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.
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.
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.
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.