The apocalypse is a procrastinator’s dream.
It is a handy thought.
You don't need to diet. The world will end soon.
You don't need to budget. The world will end soon.
You don't need to agree on anything because eventually everyone who disagrees with you will be seized from above and spirited away.
If you believe that, in a few days, the world will end, you do not have to cultivate your garden. Load the plate high with carbs and cake and bacon. Entitlement reform can wait. Spend that retirement fund! Not just yours, everyone’s! Contract bucketloads of debt! Cut people off in traffic! Tell off everyone who’s ever disagreed with you! Just wait a bit, and nothing will matter.
Many improbable things are supposed to happen in 2012. The earth was supposed to end – quite a few times, now, I think. The Mayans were supposed to return. The supermoon was supposed to do — whatever the supermoon does.
And, of course, a Dramatic Realignment of the Legislature is due, any day now.
Received wisdom for some time has stated that there is no point in trying to get anything done in Congress until everyone there agrees with you. That is the premise of numerous superPACs and organizations. Why persuade anyone or try to look at another perspective? No, no — the best thing is to wait until a mystical hand whisks away everyone who doubts your stance on immigration, say, or the national debt.
No one can quite agree on when this point is going to happen, but it had better be soon. Otherwise we will have to shut the government down.
In the meantime, let’s spend a great deal of money and yell at each other.
In the course of this Vast Apocalyptic Repositioning, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Vanishing Center, IN) was seized from above by the invisible hand of the voters and spirited off in a tense primary against Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock. But before he went, he had some serious words for all the Apocalyptic Thinkers out there.
In his concession speech, Lugar noted:
Mourdock “and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.”
Lugar continued: “This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.”
Apocalyptic thinking is the easiest kind. But, as Lugar notes, it accomplishes little. While you are waiting for everyone who disagrees with you to be replaced, there are serious problems that you cannot wait to address — or address alone.
“Eat and drink and laugh and lie. Love, the reeling midnight through! For tomorrow we may die,” wrote Dorothy Parker, “But, alas, we never do.” That’s the flaw in paganism — and the trouble with the legislature.
The only trouble with apocalypses is that they seldom happen.
The world has never ended yet. And until it does, we have to keep things going, somehow. That, unpalatable as it sounds, tends to involve compromising, using independent judgment, and working together with people with whom we do not agree on every point.
Nick Fury puts it well in “The Avengers”: “Until such time as the world ends, we will act as though it intends to keep spinning.”
Lugar did that. But there are fewer and fewer like him.
Yet don’t worry. The Mayans will be here shortly.