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.
Any working American knows our economy has gradually sucked more and more at higher and higher levels for decades. And all the while, that increasing suck-level has been vastly ignored by our media, our politicians, and anyone who occupies the levels up from where the suck reaches. For instance, I remember about 15 years ago when I worked in Engineering & Product Development and our building had an experimental machine shop. Well, one day the bigwigs decided to eliminate that machine shop and farm-out the work to outside shops. The Engineers I worked with couldn’t have been less sympathetic toward what they called “blue-collar” workers losing their jobs. I warned them that someday the tide would probably rise to eliminate them and the idea was soundly hooted down as preposterous. Now, of course, we see Engineering and developmental work increasingly off-shored. In fact, many of those same Engineers and Chemists were downsized along with me about 9 years ago when the company moved to greener pastures (that is, where labor was cheaper and environmental standards not as strict).
Our habit of turning-away from the plight of our fellow-citizens who are in need is much like that old poem about Nazi Germany that talks about (paraphrasing) “When they came to get the Jews, I did nothing because I wasn’t Jewish. When they came to get the Catholics, I did nothing because I wasn’t Catholic. Finally, they came to get me and there was no one left to fight for me.” The lower-class 90% of the population better wake-up and realize it’s in their own best interest to stand-up for each other. Our ancestors learned this the hard way, as we are now doing. To a great extent, during the Great Depression until the 1970′s, the working class usually stuck together and won higher wages, paid vacations, sick leave time, holiday pay, overtime pay, reasonable work-week hours, and many other benefits that the plutocrats didn’t want to give. Since the workers stopped sticking together there has been a steady erosion of all those work place improvements.
One of our greatest weapons is the ballot box. It is time to turn all the Washington, D.C. politicians out of office (my apologies to the handful that are not slime). And a mild form of that is just what voters thought they were doing when they elected Obama. His campaign of “change” resonated with citizens who didn’t want to destroy the underpinnings of our Constitutional system but knew America’s “public servants” are now only serving the plutocrats. And his sell-out to those plutocrats and war machine betrayed their trust. Like me, most of them won’t vote Democrat again and they already know the Republicans are nuts, so they are ripe for a third party.
On a related note, in the last few days our corporate-owned rulers have decreed yet another give-away to their masters. I’m speaking of the mandatory insurance company subsidy that was passed into law as “healthcare reform.” Over the next few years, the cost of forced insurance purchase will destroy many a family’s budget. Those who are already financially sinking will drown and those who are barely keeping their heads above water will sink. In advance of this bill’s passage, concerned citizens, politicians, and media rightfully asked how people who couldn’t afford insurance in the first place were supposed to buy insurance when required by law. The politicians gave solemn assurance that there would be government help for those who couldn’t afford insurance (much like they assured us after Katrina that New Orleans would promptly be rebuilt). And, amazingly, the questioners swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.
But most anyone who has had to ask for government help can tell you, the gov’t help will turn-out to be an off-putting maze of underfunded bullshit that will amount to near zero help. In the end, millions of Americans will have to choose between buying insurance to avoid fines or paying for their rent, groceries, and utilities. Worst of all, because of factors such as unaffordable co-payments and insurance company denials for treatment, these new insurance customers probably won’t see any real improvement in their access to healthcare. And all the while America’s “leaders” will continue to pour unimaginable money down the rat-hole of endless wars and more tax breaks for the ultra-rich. I believe there is a very good chance this healthcare “reform” (which isn’t) may become the issue that will finally ignite a citizens rebellion.