Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Foresight? Not so much. Sometimes I think we humans can’t see past the end of our noses. The pandemic is the the most recent and obvious example. I think of the Chinese doctor who issued a warning, was silenced by the government, and died of COVID. But we’re shortsighted or no-sighted on many other issues. The one that worries me most is the state of our environment. We still have “deniers” of global warming, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
What makes us engage in denial, burial of the problem, defeatism, anger, manipulation, and many other emotions and behaviors before we get to acceptance? After centuries of evidence that denial (our first response) doesn’t work, we continue to practice it. A classic comment on this subject was made by Winston Churchill about the U.S. when he was trying to get the U.S. to join WWII. FDR was ready; the nation was not, at least not until Pearl Harbor. He told his cabinet members: “Don’t worry. You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”
I think every student should be required to view the movie “Groundhog Day.” Harold Ramis, the writer and director, understood humans all too well. Brilliant man. His main character goes through the entire range of emotions listed above, starting with denial. Eventually, he figures out that “he” has to do something. “He” has to change. It’s a great movie for a discussion of how we respond to things we don’t like and how, with a little bit of understanding, we might actually change our Pavlovian response and act more responsibly.