This morning two friends of mine were talking about why present day automobiles last so much longer and run so much better than those in earlier days.
There are many reasons, of course, but a primary one these two engineer-type folks identified was the present day near-perfect engineering of bearings used to keep automobile moving parts from wearing out. Older bearings might have appeared perfect to the untrained eye, but they had imperfections of various kinds that caused them to wear, and thus cause problems more quickly. A bearing even a tiny bit out of perfect balance or dimension is more likely to have problems. Most of the imperfections have been engineered out of today’s bearings.
During the day I kept thinking of that conversation about bearings, and how it applied to this eccentric (out of centric, unbalanced) nation of ours.
We have lost our bearings, to borrow the word for another purpose.
When one faction of a diverse society deems its philosophy to be the only acceptable philosophy, and tries in various ways to dominate and control the actions of all, the society goes out of balance, much like an unbalanced tub of a washing machine. The system begins to wear. The more unbalanced it becomes, the more likely it will be to crash and become completely dysfunctional, damaging not only the losers, but the winners as well.
Systems of all kinds need balance to survive and to thrive. History is full of examples, especially in the natural world. These are apparently easy to ignore if one thinks that they have found the perfect formula for taking control.
Down in Ames, Iowa, today, a bunch of Republican candidates for the U.S. Presidential nomination are engaged in a beauty contest, hoping to stay in the running for their party’s nomination, later. There is no perceptible balance there, of any kind. Each is trying to outdo the other as the premier conservative, far to the right of center. There are no moderates in the running in Ames. And probably the most conservative of all is not even there, hoping to gain strategic advantage over the others in months to come.
In the recent debate in Ames, every one of the candidates came down against even a 10:1 balance in spending cuts versus revenue increases in balancing the federal budget. Of course, they may have raised their hands only to go along with the rest of the herd, But it is their view, apparently, that no compromise is acceptable to Republican supporters. That it is “my way or no way”. This seems a guiding party narrative.
Ideologically pure positions such as the one just described are wildly out of balance, wildly eccentric, whether or not one has the votes to temporarily prevail.
Eccentric bearings ultimately wear out with mild to severe consequences.
So do washing machines whose load is constantly out of balance.
So do unbalanced countries where one side says, because they have a governing majority, or possess more of a particular kind of power*, “we can tell the rest of you what to do”.
“Majority rules” has its place, but not as currently practiced in the reigning arch-conservative and very radical wing of the Republican party in the United States.
We are a dreadfully unbalanced country at this point in our history, and we have been unbalanced for too many years.
We are paying a heavy price, and we are careening towards breakdown.
Will we stop the train before a bearing breaks and causes a fatal accident?
It’s up to us.
* – see the end of this link for a definition of some different kinds of “power”