Saturday, March 21, 2015

(#169-1) March 21 2015. There is a mismatch between the high quality, and sheer decency, of my friends—and the prevailing culture. That said, I like most Americans I meet so I’m puzzled at this dichotomy. Or does scum—as well as talent—naturally rise to the top (and gravitate to CEO status or Congress)? My point is that the the U.S.—at the top—does not appear to work too well. At a lower level, it works much better.




I haven’t done a head-count, but as best as I can tell, the majority of my friends are American—and, though being human, none are perfect, they are an admirable lot. Mind you, I am biased—and strongly at that. They are, after all, my friends—and I hold such people in high regard.

I would like to be able to praise my brilliance and impeccable judgment for the qualities of my friends, but—truth to tell—I think they are no more than a cross-section of the people I have met over the last quarter century who I happened to get on with—and vice-versa. In short, I suspect that they are fairly typical rather than a-typical of their nationality, socio-economics groups, and professions.

If I then conclude that my friends are fairly representative of Americans as a whole—which I admit may be a leap too far—I then have to wonder why the U.S. doesn’t work better than it does; and why Americans, in general, aren’t doing more to change the direction of this Great Nation..

‘Work better’ covers a multitude, but my main focus is on wondering why the U.S. doesn’t provide a more secure and stress-free economic way of life for all who live here. After all, other countries are succeeding in this fundamental regard—so why not the U.S.?

As to why more Americans aren’t trying to change the direction of the direction of the country, I have several thoughts on the matter.

  • FATALISM. People feel helpless and incapable of making a difference so there is no point in trying—or even worrying about it.
  • SELF-SATISFACTION. Despite what they say—many people are actually pretty satisfied with the status quo and with their personal circumstances in particular. The ultra-rich and those who serve them (a category which indirectly includes most of my friends with military connections—though I doubt they think of it this way) would come into this substantial minority. It comprises at least 20 percent of the population—and probably more. Such people tend to be much more politically active than the deprived. This is a crucial point to note. Those who do well out of the status quo will fight furiously to defend it—even if it is blatantly unjust. The deprived tend to be fatalistic and, largely, don’t vote. This is a fundamental weakness of democracy.
  • BAD INFORMATION—AND SELFISHNESS. People are not particularly well informed about society as a whole and don’t think in terms of social concern. They focus almost completely upon their personal circumstances. You can conclude that such an attitude is no more than sensible—or extremely selfish.
  • OR, I COULD BE WRONG. It could be that my analysis—which concludes that the U.S. is in serious trouble right now, and is heading in the wrong direction—is incorrect. I think about that quite often. My conclusion, so far, is that I am broadly accurate, but don’t know enough detail. The situation is, arguably, more nuanced than as described. The only alternative I can be left with is that the evidence is wrong.

One thing I do notice is that my American friends accept a great deal which a European would have a problem with. In many cases we are talking a matter of degree. Money, for instance, plays no small role in European life, but isn’t so relentlessly dominant.

To give another example, many things are supported in Europe because they are regarded as good in themselves—not because they make a profit. The concept of doing something for the public good is much better established in Europe. Being green, recycling, and using less energy have become part of Northern European culture, for instance.

The following are some of the issues which would trouble a European—and do concern this particular one.

  • MONEY. The dominance of money in the U.S.. It seems to be the one constant—and is certainly the prevailing religion. Judging by their style, it seems to have been adopted by all too many U.S. churches (in direct and specific defiance of the bible).
  • CORRUPTION. The prevalence of corruption. This is based less on traditional paper bags of bank notes than on customs and practices which are blatantly wrong, but now so institutionalized as to be regarded as normal. These span the gamut from conflicts of interest in the MICC (Military Industrial Congressional Complex) to share buy-backs by corporations (which are no less than insider trading). The current American Business Model, which is largely focused solely on maximizing shareholder value, is deeply corrupt. For instance, it is just plain morally wrong to treat employees with such indifference—and to have no regard for the community which gave legal birth to you.
  • INCOME INEQUALITY. Excessive income inequality. The system is tilted so blatantly to favor the rich that I can only describe my reaction as incredulous.
  • RELENTLESS PROPAGANDA. The dominance of hype and propaganda in the media. It seems as if someone is always trying to sell you something—and the level of advertising seems both excessive and relentless.
  • CORPORATE POWER. Corporate power, predatory managements, and their widespread indifference to any kind of social responsibility add up to a pretty toxic commercial environment. As other countries demonstrate each and every day, it doesn’t have to be this way.
  • FINANCIALIZATION OF THE ECONOMY. Wall Street should be a service designed to allocate resources to the real economy. Instead, it is overly intrusive and influential to the point of being a corrupting and distorting influence. As matters stand, the system that has resulted forces most people into debt—car, house, education, and medical. If you have an average income, it is near impossible to survive without debt.
  • THE DECLINE IN INTERPRENEURSHIP. The U.S. now ranks 12th in business startup activity. The ‘can-do’ quality which so distinguished the U.S. has been diminishing for years.
  • EARNINGS DECLINE. The fact that the earnings—in real terms—have scarcely advanced since the 70s and have been declining since the Great Recession beggars belief—and cannot have a happy ending.
  • BOUGHT POLITICAL SYSTEM. Political gridlock—heavily linked to corporate power.
  • BUREAUCRACY. Bureaucracy. For legal and other reasons, this is the most astonishingly bureaucratic country. Believe it or not, when I visited my general practitioner in Ireland—assuming the man had my basic records—no additional paperwork was involved. 
  • BROKEN HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. The high cost, mediocre quality, and lack of transparency of healthcare boggles the mind—and the end result costs nearly twice as much as the systems of other development countries—and Americans live sicker and die roughly three years sooner. That should spark outrage. Alarmingly, it does not..
  • MEDIOCRE EDUCATION. Mediocre educational system. There is much comment on this. The aspect that Americans forget are the consequences. Huge numbers of the people you deal with on a day to day basis are inadequately educated.
  • STUDENT DEBT. Costly third level education. This is so structured that it is near impossible to get free of. Concurrently, the Fed supplies trillions of dollars at near zero interest rates to the banks. Precisely how is that socially just?
  • LACK OF WORKER RIGHTS. Lack of worker rights combined with the steady erosion of such worker rights as remain.
  • MINIMAL VACATIONS. Lack of vacations. There are all kinds of good vacations why vacations of reasonable length are considered essential in Europe—and health comes high on the list. It is hard to see why the same necessities do not apply in the U.S.
  • NEGLECT OF THE ARTS. The arts are seen only as a profit center.
  • MILITARIZATION OF THE POLICE. This is particularly noticeable to me because my background is in Ireland and the UK where the police—except for a small group—are not even armed.
  •  MINIMAL SOCIAL SAFETY NET. The lack of an adequate social safety net.
  • RACISM. Racism remains pervasive in the U.S.
  • AROGANT FOREIGN POLICY. The arrogance and militarization of foreign policy.
  • AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM. The assumption that the American Way of Life is superior in all things.
  • LACK OF INTELLECTUAL CURIOUSITY. The general lack of intellectual curiosity—particularly in relation to other nations. Europeans, who mostly speak at least one second language (the British and Irish excepted) tend to look outwards and be aware in considerable of detail of other nations and their developments. In contrast, Americans are largely ignorant of other countries—and don’t seem to be remotely curious. In fact, many know little enough about this country.
  • LACK OF SOCIAL JUSTICE. The lack of social justice, general insecurity, and callousness of American life.

From a purely material point of view, there are numerous compensations to American life—if you have an adequate income (though most Americans do not). From a philosophical aspect—particularly where values are concerned—the current practices and direction of this Great Nation are exceedingly troubling. ‘Troubling’ understates the situation. This is a nation heading, at speed, towards catastrophe.

I write about these issues—not because I think I can change them (though I hope to influence a few readers) but because I am innately interested. The U.S. has been such a huge influence on my life—on the lives of just about every human being since WW II—that I was extremely curious to see it first hand (whatever be my conclusions).

I regard it as as a real privilege that I have been able to—and in considerable detail at that. Being deeply interested in Roman history, I have always wanted to go back in time to visit Rome—but, since I have not acquired a time machine as yet, the U.S. has proved to be a good substitute. It, too, is an empire—and it, too, is in decline.

I am also aware that if I was an American and financially comfortable, I would—quite possibly—be largely indifferent to the issues I have listed. Nonetheless, social indifference does not mean that such serious problems don’t exist—and don’t have consequences.

I regard the most serious problem as the general lack of concern by Americans as a whole. People are certainly fed up with many things, but I see scant evidence that people think the American Way of Life needs to be re-thought. The general desire seem to be to make the status quo work better.

The great argument in favor of the American Way of life used to be that it resulted in a superior quality of life—as was demonstrated by the U.S. Middle Class in the 70s.

That may or may not have been true then—but it certainly is not the case now. Under just about every category you care to name (except house size) Northern Europeans are better off, more secure, have better health coverage, and live three years longer.

A thousand extra days of life. That strikes me as no small thing.

One might think such a sea-change would attract more attention in the U.S. than it does.

It doesn’t because most Americans are not aware of this situation. The mainstream media—TV as far as most Americans are concerned—quite deliberately, do a lousy job. They foster a media illusion which encourages a consuming public—even if that consuming public lacks the purchasing power to consume adequately.  Debt is pushed as the easy and socially acceptable alternative.

Sooner or later, a reckoning of ferocious, and violent, social consequence would seem to be inevitable.

Why do I mention violence? I do so most reluctantly—but violence is as endemic to American life as Fast Food.

Both are lethal.


<a href="">Mother Jones</a>

In some states, gerrymandering is rendering the will of the electorate almost irrelevant

The fact that the U.S. voting process is so blatantly corrupt leaves me damn near speechless. You would think that after so much time since the foundation of this state, voting, at least, would be perfected. Instead, gerrymandering apart, serious attempts are being made to restrict the ability of the less affluent to vote. 

Trust in gov

Trust in government is at about its lowest point in 40 years

Where trust in government is concerned, the disturbing thing is that it has been deliberately destroyed in a systematic way by Big Business. Why so? Because government represents taxes, regulations, and the ability to keep  business in check.

I don’t say this lightly. The evolution of a very deliberate campaign in the Seventies to reverse the gains labor made from the New Deal is well documented.

A further point is that if you lose faith in Government, who do you turn to? By a process of elimination, it is business—and Big Business at that.

Personally, I don’t regard U.S. business as any more trustworthy than government. When the two combine, the result tends to be toxic. Consider U.S. healthcare and the MICC (Military Industrial Congressional Complex). Consider the U.S. food chain. Consider Wall Street and the general impact of financialization.

It is hard to find words adequate to describe the damage done—which largely continues to be done. The track record is clear. Whereas admirable corporations certainly do exist, the general thrust of Big Business is to oppose anything and everything which might improve the lot of workers and society in general.

VOR words 2,182.

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