Friday, March 11, 2011

Re-inventing America, Part 1

I was originally going to title this post "Restoring America." But I realized that restoration is not really what fundamental change for USA is about. The America that I would like to see gestated then birthed is one that has probably never really existed before, except in (mostly) short-lived outposts in isolated corners of the nation. My inspirations are many, but chief among them would be David Korten, at least insofar as a sound economic future, followed soon after by Van Jones. But in fact the constellation of my inspiration is as diffuse as the seeds of real change (versus change inspired by fear, i.e., right wing, reactionary change, which is not really change at all). Before I list what I consider to simple, foolproof changes that I believe would fundamentally begin to alter the landscape of the socio-economic-political landscape of the USA, I'd like to briefly summarize what I think constitutes our present dilemma.

Where we are:

  • Contrary to popular believe, we are not a true democracy. The U.S. is mostly a corporatocracy, wherein huge corporate interests, often multi-national in nature, exercise enormous control over the direction of public policy, media reportage, tax policy, and taxpayer expenditure.
  • We are supposedly a "free market" economy. This is one of the greatest myths perpetuated by our politicians (who are, in the main, vassals of the aforementiond corporate interests). What we really have in the USA is a system of corporate socialism, succinctly summarized in the words of author Thomas Frank: "socialize the risks, privatize the profits."
  • A sizable portion of the American population have passively surrendered any sense of investment in the future of our nation to elected officials who by-and-large have little interest in true populist causes. No matter how much their actual economic and political power erodes, many Americans persist in the mantra of American exceptionalism and the belief that their quality of life is still second to none anywhere else on the planet. It is this disconnect that that led the late Howard Zinn to call America "the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority."
  • In concert with the preceding, is the growing contempt of the American people for intellectualism. Intelligence (and that word has a broad embrace of of many gifts, not necessarily connected to academic credentials) is increasingly viewed with suspicion, if not openly mocked, chiefly by faux populists such as Sarah Palin, but even in our media. My favorite example of this is the popular TV show "The Big Bang," in which brilliant scientists are portrayed as lovable but hapless nerds and geeks with little pragmatic competence. In the popular media, true cultural intellectuals have been replaced for the most part by pundits, whether of the left, or the far more omnipresent right.
  • The fading status of reason and intellectual depth in our country is personified by two striking disconnects in comparison to the rest of the developed world: 1) our rejection of evolution as the driving force of life's diversity (only 1 in 4 unconditionally accept evolution as true according to a Gallup Poll), and 2) our stubborn refusal to accept anthropogenic climate change as a reality (about 40% at last count, and rising).
  • Also conjoined with our fading intellectual capabilities is the continued downward spiral in our children's performance in science and math against a worldwide standard.
  • Somewhere around 2005, the U.S. became a net food importer (despite the widely tauted efficiencies of food production increasingly managed at an industrial scale). I would hazard a bet that most citizens don't know this (or care), as they are quite pleased to purchase asparagus and apples year round at the local supermarket. However, a nation that is no longer producing the majority of its own food supply faces enormous risks of food insecurity in the future.
  • Empire feeds the corporate state. With 700+ military bases around the world, despite the collapse of our proverbial bogey-state, the Soviet Union, the corporate state is thus poised to respond to any threat to its interests (mostly the continued flow of oil and other resources). At the late Chalmers Johnson wrote: "As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order." While the vast military apparatus safeguards global corporate interests, it also spawns an entire growth industry of military contractors, to provide goods and services to military personnel, as well as the manufacturing of military aircraft, ships, vehicles and, of course, weapons, many of these latter making their way into the black market side of arms dealing, and thus often end up being used against our own forces. The corrupting influence of this cycle is never so apparent as in the hiring of retired military brass by these corporate contractors, which has reached record numbers.
  • A further indication of the corporate/militarist state's festering corruption is the fact that CIA agents are quietly allowed to moonlight performing corporate espionage. Yes, I kid you not. The twisted logic proffered by their spook administrators is that is the only way that they can keep their best agents in the Company (vs. jumping ship and going into the far more lucrative field of corporate work full time). This was detailed in the book "Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage" by Eamon Javers.
  • Our entire society is based primarily on rampant over-consumption (the media euphemism is "consumerism"), which proceeds at a completely non-sustainable level. Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy. Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day - that's roughly 200 billion more than needed - enough to feed 80 million people. The average American's daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world's population lives on 25 gallons.

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