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July 06, 2010


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The idiot wind of American mass media does not explain so much as confirm Suburban Man's belief system. Both parties are to blame. Big Oil is bad but so is the government that would regulate it. Spending for the military is not a subject for debate but foreign aid will be our collective ruin. Global warming is a controversial theory and environmentalists are wackos.

The Haves are not merely the rich, it's everyone who has equity in a house, SS and Medicare, or a job in a protected profession (health care, the prison/industrial complex, the military, public safety). The Have Nots are those who not only don't command our sympathy but might not be "real" Americans deserving of respect.

In the 1930s, most Americans lived in community. The post-war boom began that unraveling, which only later translated into a revolt against the political consensus undergirding it. Community today is little more than the electronic tribalism of talk radio and cable news. If you don't know your neighbors, there's no real reason to care about them. That's why the media seem so heartless about the current suffering. It's audience share, not actual human beings they care about here.

We're not going to win this debate. Belief is the most powerful force in an individual's character. The American Right already won that battle. Our evidence, arrayed and argued, is helpless against belief. We can commiserate here but the die is cast. This will not end well but nothing ever does.

I wish I knew how to agitate more and more loudly. Unfortunately I, like most Americans, spend most of my time fending off crises and trying to figure out whether, after a lifetime of entrepreneurship and hard work, I can afford to go to the dentist. I used to wonder why we didn't have riots in the streets over the bank crisis or the need for single payer health care, but I now think people are too discouraged and disheartened and busy trying to survive to care. We are like the tribal Afghanis.

"We are like the tribal Afghanis"
Except that we have ChinaMart, iPhone apps, and video games where we play at fixing ruptured oil wells while the real ruptures remain unstopped. We are "plugged in" . . . to a vacuum.

Jon is 'spot on': this time it is different for us; but not so different from when Rome lost its Republic, or when the Byzantine Empire lost its Anatolian freeholder heart, or when . . .

You never know what you have until it's gone.

Kudos to both Jon and soleri for their analyses and styles.

"Abundance is a life style"

Abundance is relative. Some of us use it to purchase McMansions, speed boats, sports cars, and collector toilets; some of us use it to feed our neighbors and communities.

Abundance is a choice. Some of us have returned apparent abundance to the cupboard in search of another kind of abundance.

Abundance is ephemeral when its true costs are pushed onto our children.

A most excellent and reflective essay, Mr. Talton. I am reminded of certain passages from Martin Chuzzlewit:

‘You have come to visit our country, sir, at a season of great commercial depression,’ said the major.

‘At an alarming crisis,’ said the colonel.

‘At a period of unprecedented stagnation,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘I am sorry to hear that,’ returned Martin. ‘It’s not likely to last, I hope?’

Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always IS depressed, and always IS stagnated, and always IS at an alarming crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable globe.

‘It’s not likely to last, I hope?’ said Martin.

‘Well!’ returned the major, ‘I expect we shall get along somehow, and come right in the end.’

‘We are an elastic country,’ said the Rowdy Journal.

‘We are a young lion,’ said Mr Jefferson Brick.

‘We have revivifying and vigorous principles within ourselves,’ observed the major.

* * *

‘Oh! there IS an aristocracy here, then?’ said Martin. ‘Of what is it composed?’

‘Of intelligence, sir,’ replied the colonel; ‘of intelligence and virtue. And of their necessary consequence in this republic — dollars, sir.’

Martin was very glad to hear this, feeling well assured that if intelligence and virtue led, as a matter of course, to the acquisition of dollars, he would speedily become a great capitalist.

One more, for the investment bankers, real-estate speculators, and other swindlers, and those giants of capital prepared to sell out, not merely their fellow countrymen, but the entire domestic manufacturing sector, for the sake of greater profits:

"It was rather barren of interest, to say the truth; and the greater part of it may be summed up in one word. Dollars. All their cares, hopes, joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars. Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour and fair–dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage–room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars! What is a flag to THEM!"

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