Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Even More Problems, Part III

Super Bugs and Antibiotics

Apparently there’s no money in antibiotics these days, so Big Pharma doesn’t bother with them. All of these bad bacteria that we hear about are as busy as can be mutating to avoid being killed by the existing antibiotics, and many of them have been supremely successful in this enterprise. So far, the bacteria are winning this battle. 

All of that mutating to become more survivable should be clear evidence that evolution is a very real part of life on earth, but no one seems willing to acknowledge that fact. It’s “survival of the fittest” in action. Whether the scientists call evolution a “theory” or a “law,” they all agree that it is a fact, and that it has been churning along since the dawn of time and has created the face of our modern world.

It’s not God that’s creating these problematic “Super Bugs.” They’re creating themselves through a natural process of biology. It would be so great if our capitalist overlords and our democratic representatives would throw some resources at developing new and better antibiotics to deal with the problem.

This problem is not abstract at all. It’s “in the pipeline five by five,” as they said in Aliens, and it’s probably in the pipes down at the hospital, too. Why wait until some president’s daughter dies of a super-strong new kind of staph infection after a routine appendectomy? Ten years ago would have been a great time to have started.

The Crisis of Democracy

Governance and democracy are elements of the classes that I teach, and my students often have questions about the process of developing a democracy. I tell them a few things:

1.   Don’t focus on the popular vote. It’s really all about the democratic institutions. Democratically elected individuals come and go, but the institutions remain. They must be strong enough to weather the changes in staff;
2.   Democracy has never come to a country overnight. The experiment must begin and then it must be nurtured over time. It’s like a child, I tell them. When we are children, we think as children, and there are many things that we don’t understand. As we grow into adults, we think more clearly and understand things better. The idea is to make a good start of it and then perfect the democratic institutions over time; and
3.   Even a mature democracy must be constantly on guard against the erosion of democratic values or institutions. It may happen quickly or slowly, but democracy can be lost.

Numbers one and two are of most interest to new democracies that are feeling their ways through the early stages of development. Number three is frightfully important to many long-term democracies at this time. It’s important to the United States, certainly, and also to a few of our European partners. We’re not being careful about losing our democratic rights at all.

Our constitutional rights in America have been seriously eroded. Our police, our legislators and our courts are all complicit in this process. Those are the kinds of democratic institutions that we are supposed to be jealously guarding! We’re losing everything that we have worked for since the founding of our country.

Almost no one seems to care, though. I do see the occasional academic, long-form article about the process of loss in general or some of the abuses in particular, but very rarely does any of it make the new instant news process. And no one is really talking about it, except maybe John Oliver. Regular people seem to prefer to either keep their heads in the sand or stick with talking-points taught to them by various non-democratic power centers.

I know that I’ve mentioned some of these things before. Forgive me if you have spotted my redundancy. But as few people as there are who read this blog, I doubt if anyone will have noticed.  

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