Occupying my brain – Slightly informed observations on America

This isn’t the first time I’ve directed my attention south to our nationalistic neightbours, but it is a subject that recurrs almost daily in my awareness with each piece of news about America’s social, economic, socio-economic or other problems.

I can’t help thinking that we are watching a major world player in it’s diminishing years. From my lay viewpoint things seem to be increasingly bizarre –

  • Members of congress seemingly unwilling to work together even in the face of bringing down almost certain financial catastrophe upon the country – and by association the economic world,
  •  ‘Solutions’ to the economic crisis which seem to pander to the richer and corporate citizens at the expense of the ‘average’ American,
  • Media outlets which provide ‘news’ to satisfy their political masters in defiance of the truth,
  • Increasing support for protectionist and insular policies
  • Christianity becoming the main pillar of political support (and policy-making) on the far right wing
  • 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line
  • Opposition to the idea of health care as a human right…

The list is very, very long – much longer than these few examples, but the issues are fundamental and frankly amazing in a country which tries to sell itself as ‘the best on earth’.

For me, it looks like the USA is a broken, played-out society, revolving in upon itself, brain-washed to fear and suspect anything outside, but most importantly with a totally unjustified sense of entitlement to be regarded as the best, the most successful, the most influential, the most ethical etc., etc..

If I were to describe any other country with the largest amount of defence (i.e. war – making) spending of any nation on earth, a country engaged in more military conflicts than any other (has anyone heard about the current remote drone  ‘operations’ against suspected terrorists in the Horn of Africa?), a country which in isolation vetoed the Palestinian application for UN status, a country which without compunction violates another nation’s sovereignty to conduct assassination missions, and a country which – while all this is going on – does not feed or care for it’s poor, I wonder what would you think of it?

Just based on that information, I’d be surprised if you had warm and fuzzy feelings towards such a nation. Add to this a political system which does not allow left wing thinking to be tolerated (to be ‘mainstream’ one is  either right wing or extreme right wing, and the worst thing a politician can be called is ‘Liberal’!), and I’d be even more surprised if many people would want to live there. Why then does America still seem to entrance the world? Why and how is the myth of America perpetuated?

My feeling is that the western (and especially the English-speaking) world has been conditioned over the last one hundred years to believe in the American illusion. Hollywood has fed the world (and of course the American public) a diet of American beauty, purity, success and ‘rightness’, some things which are hard to find in the news…yet somehow the illusion remains. U.S unemployment is running at almost 10% (officially – it is of course highly likely that the real number is significantly greater) – an issue all too familiar to the displaced families sleeping on the floors of shelters – yet still the label of ‘land of plenty’ endures. Americans are among the most heavily legislated people on the planet, yet still the label of ‘freedom’ is applied. It seems that wrapping oneself in the stars ‘n stripes is all one needs to make the world right – at least when attending a political event.

The American establishment’s solution to the economic crisis they face is to borrow yet more money (the precise strategy which has inexorably led the country towards bankruptcy) to buy their way out of trouble. The solution to social problems is much more ‘creative’ however – a mixture of persecution of the victims (removing support structures for those in genuine need) and ignoring the problems altogether. Capitalism does not, after all, have time for those who have not succeeded.

U.S policy making seems to be driven almost entirely by greed – not just the greed for more and more fast money (Wall St. et al), but also the insatiable desire for power. U.S politicians seem unable to make the brave (i.e. the correct and ethical) decisions to improve the lot of their citizens, instead becoming slaves to corporate lobbying (why don’t people just call it what is is – legalized bribery?) and of course popularism – in effect doing anything to maintain the voting masses’ illusory sense of familiar national  prosperity and comfort. While this atmosphere continues, there will be no new policies, no new thinking, no actual compassion for those in need.

It is of course sheer madness to ignore reality and pretend that we are still in the 1950s, but it’s allowed because the American voters keep condoning it and the politicians are allowed to get away with the smoke and mirrors act. How long can this be sustained – this total lack of common sense? When will some innovative thinking be allowed to gather pace? Perhaps only when Americans finally admit to themselves that the illusion so many of them buy into or strive to believe in no longer means anything…I wish them luck, but I won’t be holding my breath.

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