Half-way between the two worldwide wars occurred the Great Depression—the most disastrous failure in recorded history of an international economic system with worldwide impacts. The Depression once again brought to conscious widespread notice the usually-invisible subject of economics, dramatically reminding people of the war-like suffering economic dysfunctions can inflict on whole societies overnight, as well as chronically. But unlike all previous economic crises, this time, for the first time, a truly mature response was conceived and quickly put in place. The Roosevelt Administration’s New Deal program was perceived by some to be as radical in the West as had been the Russian revolution in the East, but the contrast of social maturity between the two was stark.
The New Deal initiated (tried out) dozens of experimental programs in governmental ownership along with various hybrids of public-private ownership. Almost all were definable as socialism and all were designed to restore livable income security to all Americans, especially those suffering worst from unemployment and insufficient income for life’s basic necessities. The New Deal was the most mature democratic governmental initiative in history to that point, and suffering American people gratefully welcomed it.
In marked contrast, the Soviet Union doubled down on its extreme version of socialism known as communism, wherein the state forcibly takes ownership of virtually everything, politically controls virtually everything, and—adding insult to injury—forces the people to adapt, ruling by decree on where they must live and where they must work, asserting state control over most aspects of people’s private lives. West of the Soviet Union, only the forced chemical sterilization of homosexual men, mentally retarded patients and impoverished welfare mothers was equally heinous in state savagery over individuals.
The Soviet communist economic model was so alien to natural human incentives that it was imposed only with the most brutal forms of political tyranny. It was made still worse by the personal excesses of particular Soviet rulers—Lenin’s uncompromising rigidly ideological extremism, Stalin’s murderous paranoia, and the brutal, murderous secret police apparatus maintained by the Soviet state. Maturity in governance has been slow in coming to the Russian people and others in the former Soviet bloc of subject nations. Perhaps some day it will, but perhaps also means perhaps not. In Russia’s next-door neighbor China, communism became still more bizarre by orders of magnitude.
For 46 years, 1945 to 1991, an odd, evil, situation called the Cold War persisted between the U.S. and its free allies versus the Soviet Union and its subjugated allies. A classic example of geopolitics in action, the entire extended affair was devoid of maturity. Leaders on both sides behaved as little boys comparing penises, intent on proving to bystanders and each other that my military force is bigger than yours, my economic system is better, our scientists can beat yours to the moon, et cetera. In terms of adults setting examples for children—a universal standard of responsible maturity—millions of children were taught to quickly crouch on the floor and pull chairs over their heads in the event a nuclear bomb exploded down the street. The fear and scarring went unmeasured.
Many passing trends, fads, fashions and passionate real movements have annexed their labels to the age we arbitrarily demarcate as modern or contemporary—e.g., the Industrial Age; the Jet Age; the Information Age; the DNA revolution; the Green Revolution; the Cultural Revolution; the Great Leap Forward; Zionism; the Islamic State; the sexual revolution; the hippie revolution; women’s liberation; the Atomic Age; the Space age… no doubt you’ll think of many other Age labels this list should include.
It’s time to close this brief exploration of evolution’s third phase, the one identified as “cultural” evolution. I do so with regretful notice that immature new tensions have arisen between my nation versus “free” Russia and capitalist-communist China less than three decades after we all joyfully declared the Cold War dead. Immature economic behavior has elevated the power and control of private equity and multinational corporate giants while failing to restrict leveraged buyouts, corporate raiding, profit extraction, layoffs, and elimination or export of millions of jobs U.S. citizens depended on to earn a living.
Immaturity today dominates the Congress of the United States as reactionary ideologues do their utmost to strip government of the power to regulate anything that tries to serve all the people. In our gerrymandered labyrinth, voting minorities actually voted these creeps into office. This doesn’t mean those voters who helped elect demagogues are stupid; it does clearly indicate that the voters feel discontent after four decades of declining income and losing good jobs that can be replaced only with something less, lower, poorly paid. And all the while, would-be demagogue politicians waving distractive emotional hot issues manipulate these discontented voters as effectively as their contrived legislative majorities gerrymander the nation. Added to the enormous collective economic risk we all now face together, those with the power to seriously address global warming—and their deluded insurrectionist minions—foolishly deny it even exists. What in God’s name is wrong with all of them?
If maturity is indeed increasing in our evolving ever-emerging culture—something in line, say, with The Lesson which opens Chapter 6—where shall we hope to find it?
* * *
We have grown up together, you and I, through these years in thousands passing by, grown and matured, our mutual human nature one, then as now. As I know my own human nature—and as you are human too—so I know yours too. Oh yes, I know human nature, so I already know you. A century ago—a thousand years—ten thousand—fifty and more: the only thing that changes is the context—those ever evolving circumstances in which our human nature plays itself out. We’ve had full three hundred thousand orbits in which to develop our human nature since our kind emerged from those others, so you can look far, far back—a hundred thousand at least—and there is our same human nature, then as now.