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Just a couple of quick thoughts about our nation’s infrastructure, and about what it takes to keep it healthy and robust.
It’s easy for Americans to believe that the human condition is one of relative security, comfort, and ease. That’s been the story of America during my lifetime, after all: since World War II we have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and security. I grew up taking those things for granted, as did my own children.
But an enormous amount of real work goes into keeping the lights on, the internet running, the shelves stocked in our stores, medical care readily available. These things require competent management, competent logistics, competent tradecraft — they require that people capable of being serious about their work devote themselves to their care and upkeep. Because it isn’t really true that the normal human condition is one of security and comfort. Rather, we exist in constant tension with a world that seeks with relentless and single-minded purpose to minimize the concentrations of energy and order that make life even possible, much less pleasant.
Our bridges will be no better than the men and women who design and build them. Nature will reclaim our communication infrastructure one router, one fiber repeater, one edge server at a time, until even the resilience built into its underlying protocols can’t keep the internet working. The complex emergent network of container ships and long-haul trucking and local delivery will become sclerotic and eventually seize up entirely if the people who manage its diverse facets fall down on the job.
It seems almost unfathomable that the nation of industry, the country that more than any other built the modern world, could fail for want of nothing more complicated than a competent workforce.
But then it seems almost unfathomable that the nation built on the idea of individual liberty and free expression should be increasingly ruled by fearful snowflakes triggered by pronouns; that it should be educated by once-great institutions increasingly committed to silencing ideas they deem too dangerous or triggering to tolerate; that millions of good-paying jobs should go unfilled because workers either cower at home or coast on the largess of a debt-ridden government that sees its own expansion as the greatest public good.
It seems unfathomable that science is batted around like a ping pong ball, forced to prostitute itself for whichever causes — masks or vaccinations or windmills or carbon taxes or nationwide lockdowns, mandatory this and mandatory that — that an uncritical public and increasingly corrupt and hypocritical elite deem worth pursuing.
Higher education is now, I firmly believe, a net negative for America. I think it’s also a net negative for most of the students who take part in it. We are turning out too many young people who, because they have been taught to run from conflicting ideas and to express hurt when challenged, will be mediocre adults incapable of dealing with a real world that doesn’t care about their feelings. I once believed that that “real world” would put paid to their silly sensitivities and make them behave like adults; increasingly, the opposite seems to be the case, as corporations and institutions trip over themselves to demonstrate how quickly they can acquiesce to an army of matriculated crybabies and its social media cronies.
We can coast only so far on the work of real men and women, people who met the world head-on and took it seriously. I don’t know how many of that generation took early retirement during the past two years, to what extent the ranks of competent workers were gutted by a cowardly nation’s tragically misguided response to a wildly over-hyped virus. I think we will discover soon enough, when things that always worked stop working, when services that should never fail become suddenly unavailable.
Every able-bodied man in America who is sitting at home should get off his can and go to work. And every college student not pursuing a STEM subject should seriously consider walking away from the toxic playpen of American higher education and finding a bit of what’s left of the real world in which to serve and thus live a fulfilling and productive life.
And, yes, get off my lawn… unless you’re here to mow it.Published in