“I’m puzzled,” said EAGLE. “Why is Europe treating its people better than we are? We’re the Land of The Free and the Home of the Brave. And we practically invented democracy.”
CUCKOO frowned. Sometimes EAGLE could be obtuse. Or maybe he was just being provocative. EAGLE could be very hard to very hard to read. CUCKOO thought he would look rather well if carved into Mount Rushmore.
“Don’t confuse the words of the National Anthem with reality,” said CUCKOO.
“And EAGLE-LAND did not invent democracy. I believe the Greeks got it going – though they too had slaves - and then it lurched forwards in fits and starts over more than two millennia. And you may recall the British played no small role in the development of parliamentary democracy. It included executing their king, Charles I.”
He smiled. “The evolution of democracy – which still continues - turned out imperfectly, but well enough. Perhaps not so well for King Charles.”
“You are an adroit debater,” CUCKOO,” said EAGLE, “ but my question awaits.”
“Europe has a long had a tradition of social concern and reform,” said CUCKOO, “which has taken a long time to mature – and is still evolving. I guess it started in the eighteenth century with thinkers like the Swiss, Johann Heinrich Pestalalozzi, and the French Encyclopedists.
“It developed in the 19th century through people like Bismark, who instituted old age pensions, accident insurance, medical care and unemployment insurance – oddly enough to try and counter the Social Democratic Party. And then came the shattering experience of two world wars.
“After that lot, Europeans decided that it might be a really good idea to develop both a political and an economic model which would allow them to live together without violence. That led to the European Union and a large number of policies which add up to the fact that if a government doesn’t look after its people, dissension and violence will inevitably follow.
“EAGLE-LAND played an important role in all this. Remember, in those days, the U.S. was an occupying power in Germany and was still acting very much in the spirit of FDR and the New Deal. So in a very real way, we helped to create their form of capitalism.”
EAGLE had his head extended. He was fascinated. It all made sense.
“Why didn’t we head in the same direction?” said EAGLE.
“EAGLE-LAND had had won the war so why should Americans change?” said CUCKOO. “Call it hubris, if you will. In addition, Big Business was worried about the rise of union power and corporations began to fight back. And then there was the enduring power of myth.
“Real Americans were rugged individualists who didn’t need all this namby-pambying by the state. At best that was socialist and possibly communist and certainly liberal. And EAGLE-LAND was fighting a COLD WAR with communism at the time. By extension, that made a union organizer fighting for decent vacations, or paid maternity leave – to give but two examples – a communist, anti-American, and an enemy of the state.”
“So communism became an excuse for blocking any progress towards a welfare state,” said EAGLE. “And since communism and socialism are so often confused, socialism became regarded as a dirty word too.”
“It was done deliberately then, and it is being done deliberately now,” said CUCKOO. “And the Right Mugs are better at it than the Left Mugs. They have more money and they’ve had more practice. They’ve been brainwashing the American people for commercial reason for decades – with enormous success. They simply applied exactly the same techniques to politics. And over time this incessant propaganda has got entirely out of hand. It has crossed the line from legitimately fighting for your own interests – as Big Business is entirely entitled to do – to propaganda, mind manipulation, blatant bribery and corruption, and social control.
“And remember, the Rich and Corporate interests own virtually all the means of communication, all the major employment-creating corporation, much of the political and legal system; a great deal of property, and nearly all the money. They have virtually everything on their side except numbers. That is their one weakness. They have countered that – with considerable success – through the most sophisticated propaganda and bribery campaign the world has ever seen. The poor don’t even vote. The Middle Class don’t understand the issues. And whoever wins is bribed.”
EAGLE felt a chill. The weather had turned, and dark clouds had blotted out the sun. Put that bluntly, the situation seemed near hopeless.
“You’d think Americans would fight back,” he whispered.
“Henry Mencken, a highly regarded American writer once commented: ‘No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” said CUCKOO. “I don’t think he was referring to the politics of this Great Nation, but he might as well have been. Today, I think he would add the word ‘inertia’ to intelligence. Electronic entertainment has stupefied the land.”
EAGLE readjusted himself on his perch to hide his confusion. He was in shock. He felt as if he had been punched. Part of him wanted to deny CUCKOO’s every word, but his own sources – his special team of extraordinarily intelligent eagle researchers – was confirming exactly what he was being told.
“Do you know that we eagles invented e-mail?” said EAGLE. “That’s why there is an ‘e’ in front.”
CUCKOO rolled his eyes. “Perhaps Mencken was talking about eagles, “ he said.
EAGLE fell off his perch laughing, the words “dissension and violence” temporarily expunged from his mind.
But they returned.