I recently finished reading Fareed Zakaria's Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. Before I ever opened the book, I ventured to guess what his primary conclusion would be. I was kind of shocked, and ironically disappointed, at how right-on my presumption was. It didn't take much in the way of brilliant insight to guess that his conclusion would be that central governments need to be more powerful in order to have better control over the activities of ordinary citizens. My disappointment was because he didn't even bother to employ at least some kind of embellishment to better convince his readers. Instead, he just fell right in line with established "progressive" dogma.
The COVID pandemic is just a flash in the pan when compared to the dogmatic hysteria surrounding most aspects of weather and climate. When CBS News periodically covered the enormous blanket of snow that recently fell on Buffalo, N.Y. and environs, the network would then immediately jump to coverage of the world climate conference (COP 27) at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The abrupt juxtaposition caused me to burst out laughing. Never once was it mentioned that the historically significant northeast blizzard happened a month before the beginning of winter — i.e., in the middle of autumn.
Just about every news story regarding floods, wildland fires, drops in lake and river levels, high tides, etc. winds up including "climate change" as a significant component. In this year's political season, even candidates for city council included climate activism in their proposed agendas. Imagine local political hacks saving their constituents from the weather.
I use the word "dogma" to describe this mindset because so little thought has gone into constructing the rules for what is considered acceptable conformity. Censorship is the obvious defense mechanism, since adequate reasoning or practical command of the facts is plainly not part of the process. Why is this so? After accumulating more than two generations of graduates from public schools that are under the control of political activists, serious curiosity and critical thought are now much less common among the general population.
Obviously, this reliance on dogma instead of thoughtful inquiry would be less of a problem were our fellow citizens better educated. The path to that objective has been well known for many years. School choice, also known as vouchers, would open the floodgates of competition for K–12 education. The entrenched dogmatists are fighting this possibility tooth and nail. But the best they can do in the arena of conflicting ideas is to say that way too many parents are not sufficiently competent to place their children in a proper school. Really? It sure seems that they couldn't do any worse than faceless bureaucrats, especially when the parental imperative to love and protect their children is considered.
A particularly vivid example of dogma corrupting reasonable thought was blatantly displayed by Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times. Shortly after Putin's Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Friedman wrote a column that offered a way for the U.S. to contain Putin's aggression. His proposal was so stupid that I was aghast. Rather than form some kind of geostrategic alliance to box in the Russians, Friedman advocated for the increase in fossil fuel taxes — on us. Why? In order to raise the funds necessary to develop "alternative" fuels and, thus, pull the plug on Putin's energy-export machine. You would normally have to be brain-dead to advocate such nonsense. But Friedman isn't stupid. His ridiculous foray into magical thinking was the product of being totally imbued with leftist dogma.
This is not a particularly recent phenomenon. Some years ago, within the Sierra Club, was a cadre of dissenters challenging the leftist orthodoxy of open borders. They reasonably claimed that uncontrolled immigration was damaging to our natural environment. Oh! The horror! To put a stop to this developing heresy, the San Francisco Chronicle invited a member of the Sierra Club's board of directors, who just happened to be Hispanic-surnamed, to write an op-ed defending the prevailing dogma. To be concise, he simply said that immigration was not harmful to the environment...but personal freedom is. The Earth is in peril because we get to eat what we want to eat, live where we want to live, and generally do what we want to do. All forms of human activity need to be under much stricter control. Sound familiar?
Image: W.W. Norton.