#85 – How Ironic!

The procrastinator’s meeting has been postponed!

The figure of speech involving feigned ignorance is having field day of late but genuine ignorance is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to tell when irony is present in our speech or if the American mind has slipped into catatonia. One would expect a lot of irony with an entire nation of relatively unconscious people often unable to distinguish between what seems to be happening and what is actually happening in their lives.

“For example, nine out of 10 Americans say in polls that global poverty is worsening or staying the same, when in fact the most important trend in the world is arguably a huge reduction in poverty. Until about the 1950s, a majority of humans had always lived in ‘extreme poverty,’ defined as less than about $2 a person per day. When I was a university student in the early 1980s, 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty.” (1)  Nicholas Kristoff goes on to point out that today only 10 percent of the world’s population live in extreme poverty.

The title of Kristof’s essay in The New York Times was “2018 Was The Best Year In History.” Kristof is not intending to use irony to say the opposite of his chosen title. He really seems to think that life on planet earth is improving for most people. He is not alone. “Each day on average, about another 295,000 people around the world gained access to electricity for the first time, according to Max Roser of Oxford University and his Our World in Data website. Every day, another 350,000 were able to access clean drinking water for the first time. And each day an additional 620,000 people were able to get online for the first time.” (1)

To focus on relative improvements as Kristof and Roser do is like the unintended use of irony trying desperately to believe that because the food on the sumptuous buffet on the Titanic is cause for celebration that all is well on the voyage. And this is after most of the voyagers on our planet  know that the ship is sinking but do not want think about what that means. Irony and denial are close cousins in the Global Village today.

Even when a community knows how to behave in a way to create a sustainable community, there is often an ironic disconnect between what people in that community want to happen and what is actually going on.

“The Indian caste system today differs only in the details and is incompatible with a society that imagines itself [ironically] as a democracy. For example, the Vaishya caste has the Gujarati Baniyas who specialize in finance, and the Brahmins have the Tamil who focus on math and classical music.” (2)  “It’s the equivalent in America of expecting the Asian kid to have good grades, the black man to be the best dancer and the Jewish guy to be will-read and have some slight mother issues.” (3)

Many of us do not see the irony in the human condition. Continued failure to do so could prove fatal. Stay tuned for more on the saga of homo sapiens sapiens and the sinking ship.

Insight # 85:   We meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it.   –C. G. Jung



  1. Kristof, Nicholas. “2018 Was the Best Year in History.” The New York Times Sunday. January 6, 2019, page 11.
  2. Henry, Roy C. “The Illusion of Change.” The Human Community. Simple Reality, October 2016, page 32.
  3. Sankaran, Lavanya. “Caste Is Not Past.” The New York Times Sunday Review. June 16, 2013, page 32.

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