From a column by David Warren on human incompetence (HT: David Stinson):
Let me mention in passing that President Barack Obama was in no way responsible for the catastrophe, and that there is nothing he can do about it. He is being held to blame for “inaction,” as wrongly as his predecessor was held to blame over Hurricane Katrina, by media and public unable to cope with the proposition that, “Stuff happens.”
In a sense, Obama is hoist on his own petard. The man who blames Bush for everything now finds there are some things presidents cannot do. More deeply, the opposition party that persuades the public government can solve all their problems, discovers once in power there are problems their government cannot solve.
Alas, it will take more time than they have to learn the next lesson: that governments which try to solve the insoluble, more or less invariably, make each problem worse.
I like to dwell on the wisdom of our ancestors. It took us millennia to emerge from the primitive notion that a malignant agency must lie behind every unfortunate experience. Indeed, the Catholic Church spent centuries fighting folk pagan beliefs in things like evil fairies, and the whole notion the Devil can compel any person to act against his will — only to watch an explosion of witch-hunting and related popular hysterias at the time of the Reformation.
In so many ways, the trend of post-Christian society today is back to pagan superstitions: to the belief that malice lies behind every misfortune, and to the related idea that various, essentially pagan charms can be used to ward off that to which all flesh is heir. The belief that, for instance, laws can be passed, that change the entire order of nature, is among the most irrational of these.
Sheer human stupidity is the cause of any number of human catastrophes — including the stupidity of superstition itself. We need to re-embrace this concept; to hug the native incompetence within ourselves, and begin forgiving it in others.
More of Warren’s work is here.