I mentioned in my second post in this seven-day The Aftermath series that I had purposely been consuming a bit more than my usual amount of daily media coverage in order to get a good feel for whatever post-election climate was developing. Now, after consuming that higher-than-usual share of media coverage for five post-election days, I’ll mention two more observations/conclusions to add to what I have shared in posts two, three and four.
The “Gimme” Mentality
First, in a conversation a good friend of mine and I had last Friday, he said something that has resonated with me in my daily mental “cataloging” of thoughts about content for upcoming posts to this blog. He said “One thing that stands out to me is how large the ‘gimme’ population is”. That remark has come to my mind several times since then as I’ve since seen pictures and video clips of demonstrators carrying signs and chanting “What do we want? (Whatever)!. When do we want it? Now!”.
Relating these demonstrations to other “anti this” and “pro that” demonstrations that go on all the time amplifies the underlying concept my friend was elucidating — too many people these days seem to believe that when they think something would be a good thing to have, “somebody” should “give” it to them — and that “they” should “give” it to them now. That is a very dangerous mentality, and it is contrary to the fundamental tenets of this country’s founding.
The mechanics of our democratic republic were not designed to provide instant gratification. In fact, they were intentionally designed to avoid changes that might, in the absence of safeguards built into them, fail to allow for the Law of Unintended Consequences — i.e., unforeseen new problems often caused by implementation of the “solution” to an existing problem. One example of these safeguards is the fact that there are two- [for Representatives], four- [for the President], and six- [for Senators] year terms, so there is never a single election in which all incumbents could be removed from office [although many people — at times, I must admit, including me — think that might not be such a bad idea!]. Another example is the President’s authority to veto legislation passed by the Legislature [which in most situations requires only a simple majority vote], and still another is the Legislature’s authority override a Presidential veto with a 2/3 vote in both the House and the Senate.
The mechanics of our democratic republic were designed, however, to empower citizens to do two things: 1) garner enough support among their fellow citizens to bring causes they believe to be important to the attention of their elected Legislators [with the goal of ultimately producing legislation furthering those causes]; and 2) run for office themselves and/or support and vote for candidates whose ideologies and/or modus operandi align with theirs. Neither of these two things provides instant gratification. They both require knowledge of and involvement in the mechanics of our governmental processes — and they both require dedication of time, often years.
Too Many People Have Too Much Time on Their Hands
The second observation/conclusion I’d offer in this post is that we have too many people with too much time on their hands. Although demonstrations are a right stemming from the First Amendment [and in my opinion have at times been a force for good in our history], I believe there is something we should learn from much of that activity going on now. First, and unfortunately, “real” unemployment [including people who have dropped out of the workforce altogether] is at an historically high level. I am among those who believe that the outcome of this election will result in improvement in the employment situation more rapidly than would have been the case under Democrat control, but large-scale improvement will not be immediate. Essentially, through the election, we have done all we can do at the moment for that segment of people with too much time on their hands.
Another big segment of people with too much time on their hands is college students [many of the current demonstrations are on college campuses or are dominated by college students even though they are occurring in the streets of the cities where those colleges are located]. There has been a huge shift over the past few decades in the general mentality of college students. When I was in college, we had a “soap box” area where people could voice their opinions about issues of the time. At most times on any given day, somebody was on the “soapbox” doing exactly that, and there was usually a small crowd around whoever was speaking. But most students simply did not have the time to be involved in demonstrations requiring them to be away from their classes most of a day or their study time at night.
I earned about half my college expenses for my first two years, and more than 75% of them during my last two years. I was in an Engineering program, which at that time required 143 semester hours for graduation [fewer than half of Engineering students were getting that done in four years]. I didn’t get it done in four years on my intelligence, but on my perseverance and determination. My wife was a year younger, and with equal perseverance and determination, condensed her academic schedule in Education to three years so we could graduate together.
My point is not an attempt at self-aggrandizement, and I know that there are many college students today who have similar stories, but this kind of focus does not seem to be the dominant mentality on college campuses these days. There seems to be less focus on what college is supposed to be [preparation for a productive career] and more on the social and avocational elements of college life.
It is my sincere hope that changes in the underlying causes of both of these sources of idle time will wane as our economy improves, and that the reasons for the demonstrations will diminish as well. I believe the outcome of this election will result in a climate in which both of these things will happen.
Charles M. Jones