I haven't mentioned the proverbial frog since the second flatland essay, which I wrote in 2014 (and see here and here). Now is an excellent time to do it again in the context of America's irreversible fall from grace. I'll quote from those essays.
It doesn't matter that real frogs don't sit in the gradually heated water until they are boiled alive. What matters is that human beings do. That's what makes it useful as a metaphor.
The American Empire has been in decline for almost 30 years now. Yet it is only in the last few years—specifically, since the financial meltdown in October, 2008—that a few Americans have figured out that the United States is not what it used to be. Therein lies the truth of the boiling frog story as it applies to us.
Think about it. Does it make any sense to say the country was doing just fine right up to the moment (more or less) when it wasn't? For example, did the Wall Street banks become overly powerful and greedy in just the few years before the Housing Bubble collapsed? Did their undue influence on our venal politicians begin during those years? Of course not! Events like the financial crisis don't just come out of nowhere. To understand them, you must examine the historical antecedents. You must understand that the ground for what happened today was prepared many years before.
It was the gradual deterioration of conditions in the United States over decades that set up the unfortunate situation we have today...
I wrote that in 2011. Here's another quote.
Lately, I wrote about A Disturbing Trend In America, where I made this observation—
A strong defense of the status quo has existed in all human societies in all times and all places. However, in the United States, this tendency, which I've noticed because I write this blog, has become far more pronounced over the last three years—the consolidation of power by the powerful is accelerating, so-called "thought" in the media is more and more constricted, and dissenting, critical voices have become so marginalized that many (if not most) have given up.
It is not hard to see that the American frog has been boiled again. Americans have gotten used to an even more degraded society, and will continue to adapt to new, worse conditions. It was inevitable.
I wrote that in 2013. "It was inevitable," I wrote. And now, three years later, we see the inevitability.
Well, humans being what they are—never say die!—we can now observe them attempting to adapt to worse and deteriorating conditions in the new Age of Reptiles. For example, NPR duly reports on every presidential tweet, no matter how absurd, and discusses its policy implications. So does Vox and everybody else.
That is adaptation to new and worse conditions. The American frog is well and truly boiled, but NPR carries on the in the hope that ... what is the hope nowadays?
And there are the usual recriminations, which are also a form of adaptation. I will quote from Conor Lynch's Identity politics vs. populist economics? It’s a false choice – liberals need to look in the mirror (Salon, December 3, 2016).
It is extremely troubling that appealing to young people, people of color, women and working-class whites is perceived as an either/or question, or that “economic struggles” and the “grievances of minorities and women” are seen as mutually exclusive. In reality, economic struggles and civil rights are deeply interconnected. Women and people of color, for example, are much more likely to suffer disproportionately from poverty and economic inequality, while young voters who care deeply about social issues are currently facing crushing student loan debt, a subpar job market and low social mobility.
This illustrates the real problem with modern liberalism. Not that it is too preoccupied with promoting diversity or ending all forms of discrimination — there is really no disagreement on the left that these are vitally important goals — but that these efforts and achievements are often used to mask or divert attention from the deeper structural problems of our economic and political systems.
The fact that Goldman Sachs has been a leader in promoting diversity and inclusivity in its workforce, for example, should not comfort anyone when the same firm committed massive fraud leading up to the financial crisis and is still led by the same CEO, who recently entered the billionaire’s club. When Hillary Clinton gave her notorious $225,000 speeches for Goldman Sachs, it is reported that she lavished praise on the firm’s diversity and the prominent roles played by women in its internal hierarchy. She did not, however, talk about Goldman’s role in exacerbating the financial crisis or the way the firm committed massive securities fraud and reaped billions of dollars in profit, let alone the fact that none of the firm’s top executives faced any criminal prosecution for their misdeeds.
This is the liberalism that failed to stop Trump. This is the liberalism that self-servingly exploited identity politics to protect an establishment candidate whose severe flaws were evident long before the 2016 campaign began.
This is the liberalism that must be overcome, and the sooner the better.
Conor's observations about the moral failures of liberalism are correct, of course, but come way too late to affect the outcome now and in our grim degraded future. Liberals should have looked in the mirror a long time ago. Unfortunately, human nature does not permit much mirror-gazing in the sense intended (honest, critical self-appraisal).
On the other hand, it is not permissible to admit that the American frog is boiled. It is taboo to admit that those sautéed frog legs Donald and Mitt were eating at Jean Georges is American frog.
The behavioral baseline has shifted in an appalling way, but human nature demands that humans adapt to current and worse conditions and plot a better future, as Conor Lynch would have it. But the American frog is dead. It will not be revived.
Using a different metaphor... (suggested by Brian)