Opinion: Rejecting Hobbesian thought

Maddie Newingham

Maddie Newingham

In what is admittedly an untraditional lede, I have to apologize: My article this week takes a glass-half-empty approach, and I’m sorry for that.

Thinking about the current condition of our nation, I recalled that somebody a long time ago suggested to me that our country is in this abhorrent state because our time as the premier country on the global stage has expired.

But how could the United States fall from such a stratified status, and why? Can we fix it?

In Hobbesian thought, our environment is unfixable; people are fatalistic and horrible to each other and will always act accordingly.

Humans are animals and, in crisis, will be self-serving. Under this philosophy, we have government because we must protect ourselves from our evil intentions.

I do not like this line of thinking, and I do not think we must be this way. Maybe I am grossly naive, but we have created and progressed brilliant societies.

At some point, I would like to think good can and will prevail and that we will not destroy each other.

But, back to the fall of our nation: I think we have not hit American greatness yet.

Looking at what we have done to our own people, how can we argue what we have done is best? We, as a country, have ensued in ethnic cleansing against Native Americans, have lynched our black community, have caged Japanese citizens and dropped two nuclear bombs on cities abroad.

That is not greatness. We have done some great things, but this cannot be our peak.

The argument can be made by looking at historical trends that perhaps our democracy is failing. We were not designed to be a democracy, but have adopted this political governance.

Though a despotic demagogue has a seat in the Oval Office, not every leader we’ve had is great, nor does this lead me to believe we are failing and falling to some collapse of power. 

I think if we do not change, then yes, we deserve to fall. But we are not beyond hope. We have rotted our politics, but it isn’t doomed.

We just need to be drawn back to a collective good and desire to progress.

We will absolutely fail to be a great nation if we cannot return to statesmanship. After all, the rest of the world is moving forward, and we are not.

The rest of the world is working on solutions for climate change, medical advancements and poverty, but we can’t even open one eye across the aisle.

I hate to break it to the conservatives who want to transgress or stay as is, but society progresses. It just does.

Whenever I have these discussions, I think that we are so behind, but we’re not doomed if we save ourselves.

We do not have to collapse. We just have to care about people, and that’s what we’ve failed to do up to this point.

Maddie Newingham is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].