Founding Myths And Wealthy Survivalists: When The Truth Is Fungible, So Is Society

Founding Myths And Wealthy Survivalists: When The Truth Is Fungible, So Is Society


Leonard Zwelling

The new number one best seller is an old book, 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian novel about what the future would be like when it was published in 1949.

Evan Osnos has a piece out in the January 30 New Yorker called “Survival of the Richest” about a rather well-developed movement of survivalists among the filthy rich of Silicon Valley and New York. It seems these people are preparing for the apocalypse, even going so far as to buy condos in underground buildings that used to be missile silos.

These people are known as “preppers.” They are preparing for the end of civilization and their movement is growing. That these superrich invest in the end of the world rather than in philanthropy in the world as it is is both selfish and upsetting, but it is for real. These people are preparing for a world W.R.O.L., without rule of law.

It is hard to blame all of this on the election of Donald Trump as this movement has been in the making for years. Mr. Trump may be the spark that lit a fire under purchases of 1984, but the rest of this survivalism for the superrich must have a much more fundamental etiology. I think it is the loss in our foundational myth that America as we know it will always be here.

Racial strife, the concern over immigration, terrorism, and globalism have all created a world moving too fast for most and too scary for all. It should come as no surprise that those who have the where with all to hibernate through a nuclear winter might choose to do so. That this thinking emerges from the most forward thinking of all Americans in Silicon Valley, is far more concerning.

Mr. Trump is not helping.

If the new President continues to have his own facts, there may be very little that the media can do to put the truth before the American public and have that public believe it. That is the true damage that Mr. Trump’s ridiculous utterances about crowd size and voter fraud do to the American fabric. They cause it to fray and we cannot afford that as a nation. Our foundational myth, summarized in the Preamble to the Constitution starts with “We the People.” When we give up on that, we have lost our foundation. The only question is whether this survivalism among the wealthy is a harbinger of things to come.

These are the thoughts of others as I indicate in the links.

I am wondering if the undermining in confidence in the leadership of MD Anderson doesn’t derive from similar problems in the loss of the foundational myth of MD Anderson embodied in the core values of Discovery, Caring and Integrity—especially that last one.

Few believe that the entirety of the financial crisis can be attributed to a single electronic medical record system. Fewer yet know where the money is going. What is the size of the transfer of funds from patient care, state and philanthropic sources to the moon shots and the various research projects favored by Dr. DePinho? How much of what Mr. Fontaine says about the finances and the cash reserves and the balance sheet can you believe if over 700 people had to be laid off despite what the president says is a “healthy balance sheet” and $2.8B in the bank? Not to mention that there is no guarantee that these layoffs are over.

It is reasonable to assume that there is a real trust gap in the country if the President of the United States can lie about things both important and meaningless and get away with it. His advisers are either too timid or too stupid to call him off.

Likewise, Dr. DePinho continues to try to quell the discomfort in the faculty body and the entirety of the staff of MD Anderson. It’s not working.

I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s priceless campaign saying that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job; a depression is when you lose yours; and a recovery is when President Carter loses his.

Perhaps at MD Anderson, a downturn is when your fellow worker is laid off; a crisis is when you are; and a recovery is when Dr. DePinho is laid off.

I hope that I am wrong about MD Anderson, but it seems to be in a death spiral of poor economic performance, over spending and pressure to reduce staff. I hope this blog is not a leading indicator of the future.

But, it might be.

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