How Much Longer Can We Live in This America?

 

“How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable. But again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” -V for Vendetta

I wrestle often with the issue of who’s to blame for the wounded state of my country. Usually I take the easy road and I gripe about the usual suspects—the stacked trifecta of politicians, the media, and big business comprising the contingency that’s raping us dirty style.

 

finger pointing

I could devote an entire career perfecting my diatribe against the moneyed and the powerful, just sit in my ivory tower and read and type and read, spending every day henceforth talking about the problem. And it would never start mattering how witty or polished or correct my critiques became; nothing would change because nothing would need to.

Lately I’ve turned more toward solutions. Surely ve’ve sufficiently diagnosed, analyzed, and bitched about the problem by now, haven’t we?

Which missing link spun off our perfect engine to send us spiraling away from what democracy used to mean? And when?

I teach 75 college students, many of them fresh out of high school civics classes. They’ve read Adam Smith and Milton Friedman and all the old school theories about how capitalism was supposed to work, but nobody bothered to tell them that that’s not the way it actually does.

Theoretically, in a system ruled by markets, the “invisible hand” of self-interest cancels out any threat of corruption. In that fantasy world, everything balances because the press keeps politicians honest.

 

Wealth of Nations

But we don’t live in 1776. The mainstream media now embraces the corporate model, partnering with other mega-firms. What happens when one of their sister corporations manipulates or repeatedly harms the world in a politically newsworthy manner? As any successful CEO learns, it doesn’t pay to worry about the greater good. Corporations now freely “express” themselves by pouring money into political campaigns, essentially bankrupting any candidate who doesn’t agree to return the favor if elected. Freedom of the press now includes the right to freely disseminate misinformation and shifty half-truths. Information isn’t free; customers must compete for it. So from their capitalist, free market perspective, it’s not the media’s responsibility to report the facts to us. It’s our responsibility to want the facts badly enough to outbid those who pay to suppress them. Now, combine that ass-backwards corporate attitude with a population that couldn’t give a fuck less about representative democracy, and all of a sudden even our sovereignty is a commodity, subject to inflation and exchanged for lighthearted TV.

not his fault

Having an impotent mainstream media does motivate the more engaged citizens to think critically. But that still leaves the other 99% of us calling Bill O’Reilly patriotic (or Hillary Clinton, depending on our tax brackets and how religious/homophonic we are). And how exactly does the minority of critical thinkers, those of us reading between the lines, reach out to our hoodwinked countrymen? Do we embrace them or try to educate them? Do we have any empathy at all for the fact the country we’re watching fall apart is their home too? Nah! Some of us may try harder than others, but eventually some backwoods billybob will call us a terrorist or a communist, and we’ll respond by telling him to go fuck himself. Then we’ll sign onto our liberal blogs and compete to see who can make the most radical statement. Who can out-lean whom as we stretch leftward off the charts?

We’re all so very proud of ourselves for seeing the light first, and it’s more fun to live in that light amongst friends than revisit the shadows and associate with the dip-shits who ate the blue pill again. It’s more comfortable to see ourselves as somehow different from them, better.

But there are no bonus votes for paying attention. We still share America with the uninformed, no matter how tall the walls we build we to avoid looking at them. They live and breathe just on the other side, “deer hunting with Jesus” and outnumbering us on election days.

It’s not about who fucked up the country. We’ve covered that. The new question should ask who can fix it. And there it makes little sense to mention the usual suspects. Corporations, politicians, and the media won’t dig us out of this hole. They’ve been crooked all along, screwing us over from the start—that’s not what’s changed, not really. We’re the ones who are different, we the disengaged people, the enlightened as well as the willfully ignorant.

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~ by Matthew Frederick on January 28, 2008.

14 Responses to “How Much Longer Can We Live in This America?”

  1. Love that last picture. It really sums up the last 6+ years.

    Oh, and good post too. 🙂

  2. Nice post. I am trying, one person at a time. So far I have given out an entire bottle of red pills in a month.

  3. Lately, I’m hesitant to write another piece about politics or the economy because I feel like it’s so much bitching, so little action.

    In life, I’m making small steps toward changing my way of life so that I’m less a prisoner of the credit economy. But just as I’m loathe to keep bitching, I’m loathe to confront my neighbors and fellow Georgians because I know that I will be labeled and dismissed as just another looney liberal. They’ve been well trained to put their thoughts on mute so that they are perfect recepticles for rightwing lies.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. Right now, the best I feel I can do is raise three children who understand the danger of this United States and what we stand to lose.

  4. First off, it does my heart good to know you are a teacher. Frankly the solution lies (in my mind ) in being solution oriented. Lets start with the basics. Literacy, the meaning of words, ie “tolorance” vs. “acceptance”. Some Liberals have embraced the word tolorance, but its meaning is actually negitive. ie I tolorate her smoking,it implies a boiling point will eventually be reached. Words matter. A better word for example would be “acceptance” (and one doesn’t have to like or agree with something they accept as a reality)
    History, we as a culture need to revisit our history as a Nation,Howard Zinn of course does a heck of a job in his classic book, A people’s history.

    We have been conditioned as a culture to want bigger better faster and quick fixes ie. i got a credit card i want something NOW – off i got to “charge it” too many people , and i believe this started when CALCULATORS were allowed in Math classes , do not know how to do the math, or balance their own check books. They have abducated responsibility – to morgage brokers for example, forgetting the old addage , “If its too good to be true it probably isn’t” Simply put common sense. No matter what someone tells me, they may have a hidden agenda and if i only make 40,000 how on earth am i buying a 300,000 dollar house.

    Solutions will happen in our own local communities, worker owned business CO OPs , turning our lawns into gardens and studying permaculture. Solutions will also begin in the classroom of our public schools, We must improve the ability of teachers to teach more than to the test. There are tons of GREAT TEACHERs , that long to teach kids ,to love learning, to critically evaluate all they read, and learn the basic tools of doing research on any topic and then and ONLY then, decide what they themselves think.

    On the subject of liberals, too many of us, (myself included) have been guilty of knee jerk reactions. We have got to maintain our personal liberal values, but also see them in context of the bigger picture.

    ie. case in point. NO ONE wants to see someone bullied on the internet..BUT if Congress were to legislate this,taking away personal responsibility of internet users,adults and children alike..ITS A FOOT IN THE DOOR the corporations are salivating for, literally, our FREE SPEECH and internet neutrality is at stake. Fist the came for the internet bullies, to save the children. So bottom line, civics, personal responsibility for our own families, we need to get back to basics. Common Sense basics that are neither “conservative nor liberal” just COMMON SENSE. We can have a compassionate populist culture, without being a “nanny society” that caters to every social ill that pops up. These kind of responses will come back to haunt us. Many ideas of the good guys in the future will be exploited by the not so good guys.

    GREAT POST !

  5. we are where we are — because as society we have chosen this place — America since 1945 has been about taking the easy way out — because for so many years it was so easy. no it aint so easy anymore — but yet we will sacrifice to anyone (politicians, media, corporations) to give us back the easy life. hey george bush was the guy to have a beer with.

    as americans we dont embrace change, we dont embrace growth, we dont embrace harmony — we embrace ourselves and have an attitude of “how does it work for me”

    and the smart ones (politicians, media, corporations) saw this and exploited it.

    nothing will change until we rise up collectively and demand change — not the slogan ‘change’, but a fundamental change in our societal norms. and sadly i dont see that happening for a long long time.

    now back to American Idol

  6. yeah. I’ve thought a lot about this. First off, the white people who came here had a bad attitude. their attitude was “look at all this free land, and look at how these dumb Indians don’t exploit it the way God intended” and if you ask me nothing has changed at all in the white people’s attitude. the very way we live is wrong. nothing can change as long as we think that we should exploit resources for our gain. it is a capitalist way of thinking and it is wrong. the Earth is just about tired of us and ready to lower the boom on us. no it won’t be any fun but I doubt that now we can do a damn thing about it. I wish I could be more optimistic. let me know the answer if you get it figured out, okay? but for now I think we have screwed up too many life processes and now we are going to pay. the republicans just brought it on a little faster with their greed. but we are all greedy when we don’t recognize that we must live within our means and that applies to the whole ecology of the Earth, not just our country’s political process or our freedom of the press or any of that stuff. and yeah, it makes me sad. I have children and grandchildren who are going to suffer because of the greed that has gone on too long.
    as for what I do, I try to buy things second hand. I try to NOT be wanting stuff all the time and being the good little consumer. I buy organic food and I don’t eat meat. I vote every election. I go door to door canvassing for the candidate of my choice. I encourage people to read and to turn off their televisions. I try but don’t know how much good it will do. good post btw!

  7. I agree that this a is great post but I must disagree with proudprogressive’s assertion that calculators can be blamed for our lack of monetary disgression.

    How can you blame a technology for people’s ignorance or inablility to learn how to balance a check book. A calculator is a tool like a hammer.

    I contend that those who think that people use to be able to do math could do math. Those of us that can add, subtract, multiply, or divide never set foot in a class with those who couldn’t. So when we discover that there are people who actually can’t do it we are shocked and look to blame.

  8. Love this post, MFV. You’re right; it’s easy to bitch and far more difficult to posit a solution. I will say that some of us have pretty much given up hope, and therefore, feel any solution put forth will have about as much impact as our critiques. But the critiques at least help us (or help me) to process whatever happens to be eating my lunch that day. There’s another facet to this as well: the problem of implementation. It’s one thing to have a great idea which solves a problem or improves a situation; it’s quite another to have the power to implement your fix. Still, great post just the same. Thanks

  9. Your post is certainly correct; the impetus for change MUST come from the American people. I just don’t trust ’em. Which is why I would never run for office. “I think you’re willfully ignorant! Vote for me!”

  10. Some Americans have been pushing an agenda of change for years and suggesting viable solutions. It is only in the last few years that some of our voices have been heard.

    If Adam Smith had seen BushAmerica, he would have written Das Kapital instead of The Wealth of Nations.

  11. Dear one, Mathman, let me clarify, its not the technology that i “blame” what i was trying to do is come up with an example, of how our culture gradually lost its ability to think things through and problem solve. To go through a manual/thought process in figuring out simple basics. I am awful at math , labored hard as a kid even to do basic division. ..so i remember scratching things out with my mom over my shoulder. And was trying to make that connection..the fast easy problem solving at two earl of an age ..MAY impair the ablility of adults later in life to go through the steps of problem solving, and critical thinking ..thats all – hey technology is great and to blame for NOTHING..its our personal responsibility as to how we use it.

  12. I like the challenge you present in your post. I started blogging in order to have a way to vent through discussion. But I also want to discuss ways to solve these problems that I rant about. As I’ve said before, I really believe that public policy is the most intelligent and effective way of producing systemic change, because it’s fact-based and methodical. Sometimes we need a little revolution and sometimes we need a little cost-benefit analysis. But we should probably start by cultivating a more accurate understanding of our economic and civic systems in the first place.

  13. Proud – I appreciate your response. You are correct people don’t know how to solve problems. I think there so many issues as to why, from back ground, bad schools, bad teachers and bad laws.

  14. Limit the Terms of Congress have them meet once every two years. The House and the Senate are part time jobs. Close down the congress and have the congressmen and women live in their own districts and do their business via the internet. That way it will make it more expensive for K Street to bribe them.

    It will also bring the Congressmen closer to their respective constituents so that they don’t live in the beltway bubble plus it will save us taxpayers a hell of a pile of money. They must utilize social security for their retirement and a government sponsored national health plan if one is enacted they must also be a part of.

    Hold a national referendum on ecological ideas and implementation if all states like the idea OK if not let the Eco types migrate to the states that are Eco friendly and leave the other states alone. Tree Huggers to California and Oregon. Hunters to Missouri and Arkansas etc Socialists to Blue States and Red Necks to Red States. Limited Government and States Rights would solve a lot of the social strife.

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