"You've thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled fear to bring children into the world"***
- Bob Dylan, "Masters of War"
There are certain changes brought on by being/becoming a parent. I was compelled to take a look at the world that I have brought this child into, to contemplate his future as well as my own. I have found the world wanting.
Since I am staying at home, I have more time to read, keep up with the news, follow the depressing political forums and think about life, the universe, and everything. Since becoming a father, those topics have trended more towards, if not political, civic and social engagement. I have long harbored tendencies that, when in moods most cynical and capitulating tend towards libertarianism and when in brighter and sunnier moods towards anarchism/anarcho-syndicalism. It really has only been fatherhood and increased opportunity to cogitate that has solidified a depressing need to engage the world on its own terms, for the disaster that it is, and endeavor to do something about it. Or at least clarify what exactly is wrong, why it is wrong, and how I will teach Finn the inherent wrongness of it all.
The issue, it seems, is three-fold: 1. Corporate interests hate our freedom 2. Our Government capitulates to whomever yells loudest (and money talks) & 3. the general public is so ill informed and overwhelmed by the propaganda machine that they are a. not acting in their own self-interest & b. barely aware of their own self-interests.
Let's see if I can tackle them one by one.
1. Corporate interests hate our freedom: This seems to me to be a reprehensible by relatively unavoidable fact of life in a psuedo-capitalism empire. Corporate interests are not, in fact, accountable to their customers. Well, that is a bit over the top. They are accountable to their customers but not primarily. Primarily they are accountable to their shareholders and the bottom line. This is why every car company in the world sells cars that don't last much past the 3-5 years on the warranty. It's not that human ingenuity has been so stumped by the internal combustion engine as to be incapable of making a longer lasting more fuel efficient model. It's that an automaker can't turn a profit if a person only buys one car their entire life. The thing is, corporations make no effort to deny that they are first and foremost responsible to their shareholders. So when they sell snake oil to John Q. Public, no one is surprised even if we are disappointed. Corporations want to keep us buying and so they offer us the unlimited choice of the post-industrial world: you can buy anything you could ever dream of. Or rather, you are not allowed to dream of anything that you can't buy. You are free to make any decision you want so long as you come with cash and leave with shit you don't need.
2. The government capitulates to whomever screams the loudest: This is a two-fold issue taking into account both the duped hayseeds yelling at the heath care town halls (and their like) and the paid lobbyists pretending to be duped hayseeds yelling at the heath care town halls. Corporate lobbies have a lot of pull in Washington because they can afford to. They can grease all the palms they need and buy and bribe votes on key issues. That is what a corporation and their lobbying arm should be doing, that is the most effective way for them to appease their shareholders. At least they are being honest about the fact that they are lying, cheating, heartless bastards. That the politicians are taken in by such offers, bribes, gifts, &c. is far more depressing. Big Business doesn't ever claim to be "of the people, by the people, for the people". Or maybe Lincoln was talking about someone else? The government is meant to be looking out for our best interests. It is established and maintained to ensure our freedoms not to subtly strip them from us for no better reason than campaign contributions.
3. the general public is so ill informed and overwhelmed by the propaganda machine that they are a. not acting in their own self-interest & b. barely aware of their own self-interests: This brings us back to the screamers at the town halls, the insulated bubbles that most of us live in, and the newest Great Disenfranchising Swindle. I don't know whether this is the case elsewhere, or perhaps just in "civilized" Western nations, but it is far too easy in America to live oblivious of the world. And by that I don't even mean oblivious of the current events in foreign countries (which it obviously includes). We are oblivious to the goings on in our own great nation. Most people care little about what is going on around them unless it will directly affect them or their family or the trifecta of American Values (despising the poor, fearing the minorities/foreigners, buying new things). And this is really the problem. It is the central flaw in the American character; a certain narrow-mindedness unrelated to the vaguely positive attributes represented by Adam Smith's "self-interest" or Ayn Rand's forgotten selfishness. Rather a blindness that is complicit in our own tragic downfall. If the general public were informed, were truly aware of what was going on and, more importantly, how that impacted their own lives and the lives of their peers we likely wouldn't have to worry about corporate interests influencing the government - there would be no way Congress would vote for anything against the public interest if the public were actually interested in what they were voting on. But people are stupid and lazy. We like what is easy, what comes naturally. We don't want to have to work hard (at least not outside of work, not when we are meant to be relaxing in front of the tv) and staying informed is hard work. Especially considering that the Main Stream Media is a big business that has no interest in seeing us that way.
Take health care, Fox News, and Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is the figurehead for a Big Business conspiracy to disenfranchise her precious "real america". She provides the face and a couple of choice rants, Fox News writes the script and whips their viewers into a fury about whatever (immigration, health care, it doesn't even matter) and their viewers (angry, ill informed, and afraid that the world they live in doesn't look like the whitewashed world they "remember") go out and scream down whatever issue it is at the time regardless of the fact that most of them would benefit from universal heath care, higher taxes for the rich to provide for stronger social programs, better funding for education, &c. And it isn't like this is just a problem faced by conservatives, that all other voters are fully informed. Because they are equally limited, it is just that the "real america" is the most obviously having their fear exploited to serve interests counter to their own. Indeed, so long as citizens stay angry and ill-informed, corporate interests can exploit their fear and maintain the Big Business strangle hold on the government. It's our own damn fault.
So I am going to make sure Finn knows the score, keeps up on his reading, and becomes a right proud dissident. It seems the best I can do. That Gandhi line about "being the change you want to see in the world" seems to apply. The rest of you are responsible for yourselves. Because there is no one left to blame.
Yes, the government is working contrary to the interests of the many and should be held to a higher standard. And yes, corporations are fucked up and looking out only for their shareholders and the bottom line no matter how bad it is for consumers, the environment, the world at large, but if the people weren't so goddamn stupid and uninformed they wouldn't be able to get away with it. Maybe. If not, at least we would realize that they hate our freedom.
sic semper stultus