Penetrating our most secure fortifications

Any genuine framework for effective action has to take into account the limits of rationality and go beyond them. How? Frank Rich’s column today points to the problem, but doesn’t provide answers:

[The White House party gate-crashing] was a symbolic indication (and, luckily, only symbolic) of how unbridled irrationality harnessed to sheer will, whether ludicrous in the crashers’ case or homicidal in the instance of the Fort Hood gunman, can penetrate even our most secure fortifications. Both incidents stand as a haunting reproach to the elegant powers of logic with which Obama tried to sell his exquisitely calibrated plan to vanquish Al Qaeda and its mad brethren.

Juxtapose this insight with the instability Tony Judt describes in his current NY Review of Books essay:

…Before 1914, it was widely asserted that the logic of peaceful economic exchange would triumph over national self-interest. No one expected all this to come to an abrupt end. But it did.

We too have lived through an era of stability, certainty, and the illusion of indefinite economic improvement. But all that is now behind us. For the foreseeable future we shall be as economically insecure as we are culturally uncertain. We are assuredly less confident of our collective purposes, our environmental well-being, or our personal safety than at any time since World War II. We have no idea what sort of world our children will inherit, but we can no longer delude ourselves into supposing that it must resemble our own in reassuring ways.

These indicate starting points for strategic thinking and effective action, and for personal decisions about how and when to engage with issues and events.

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