office. Britain is already having buyers remorse over Brexit. By the time the people in this country open their eyes to what is happening, it might very well be too late. Beware of huge military expenditures — usually means a war is in the near future. - Jackie Shipley Commerce MI, Comment on Roger Cohen's The Madness of Crowds, NYT, FEB. 28, 2017

I see two pillars that support the madness. One is good old fashioned racism and its rejection of multiculturalism. Intellectuals underestimate the power of our genes. We are all born racist. We are born to reject the other. Culture binds us into separate groups. These motivations are the result of tribalism. We are this way because tribes compete for resources to survive.

We can learn to accept each other. We do it all of the time. This requires integration. Trump and Farge and the rest of the ultra-nationalists are using these dangerous and primal motivations to sway the electorate. All demagogues are expert at this type of manipulation.

The second pillar is the lie of supply side, trickle down economics. Vast numbers of people firmly believe that unrestrained capitalism will help all. So they reject any efforts to rein it in. They call such efforts socialism which is perceived as economic slavery. Consequently, they vote for policies that make the rich richer because that's better than taxing them more because that is socialism. Like Mr. Cohen said, people are not logical.

Add it all up and we have mob rule. Plato figured this out. The founders feared it. We have succumbed to it. - Bruce Rozenblit (a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO), Comment on Roger Cohen's The Madness of Crowds, NYT, FEB. 28, 2017

We are in the midst of the very forces that caused the failure of ancient Greece, Rome, modern Russia, China, and others. It only take one Caligula, one Hitler, one Trump, to pull apart the columns that support the system and ruin it for all time.
- Pete from Houston, Comment on With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and 'No Transparency' by ERIC LIPTON, BEN PROTESS and ANDREW W. LEHREN, NYT, APRIL 15, 2017

The number of mass shootings in the United States has risen sharply in recent years — to an average of 16.4 per year between 2007 and 2013, from 6.4 per year between 2000 and 2006. (These numbers come from the F.B.I. and exclude episodes tied to domestic violence and gangs.) ...
On June 14, she woke to the sounds of her 2-year-old grandson. As she does every morning, she turned on the television and fed her grandson cookies and milk.
- JULIE TURKEWITZ, ‘I Want This to Get Over’: After Congressional Shooting, Complex Grief for a Gunman’s Widow, NYT, JULY 1, 2017

A President who tells lies every day, non stop war, guns everywhere with regular mass shootings, politicians owned by the rich, massive inequality which no one is trying to address, millions with no healthcare, race hatred and neo-nazis supported and encouraged by the President, religious extremists champing at the bit to persecute women and gays, Russian interference in elections, social media out of control and now pharmaceutical companies no different from drug pushers responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands a year.

What do Americans think about how the rest of the world sees America?

I'll tell you, the rest of the world thinks America is declining very, very fast - faster than anyone could have thought possible and getting to the point where there is no turning back. I would give it 10-20 years before it is a failed state with civil war or armed gangs running around the country.
- Tom Baker, Tokyo, comment on Nicholas Kristof, ‘Drug Dealers in Lab Coats’, NYT, Oct. 18, 2017

The most admirable creations of the human mind, contrary to all expectations, have had as their main effect destruction and massacre; with a bit of pessimism, one may curse advances in knowledge and fear that someday some discovery might have as a consequence the destruction of mankind . . .
- Joseph Babinski, from Egas Moniz, “Dr. Joseph Babinski,” Lisboa Medica 1932, as quoted in Jacques Philipon and Jacques Poirier, Joseph Babinski: A Biography, Oxford University Press, 2008; quoted in Errol Morris, The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 2), NYT, JUNE 21, 2010.

Today, there are growing fears that Europe and the West have entered a period of terminal decline.
- SHERI BERMAN, A Grand Tour of the Crisis in Europe, NYT, NOV. 9, 2017

By the time of a Tea Party gathering in 2010 in New York, Steve Bannon had fully embraced a class-based diagnosis of the country’s woes: “In the last 20 years, our financial elites and the political class have taken care of themselves and led our country to the brink of ruin,” he said.
- SCOTT SHANE, Combative, Populist Steve Bannon Found His Man in Donald Trump, NYT, NOV. 27, 2016

We ignore the reasons why people turn to drugs in the first place. Our young people are bored, restless, and live meaningless lives. There's nothing for them to do. In our rural state of Maine, young people ride around all day in pick-up trucks, drinking and looking for action. They don't find fulfillment during long, dull days at school, and many of them cannot find engaging, meaningful employment outside of school.
- Susan, Mt. Vernon, ME, comment on GEORGE P. SHULTZ and PEDRO ASPE, The Failed War on Drugs, NYT, DEC. 31, 2017

But the situation has deteriorated. Not only the survival of open society, but the survival of our entire civilization is at stake. ...
The threat of nuclear war is so horrendous that we are inclined to ignore it. But it is real. ...
The other major threat to the survival of our civilization is climate change, which is also a growing cause of forced migration. I have dealt with the problems of migration at great length elsewhere, but I must emphasize how severe and intractable those problems are. I don’t want to go into details on climate change either because it is well known what needs to be done. We have the scientific knowledge; it is the political will that is missing, particularly in the Trump administration. ...
I want to spend the bulk of my remaining time on another global problem: the rise and monopolistic behavior of the giant IT platform companies. These companies have often played an innovative and liberating role. But as Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware.

Companies earn their profits by exploiting their environment. Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment. This is particularly nefarious because social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections. ...
Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents. There is a similarity between internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.

Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age. Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies.
- George Soros, Remarks delivered at the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 25, 2018

(For contrasting opinions, see Heaven on Earth.)

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