Some people say it's foolish to worry about soulless creatures overtaking the earth and devouring our brains.
I say they've already won.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Malaise Speech
I just re-read Jimmy Carter's "Malaise Speech". It's actually spot on. It's not surprising that it was panned, because the truths are uncomfortable. Here is what my students read:
Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very
important subject -- energy. For the fifth time I would have described the
urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to
the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same
question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been
able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper --
deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or
recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So
I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.
I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our
society -- business and labor, teachers and preachers, governors, mayors, and
private citizens. And then I left Camp David to listen to other Americans, men
and women like you.
It has been an extraordinary ten days, and I want to share with
you what I've heard.
These ten days confirmed my belief in the decency and the strength
and the wisdom of the American people, but it also bore out some of my
long-standing concerns about our nation's underlying problems.
I know, of course, being president, that government actions and
legislation can be very important. That's why I've worked hard to put my
campaign promises into law -- and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But
after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the
legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to
speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or
inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to
I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure.
And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at
peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of
confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit
of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the
meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to
destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply
some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the
Fourth of July.
It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our
development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else
-- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very
Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has
served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called
progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be
better than our own.
Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself
but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of
In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families,
close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to
worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by
what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things
and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned
that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no
confidence or purpose.
The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around
us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe
that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of
our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually
dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen
below that of all other people in the Western world.
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for
churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a
message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
These changes did not happen overnight. They've come upon us
gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and
We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet,
until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were
always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the presidency
as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.
We remember when the phrase "sound as a dollar" was an
expression of absolute dependability, until ten years of inflation began to
shrink our dollar and our savings. We believed that our nation's resources were
limitless until 1973, when we had to face a growing dependence on foreign oil.
These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed.
Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal
government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation's life.
Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our
government has never been so wide.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like
it, and neither do I. What can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our
course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern
ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and
that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true
challenge of this generation of Americans.
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to
choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to
fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of
freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path
would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and
immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage,
all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common
purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom
for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we
begin to solve our energy problem.
Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this
nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the
battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can
seize control again of our common destiny.
In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of
energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from
foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive
dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our
people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of
you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased
inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on
foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our
nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present
danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.
I will continue to travel this country, to hear the people of
America. You can help me to develop a national agenda for the 1980s. I will
listen and I will act. We will act together. These were the promises I made
three years ago, and I intend to keep them.
Little by little we can and we must rebuild our confidence. We can
spend until we empty our treasuries, and we may summon all the wonders of
science. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources -- America's
people, America's values, and America's confidence.
I have seen the strength of America in the inexhaustible resources
of our people. In the days to come, let us renew that strength in the struggle
for an energy secure nation.
In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do
it alone. Let your voice be heard. Whenever you have a chance, say something
good about our country. With God's help and for the sake of our nation, it is
time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a
rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we