“The unexamined life is not worth living.” So Socrates supposedly said at his trial for impiety and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens, crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.
Now I don’t know about all that, but I do know a thing or two about pondering one’s life and the vast network of relationships of all types of which one is part over the course of time. More than once I’ve been cautioned about overthinking things, and more than once I have overthought them.
But if there is anything in this world I haven’t pondered or overthought, it is electricity. We’ve lived in the same house for 33 years, and I am still perplexed about which switch turns on what at every multiple outlet. Wishing to turn on a fan, the lights come on. If I want to turn on the light over the fireplace, there’s a 50-50 chance that the chandelier in the entry will get the juice. I couldn’t tell the difference between AC and DC if my very life depended on it.
In the last few days, however, my brain has been tortured to the point of pain trying to understand why the electrical grid in Texas failed. Experience has shown that anything layered with multiple entities, offices, and boards is likely to be hiding something. We have the Texas Energy Reliability Council (TERC), the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) all playing some role in making sure that the light in the breakfast room comes on when I’m trying to turn on the lights in the kitchen.
With that many acronyms plus the state legislature and governor providing oversight, what could possibly go wrong?
Plenty. As we have seen.
Will there be political accountability for the Texas fiasco? Well, some board members may be ousted and possibly the CEO of ERCOT being fired might pass as holding folks responsible. But a real campaign issue when the general election comes around in November of next year?
Now if the whole of Texas stood up and demanded that the whole alphabet soup and its enablers (side eye to Greg Abbott) stopped messing with Texas, we might just get somewhere. But with an electorate lacking sufficient curiosity or capacity to untangle this arcane system, it seems likely that those who should bear the political consequences will ice skate through this.
Texans, like people in all the other states, really are like everybody else. At least when they’re not shouting about how great Texas is. Faced with a crisis, we hoard toilet paper and water, judge each other for the reaction or lack thereof to a pandemic, question how others got their place in line to receive the vaccine, and assume that somehow affluent neighborhoods are being passed over when the powers that be determine whose electricity is being shut off.
So it really shouldn’t be particularly surprising that in the face of this new crisis some folks go-to position is to blame the libs and wind turbines for a disaster occurring in a state run (some might say ruled) by Republicans for the last quarter century.
That’s the thing about unified government. When things go well, there’s no need to share the credit. But when they go bad, the blame should fall squarely on the party in power. That’s true in Austin, every other state capital, and Washington, D. C.
The other day, a flock of robins appeared outside the den window and feasted on the red berries of the holly hedge that outlines our driveway. I was mesmerized watching them as they flew from one bush to the next, sometimes flying to the bare crepe myrtles to rest while others ate. Then, as if on cue, the birds would swoop up and around, seemingly reorganizing themselves to a fresh crack at the bounty.
They didn’t try to hide berries from the others. They didn’t all land on the hedge and fight each other to get there first. They didn’t push each other aside. They simply performed a ballet of coordinated enjoyment of nature’s generosity.
Examining this, I could only come to one conclusion. People are not robins. More’s the pity.