Wesley Quick, a good friend of mine read my essay “Outstanding in His Field” and, instead of just accepting my complaints, sent in a comment that asked me to put forth a solution. A fair question, since I do not believe in whining without having a course of action for making things better. I started to put my answer into the “comments” section but thought I’d post it more widely on the blog.
In order to move toward a solution, we must first realize the fundamental problem we are up against. Some political commentators have come close to seeing the problem by talking about how the ultra right-wing has been allowed to “frame the discussion” in their own terms. But it goes deeper than that. The haters have actually been allowed to create the reality in which we now live. And that reality is a nightmare. A nightmare, that is, for all but the haters who use it to exploit and abuse the rest of us for their own gain.
Although each of us has our own viewpoint of reality, our larger world is shaped by the consensus of what we as a group agree the world looks like. And the future is shaped by what we believe the world should look like and what we think is possible. To turn an old quote on its head, “If you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it.”
In the famous book “1984,”George Orwell showed an oppressive world where an omnipresent & evil government had achieved near-total control and oppression of the populace. The government expected to keep the oppression going forever, since the inhabitants of that society could no longer even conceive of a different, better way of life. The tools to do so had been taken away from them. They were kept in constant fear & hatred: of their neighbors, coworkers, and even their children accusing them of traitorous non-conformity; of scarcity of the necessities of life; of the enemies with which their nation was at war; of their own natural urges for freedom, sex, or love. By keeping them locked into emotional upheaval they had no time to think about rebellion. The government “framed the discussion” by corrupting rational thought through insisting on nonsense ideas, such as that “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” The basic ability of people to evolve ideas of freedom and rebellion was short-circuited by dumbing-down the language. Actions start with thoughts and thoughts start with words, so words that expressed taboo thoughts (such as freedom or rebellion) were removed from the vocabulary. And history was molded to the government’s whim by destroying all documents that were contrary to the officially approved story. Anyone who remembered events that did not fit the official story would be a nut who could show no evidence. In these ways the government created its own “reality.”
During an interview with an“Esquire” magazine reporter in 2002, an unnamed senior adviser to President Bush made a strange assertion to the effect that the Bush Whitehouse was creating its “own reality.” This sounds like arrogance of the most ridiculous kind. But I think that is exactly what they’ve done. Now it is their world and we only live in it.
Through 30 years of steady, stubborn, concentrated, and crafty effort the loonies took over the asylum. It all started with Ronald Reagan, who started by convincing the most vulnerable Americans that they were being milked by Welfare Queens, that marijuana was “the most dangerous drug,” and that trickle-down economics was the path to national salvation. His quakery was reenforced by the newly forged right-wing (hate) talk radio & tv. Our perception of reality began to change under a steady assault of being told to “just say no” and that ketchup was a vegetable suitable for a balanced school lunch. Then we had the first George Bush and his “kinder, gentler” America that was really meaner and nastier (freedom is slavery), followed by “liberal” Bill Clinton who lead us into conservative territory where Reagan would have been proud. By the turn of the century, much of the country had bought into the lie that a rising stock market was the lifeblood of the nation.
Then came Dubya. If you remember, after the Supreme Court selected him President he seemed pretty much an irrelevant hick. But in the atmosphere of fear & hatred following September 11th, 2001 he and his minions were comfortably in the driver’s seat, creating their own reality. Liberals, progressives, populists, peaceniks, leftists, dissenters, doubters, and other “traitors” were buried under shouts of “united we stand.” My daughter & I attended a Geoge Carlin concert in Dayton shortly after the attack wherein the normally uninhibited comedian declared a moratorium on attacking our government (I would not have believed it if I had not heard it with my very own ears).
Obama’s America still lives in Bush’s reality: We still fight endless wars to bring democracy to the world; we still bail-out the too-big-to-fail banks and corporations; universal healthcare is still off the table; we still have to globalize our industries until none remain; programs like food stamps, Social Security, and unemployment are too still too expensive to keep funding; we still must spend more on “defense” than the next 46 countries combined. Our new President has turned-out to be politically to the right of Dwight Eisenhower but he is labelled a liberal-socialist-communist-marxist. Business leaders and politicians spout-off about how they are “doing God’s business” or compare poor children getting reduced price school lunches to feeding stray animals- and they are treated like reputable, sane people!
We must change the nightmare that America has become and the nightmare America has become for the world. I absolutely believe the first step is that we must regain our power to imagine the world as it should be. See that a better world is necessary and that it is possible. We must stop accepting the visions of reality created by crazy, hate-filled cranks! Once we do that, good change will naturally follow.