Take Back America! - Let’s Reclaim Our Honors!

This is my first entry as a guest Bastard (Yay!), and it isn’t even original. Well, it’s originally my wordage, but it’s partly made up of a comment I made to another thread. While what I wrote before is highly critical of us all, it’s important to recognize that we have ways of changing our realities. We can make our desires known more easily now than we have ever been able to before. We can speak to our leaders and we can speak about them to others, to our newspapers, to our unions and social groups, in our blogs, with our votes, with our buying powers (to name just a few ways) and we can now discover more about their aims than we ever could before. Abundant information is available at the click of a search engine button. Yet, with increased abilities to monitor national and world events, the chances of receiving misinformation increase as well. We can be swayed by the sheer volume of inculcation and manipulation of emotions. It isn’t easy to form opinions and stances that aren’t mostly constructed out of half-truths and party-line promotions. 

So, it’s better to maintain constant doubt and incredulity and to expect proof and accountability. It is sensible to ask questions and accept that every answer leaves a more precise answer still possible. It is natural to feel proud of your country’s accomplishments and ideals, but tragic when those same attributes are rendered meaningless by the efforts and yields of those who mostly seek to elevate their financial, social and political positions through manipulation of laws, commerce, information and faith. It is depressing to be made to look a fool for believing others seek only noble outcomes when they all too often do not.

So why do we hesitate to use many of the methods we have to communicate? Are we a nation of mostly apathetic whiners? Are we really so self-centered that a 9/11 style event must happen before we will even contemplate that other fantastic and problematic incidents could be taking place around us? And then, do we too easily decide that schemes such as these are just desperate actions taken by jealous, fanatical fringe groups with dark desires to abolish democracy or promote contrary religious beliefs? Is anything ever really that exactly definable – that black or white?
           
The problems with America aren’t really the faults of Bush, Cheney, Gore, Kerry, etc. These leaders simply do that which they are allowed, and encouraged, to do. We can vote truly respect-worthy individuals into office. The problem is that we too often cause our leaders to be elected for the wrong reasons, and support them for serving superficial aims. We permit narrow-minded politicians to fool us into thinking they have our best interests in mind, when it is actually their greedy gains they serve. We allow old and bitter, young and naive, men and women to build their political residences at our expenses. We allow our administrative, judicial and legislative branches to fight like children and work like retirees, while their woefully imperfect decisions cause too many of our citizens to go without hope of meaningful livelihood, and children to go hungry and uneducated. None should!

We don’t generally communicate with our public servants until something displeases us, yet special interest cabals are constantly lobbying actively for excessive concessions and rewards. We don’t ask for accountability or experience, but we expect heroes. We proclaim some as heroes even when they clearly are not such. We’ve forgotten that, in order to be decent co-habiting human beings, some need to be encouraged, even required, to be considerate.

We let media moguls saturate our airwaves and periodicals with puffery of poorly gathered information. We allow opinion to be presented as hard fact, which eradicates the lines between information and supposition. We watch “Reality TV” and are often savvy enough to understand that it is replete with false construction and dramatic contrivances, yet our disbeliefs are easily suspended when real world signatures, the events that take place around us, are constantly being manipulated and misrepresented.

The problems we face are there because American citizens don’t care, or not enough, about others. We want easy answers, quick fixes and preferential treatment. We allow corporations to achieve their own avaricious detrimental aims. We often worship actors who present Oscar worthy renditions of universal human struggles, but we abhor in ourselves the humanity they mimic. We want million dollar homes and million dollar paychecks and we want to be treated like kings. We’ve lost sight of the minimum allowances each individual deserves, as though giving sustenance and comforts are shameful things to encourage. Possessions make us happy and while we are using more of the earth’s resources than any other nation, scores of our, and other nation’s citizens, go hungry while living in harsh conditions and climates, where the chances of surviving another day are much less than the chances they should be. We are a shallow, upwardly mobile, superstitious nation of greedy assholes and we are rewarded that which we are willing to cheat, maneuver, and connive for.

We don’t try to see all sides of an issue – we allow our religions, our selfish passions, our prejudices, our Moores and our Limbaughs, to think and speak for us. We don’t want to be bothered with having to give up anything, and even less with having less than the most we can possibly gain – by hook or by crook! We have the power and intelligence to create a better nation and a better mindset. We just don’t want to use our abilities ….yet.

We are gluttons, and we don’t even realize, or refuse to accept, that our lifestyles are not sustainable. We cannot see beyond the present, because we deny the information that tells us where we are likely headed. We cannot have peace of mind because we constantly hunger for power, prestige and financial profit. We attempt to provide democracy for other nations (through invasion) yet we have not proved absolutely that it works for ours, and forcing it on others is against the very spirit of the enterprise.

If what I so hastily wrote seems “off” to anyone, prove to me that I have any of it wrong. I’ve painted with a broad brush and some don’t deserve all the blame I’ve assigned, but we have a lot of selfishly assertive citizens, entrepreneurs and leaders running around mucking up the mix. Imagine what we can change if we task them, and ourselves.

We should recognize that our institutions and formulas offer easy rewards only to some, while forcing the substantial costs on others. There are too many priests, philosophers, politicians and role models who will purposely or unintelligently misinform us as to how we should address vital issues, and only critical and unflagging countenance will allow one to think constructively, outside their spheres of influence. Take a fresh look at how we really are and why. Consider ways we may become a truly great nation, and find ways to help make those visions functional. We can do this!!!!

(Thank-you, Les for the soapbox!)

12 thoughts on “Take Back America! - Let’s Reclaim Our Honors!

  1. Brock, I’ve seen a lot of your posts over the past few months, and I’d just like to say, becoming a guest bastard couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy!  (I hope calling you a bastard doesn’t get misconstrued.)  Congratulations!

    And this is a good first post.  I agree with a lot of what you say, and while I also agree that you’ve painted in very broad strokes, I think the majority of Americans really do have large conflicts between thought, motive, goal, and action.

    I’m fresh off seeing a bunch of episodes of “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” and one episode – “Environmentalism” – comes to mind now.  All of these (excuse me) hippie motherfuckers who want so badly to belong to a cause don’t even seem to bother to learn about a particular cause before they start chanting monotonous, buzzword chants about it.  One of Penn & Teller’s staff members got a large number of these individuals to sign a petition to ban “dihydrogen monoxide,” which is in our reservoirs and all over our food, and in our homes.  That’s all these people needed to hear to get them to sign.  What is dihydrogen monoxide?  Anybody?  Bueller?  That’s right, that’d be two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, otherwise known as H2O, more commonly known as water!  And these idiots just signed the stupid petition without bothering to learn, and think, and know the facts.

    It would be nice if the people who actually feel motivated to go and do something about the problems the world faces would actually learn about them, first.  The founder of Greenpeace (I think his name is Patrick Moore) is disgusted with the organization’s current constituents, and rightly so.

  2. Beautifully put, Brock!

    It’s our duty a citizens of this planet to educate ourselves as best we can. I guess that America, being the Big Guy, should cop it’s share of the blame. But, countries like the UK and Australia should share the blame. We follow in your footsteps like some trained poodle.
    We all need to be informed and active citizens.

  3. Brock definately has a writing talent.  Congrats on your guest Bastardship, dude!

  4. So glad you’re a guest Bastard, Brock!  I sent a link to this post to a few of my friends. I know two of them will like it a lot and one will really hate it!

    “We’ve forgotten that, in order to be decent co-habiting human beings, some need to be encouraged, even required, to be considerate. “

    What a concept!  Our current leaders and many citizens seem to revel in being “ugly Americans” as if that were a virtue.  So many follow the president’s example in saying, “my way or the highway.”  What if we just tried to see things from the other guy’s angle on occasion?

    “We don’t try to see all sides of an issue…”  Right on!

    Well, sure, if we let some news channel that is ideologically comfortable to us summarize all the issues.  People should access media from overseas, and read magazines from opposing points of view.  Of course that takes a lot of time so “must-see-TV” is more like “must ignore.”  Reading The Economist and Mother Jones would be a start, along with Scientific American and its Brit counterpoint, New Scientist, and the Reason and National Review websites to round it all out. 

    Lately I’ve started frequenting the Al Jazeera website English edition.  I don’t have a drafty mind, but if I’m going to make up my mind on something, it doesn’t just make sense to let Bill O’Reilley (or whoever) do it for me.

    “We are gluttons…”

    My kids’ guitar buddy just bought a Honda Insight hybrid, and got a big tax break in the process.  Funny, but Bush made fun of Gore for proposing that very tax break.  Of course, they still give a much bigger tax break for SUV’s over 6,000 lbs.

    Great call to be informed.  I wish schools would concentrate on developing what Carl Sagan called the “Baloney Detector” in kids’ minds instead of teaching them how to fill in ovals in standardized tests.

    Thanks again Brock for a great post.  I wish I could be a fly on the wall when our office conservative reads it.

  5. Thank you very much Joe, Tish, Ragman, decrepitoldfool and Adrienne. I’ve got no complaints where flattery is concerned. hee hee!
    It feels good when you realize that others grok what you’re trying to say and see value in it.

    My purpose for writing this was/is to encourage discussion and ideas concerning how we can change some of our less admirable traits and outlooks. For example, I’ve been trying to think of ways we could insure that only the best individuals become leaders and lawmakers. Maybe individuals would need to be trained from youth, through a national program, to serve. Whatever, there are ways to minimize our disconnect tendencies. They may involve a paradigm shift but aren’t impossible. I’m hoping you guys have some practical, possibly even fantastical, ideas you’ll share.

    Again, I know what I said was severe, but I meant to be brutally honest. I’ll shame people into facing reality if that‘s what it takes. I’ve seen myself come from a harsh aloof family background and turn out pretty good despite what I was given by way of support, but I want things to be easier for others. I know much potential is inherit in each of us. I’m a humanist all the way!

    I’m not purposely trying to be maudlin or overly dramatic but when one talks of these things, little fluffy abused bunnies always seem to hop into view. If you can prize that bunny even though it may be a lesser life form and a loser to boot, we’re halfway to being the humans we should be.
    /silly emotional appeal

    Please post what you are thinking, even if you fear it may seem trite or unworkable.

  6. I’m trying to get this typed quickly, so excuse any meandering of my thoughts.

    For example, I’ve been trying to think of ways we could insure that only the best individuals become leaders and lawmakers. Maybe individuals would need to be trained from youth, through a national program, to serve.

    I’d worry about that leading to elitism.  Reminds me of med school – I’m not bagging all docs, but you do get some that feel after a decade or so of school, they don’t really care what a patient has to say about their condition.  After all, the patient didn’t go to med school. 

    Speaking of schools, I worry about the system getting too focused on passing assessment tests, and not working on getting kids to actually think for themselves.  Watering the standards so that EVERY student can graduate high school in 4 years just makes that diploma a wasted sheet of paper. 

    Popularity does play a role in effective leadership.  If you’re not liked, it’ll be harder to get stuff done.  Of course, if you’re very popular, like Reagan was, you can get money from a reluctant Congress for a controversial project like SDI b/c they didn’t want to go against a popular president.  I know it’s not the only ingredient for a good leader, but I believe it’s a necessary one. 

    If you can prize that bunny even though it may be a lesser life form and a loser to boot, we’re halfway to being the humans we should be.

     
    Sometimes that requires admitting your own faults or mistakes, or questioning your belief system, which some people will not do, no matter what.  Ok, now I’m just preaching to the choir…  wink

  7. Congratulations Brock.

    This is a question based on a part of what Brock said.

    David Sirota contributes articles to Progress Report* on the Center for American Progress Web Site. Todays article was timed timed to coincide with the availability of the new Medicare drug card. It describes the inefficiency and conflict of interest in the program. Further, some of the corporation authorized to issue these cards were under investigation for fraud when they were selected for participation in the program.

    Underlying all of this, of course, is the corrupting influence of money in the electoral process. Our representative are not representing our best interests. My question is what can we do, practically, to turn around that around?

    * If you check out the Progress Report, scroll to the bottom to find Under the Radar. These are items that you might otherwise not see in the media.

  8. I’ve been thinking about your post for a couple days now and it keeps coming back to a major sea change in education.  We’re still trying to cram kids heads full of facts without teaching them how to figure out what facts mean.  Facts are not the same thing as education!

    Facts are easy to get now with the ‘net and libraries everywhere, but our education methods are still stuck back several centuries ago.  We’ve tacked on a veneer of high-tech but the basic method is the same.

    Kids need to learn how to get facts, how to tell suspect information from reliable, how to argue, how to control their emotions while arguing (so arguments don’t devolve into name-calling or worse), to be ready to change their minds when the evidence requires it, and to accept the consequences of taking an unpopular view.  None of these things are possible the way schools are run now.

    Here’s a page I wrote about education a couple years ago that I’ve been adding to from time to time.

    Another thing that your post made me think about was a change in how parents view interacting with their kids and media.  I have absolutely no idea how to bring these changes about:

    Parents need to take a hard look at how much they just echo how their own parents interacted with them.  I know because I was practically a tape recording of my dad and that wasn’t always a good thing (not always a bad thing either.)  My kids are grown now and I wish I’d thought about it much earlier.

    Also – this is one thing I think I did right – I told my kids they did not have to respect their teachers but they did have to behave respectably.  One is a feeling, the other is a behavior.

    Parents need to sit with their kids while they watch TV from an early age and do the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” thing with making fun of advertisements.  It’s a good antidote to commercialism and materialism, and very easy to do because commercials are often so ludicrous.  This is another thing I think I did right.  (:-D

    Let kids play by themselves.  Less organized activity.  Team players build pyramids but they don’t design them.  Today machines build pyramids so we all need to be involved in designing the future from law to literature, art to music and so on.

    I printed your post out and sent it to my 84-year-old grandmother.  I bet she will love it.  She’s spent her whole life believing in the better possibilities of humanity. (She worked in the juvenile justice department of San Francisco county waaaaaay back when.)

  9. I admit, I have a problem. If I find that too many people in a room or place agreeing on one position, I simply have to offer a rebuttal.

    “It is all rhetoric is it?” I have always wanted to say that.

    “It isn’t easy to form opinions and stances that aren’t mostly constructed out of half-truths and party-line promotions.”

    Human beings are marked by their telescopic inability to peer into the future. As often is the case, whenever there is a particular problem there are more than one solution. Thus even with the best analysis one cannot foresee precisely how a particular policy will turn out. And even if one can foresee it, each different policy have their strength and weaknesses.

    To generalise, it can be said that politicians want to adopt a policy that will best benefit the population. After all if the people are happy, there is a higher chance of re-election.

    The problem is how to reach or even judge what constitutes that ‘best’ scenario. Let us take the tax as an example. The Republicans position is that tax should be reduced and that with less tax, people can spend more or invest as they see fit thus benefiting the entire economy. The Democrats on the other hand believe that society is better off pulling its resources together to provide key services. And that financial aid to the poor will help them leave the poverty trap and become active contributing members of the society.

    The problem is that since no two time periods are exactly alike, it is impossible to determine which would better benefit the society. And of course there is the issue of how to measure success. For example, would you choose to have (1 super entrepreneur/inventor + Many Average workers) or (Many good workers but no entrepreneur/inventor)

    So what then happens is that at the end of the day, after all the facts and figures comes in, the decision may still have to be made based on party/idelogical lines. If you are driving and 50% of the people ask you to turn right and another 50% left, at the end of the day you are not really any closer to a decision and that you have to rely back on your belief.

    Therefore, nothing wrong with ideology and party line as these are position that often arise due to lack of information about the future. As you yourself have pointed out “we cannot see beyond the present.”

    But in your claim that :we deny the information that tells us where we are likely headed” one should be wary of hindsight.

    “rendered meaningless by the efforts and yields of those who mostly seek to elevate their financial, social and political positions through manipulation of laws, commerce, information and faith”

    How do you define manipulation? Is your definition is based on the ideas of fraud and deceit? If so there is a problem with the structuring of the sentence with regards to the phrase ‘manipulation of laws.’ If by manipulation of laws you refer to ‘technicalities.’ Then let me remind you that these ‘technicalities’ serve a important procedural aspect. If your definition means no more than one presenting their position in a better light (stubborn v determined / passionate v quick to anger / Appeasement v Peaceful solution, etc) then I do not see what is wrong with such a stance.

    “Is anything ever really that exactly definable – that black or white?”

    This goes back to my initial point. That because there often is no one policy that have all the benefits and none of the problems. At the end of the day one may have to return to their ideology and party lines.

    We’ve lost sight of the minimum allowances each individual deserves, as though giving sustenance and comforts are shameful things to encourage. Possessions make us happy and while we are using more of the earth’s resources than any other nation, scores of our, and other nation’s citizens, go hungry while living in harsh conditions and climates, where the chances of surviving another day are much less than the chances they should be. We are a shallow, upwardly mobile, superstitious nation of greedy assholes and we are rewarded that which we are willing to cheat, maneuver, and connive for.

    Ah, my favourite part. This is where I can talk about economics and Adam Smith.

    Minimum allowance:
    What does minimum allowance refer to. If it is minimal wage and benefits then I am against it. I believe that minimum allowance will result in less jobs being created as each job cost more. It will also result in a higher cost of living. In the 1960s union rates in US and Europe was about the same and that unemployment rates were a bit higher in the US than Europe. Currently, ratio of union is Europe (except UK) is much higher than US and their level fo unemployment is also higher.

    Earth Resources:
    Unless one is subscribing to the ‘aid/begger theory’ of development, such resources exploitation is beneficial to these developing nations. The workers in China or India are paid less than their developed world counterparts. But their lives have improved vis-a-vis the past.

    The people who campaign against ‘sweatshop’ workers and especially those who urge boycott by comparing working conditions in those developing nations and a developed world are in effect closet protectionist. I guess this is where I might agree on your earlier point relating to people ‘manipulating information.’ For while these people claim to be helping the developing world, they are in effect helping to preserve the status quo.

    Upwardly Mobile:
    Even if one is filled with ‘base’ motive in their intention, society might not be worse off as a result. Adam Smith talked about the ‘invisible hand’ where individuals each acting to serve only their own purpose would generate a combine result that acts as an ‘invisible hand’ to help the society as a whole.

    Or to view this in another fashion. Would you prefer it if you become downwardly mobile?

    “We attempt to provide democracy for other nations (through invasion) yet we have not proved absolutely that it works for ours, and forcing it on others is against the very spirit of the enterprise. “

    Democracy as it is stated is not the ‘best’ form of government. It is the least worst form of government. Actually to be precise, US is not a democracy, in fact no nation in the world is a democracy. The proper word to use is a Republic. Since in a democracy, it simply means majority rules and that majority can if it so please even enact laws that take away the right of the minority. A republic on the other hand works within a charter or constitution.

    Anywho, apart from that I believe that there are three forms or variables of a ‘democracy.’ There is the:
    1) US version: More individualised.
    2) Continental Europe version: Socialist state where the government ‘provides’ for the people.
    3) Asian Version: Sacrifice of some individual rights so as to protect the rights and interest of majority.
    Countries like Canada and UK I would believe lies in between the US and Europe version.

    None of these are perfect. Or to be precise they are not perfect for everyone. They each have their strength and weaknesses.

    Education
    Just some final points on edution, specifically relating to learning facts. It is not that fact learning per se is bad but that fact learning without application. Facts to a certain degree have to be learnt. You need to know the facts before you can apply it.

    As for the post on education, personally I am in opposition on many of the points in that page.

  10. PopTarts, that isn’t a problem, it’s what develops a discussion.  No one’s mind is expanded if, as you say, we’re all agreeing.  (Which is why I want to see school kids learn how to argue!)

    Not much danger of the US turning into a Socialist paradise overnight because Brock wants to turn down the volume on corporatism a bit.  It’s one thing to write corporate-friendly laws, and quite another to let the corporations write the laws.  The latter seems to be how things are going lately, and that poison needs an antidote.

    I hope I understand Brock’s main point as distilling down to “Americans need to start trying to see the big picture for a change” which given our patterns of consumption and self-absorption calls for a radical reassessment.  My prescription is pretty simple: I’d like to see people watch less TV and read more, especially things they are inclined to disagree with.

    Where I live, farmland is being chewed up to build huge homes with SUV’s in the garage.  Farmland is a resource and I don’t have a problem with resources being used as needed but what’s the deal with how enormous those homes are? The runoff from those perfect lawns contains more pesticides and nitrates than the farmland ever did. In the 1950’s people built a small ranch-style and went to Yellowstone on vacation.  Now we build a freaking mansion and caccoon with our 42-inch plasma TV’s.

    It’s sad and sick our cars get the same gas mileage that they did in the 1960’s.  The high technology has gone to more powerful engines instead of better mileage.  Who needs a 300hp car when the speed limit is 65mph?  I would not advocate for new laws (shudder) but for people to think! and make better choices.

    I mostly agree with you about minimum wage and import/export issues.  I cringe when pols talk about “stopping all our jobs from going overseas” and how terrible it is that Wal-Mart is “taking over the market and driving out the local businessperson.”  Usually the market can arrive at the best solution there.  But when American corporations hide in Carribbian tax shelters, I want to blast ‘em!  I’d probably settle for making sure people know about it so they can buy from corporations that don’t do that.  If they can find any.

    I think you missed Brock’s point about forcing Democracy on others.  He didn’t seem to be saying it was the best form of government.  But I don’t agree with him that we “haven’t proved it works” here.  Ask about a zillion immigrants a year why they want to come here.  They won’t talk about democracy, but they sure like it’s effects on an economy.

    Just some final points on edution, specifically relating to learning facts. It is not that fact learning per se is bad but that fact learning without application. Facts to a certain degree have to be learnt. You need to know the facts before you can apply it.

    Actually I’m saying the notion of a certain set of facts that must be learned is outmoded.  Yeah, I know it’s a radical departure from the dominant educational theory now.  But the relentless focus on facts (because they are measureable in tests) isn’t education.  I’m in favor of a much messier process.  If we’d shift the focus to engaging kids’ interest, I have faith that they’ll learn enough facts.  And it’ll be their facts, not some committee-agreed-upon set of approved facts.  That’s crucial to educating a citizen who can see the big picture.

  11. decrepitoldfool on 05/31 at 12:31, Here is some more information on the SUV tax break obtained at

    http://www.taxpayer.net/TCS/whitepapers/SUVtaxbreak.htm

    The tax law discussed in the quote was originally mute on the subject of vehicle use. The 2003 changes in the code made it very attractive to buy SUVs weighing over 6,000 pounds. This is from the article.

    These changes to the tax code, which were originally intended to spur capital investments by farmers and small businesses that rely on heavier vehicles, have made the purchase of heavy SUVs extremely lucrative for any small business owner, whether or not the vehicle is necessary in their work. It has raised the deduction cap to $100,000 for small businesses, while retaining all other aspects of the tax cut. This makes the purchase of at least 55 large SUVs, passenger vans, and trucks-all priced under $100,000-completely deductible in the first year.

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