It’s painfully obvious that many of us have lived for a long time in the grip of some powerful ideas that aren’t true.

That wasn’t a major problem as long as the ideas weren’t either overwhelmingly numerous or crucial to our national well-being. But now that we have lived with some of them for many, many years, their effects are becoming crippling.

Then, in recent years we added substantially to our collection of misapprehensions about reality, constructing a fairly elaborate house of cards that now is in danger of collapsing around our ears.

And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

While there isn’t room here to list them all, let’s at least hit the major ones, so that when the sky is blackened with chickens flying home to roost, we can see why they hatched.

Going from closer issues to more distant ones, here are some of the principal ways we have lied to ourselves in believing that:

We can turn our backs on human nature, which our radicals tell us is not God-given but infinitely malleable.

Thus we conduct experiments with the family, the basic unit of human civilization, and pretend that we can alter its essential nature at no harm to ourselves or our children.

In fact, we are teaching them not only that sterility (before and after conception, or in “alternative” relationships) enhances a wide variety of chosen “lifestyles.” And then we tell them you can live a satisfactory life without either faith or a productive occupation.

No culture has ever survived without some transcendent vision, and it is not really possible that we will be the first.

The United States has so far avoided the demographic collapse that soon will turn Russia, Japan and most of Europe into either vacant lots or the homes of other cultures that do have children. As Mark Steyn, the author of “America Alone,” has noted, “The future belongs to those who live in it.”

But how long will it be before our birth rate, too, dips below replacement levels, and all our expectations for a return to prosperity wither away into empty cribs and shuttered nurseries created by our focus on present pleasures rather than future plans?

We can borrow our way to prosperity. Across the lines of party doctrine or any governing philosophy, we have told ourselves that obligating the future for what we want now is an “investment,” when it is instead simply debt.

With an economy larger than any other, we have been able to put off the reckoning for this for longer than most of us have been alive, but all the while the debt has been accumulating. And it is set to swell by the trillions over the next few years.

Historically, nations have resolved such situations in only one of two ways, by either printing money and inflating their way out of the debt (robbing its value from those who financed it), or much more rarely, openly refusing to pay it via “repudiation.”

Either way can lead to the collapse of a nation’s economy, so you can’t exactly call them viable options. But they may be the only choices we have.

You can hear the voices: “No, let’s just raise taxes enough to bring the debt down to a manageable level.”

Sure, we could raise taxes. But since we have let our obligations grow so much — including broad-based social programs such as Social Security and Medicare, both the next thing to being broke, even as the Baby Boomer wave is breaking over them — raising them enough to make a difference would bring such things as the auto and housing markets — and savings rates — to a screeching halt as disposable income plummeted.

But we have lied to ourselves for so long by telling ourselves that we can afford anything we want, and we have made so many people dependent on that spending, that the desires spurring it on seem far stronger than the necessity to halt it.

If that is the case — we will find out very soon, certainly by November 2012 — then we will become just another example in the history books that exist all around us but no one thinks are relevant to our plight.

Undoubtedly, whatever culture replaces ours will eventually come to think the same thing about itself. For a while, at any rate.

Most people want to live in peace with us, and all we have to do is stop offending them to live agreeably with everyone.

Actually, the first part of this statement is probably true but irrelevant; the second half is a sad, bitter joke.

It doesn’t really matter if 90 percent of the Iranian (or Palestinian, or North Korean, or Cuban, or Venezuelan, or Russian, etc.) people want peace as long as the 10 percent who actually run things do not.

It doesn’t take two to make a fight, it only takes one — who wins much more quickly if he’s the only one fighting.

Yet, weary of war, we elected a president who told us this comforting lie. Trouble is, he also appears to believe it; we would be much better off if he had broken his word about this along with everything else.

So, we appear ready to cast to the wolves our only real ally in the Middle East, Israel, while allowing our worst enemy, Iran, to become a nuclear power.

It’s not clear what we expect this stupendously foolish policy to produce, but to leave the Israelis friendless and faced with annihilation will produce what desperate nations do.

Do we think they have forgotten what “Never Again” means? Have we?

I don’t mean to imply that all these problems don’t have answers. They do.

But since the answers lie in the faith and principles that our elites have abandoned, we won’t find them without returning to what they discarded.

I’ll let you compute the odds of that for yourselves.

 

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

mharmon@mainetoday.com