This American Pendulum

The older I get the more I find myself interested in politics and economics. However, among my peers I’m one of the only ones. I wouldn’t consider myself passionate about politics and economics, just aware and well informed. I try to get all sides of the stories I’m interested in, from niche blogs, political comedians, pundits, national news sources, and the like. Again, though, I seem to be alone amongst my peers. I’m not sure if that says something about my peers, or my generation, or America at large, but I tend to think it’s the later.

What amazes and shocks me no less than ever before is how little people know about our country, about current events, the political climate, economic realities, America’s place in the global community, etc. Now look, I don’t want to come across all high and mighty, but I think that be being well informed, learned about these things is a responsibility that we have as citizens and members of our community. For me, it’s no different than being an informed consumer, or an informed driver, or an informed employee. Yet ask the average American to name the three branches of the US government, and they struggle – and I mean, they really struggle. Ask the average American to name the leaders in government, or where Libya is on a map (heck, even it’s continent), or what the hot topics in politics are, and you’d be shocked (or maybe not) at the lack of awareness.

Here’s where it get’s shameful for me. Ask the average American about Charlie Sheen, and they have answers. Not only do they have answers, they’ve got a scoop. Ask them about American Idol, about Ashley Judd’s memoir, about all sorts of (in my opinion) useless pop culture news, and you’ll find them to be very well informed. Ask them about what it really means to buy locally, to participate in public service, to be charitable, to really be active (if not well informed) in their community, and yet again you’ll get blank stares.

The state of America’s society is in a shameful, embarrassing, arrogant, naive, and simply sad place. I wonder, though, how long we can keep this up? Is it just where the pendulum happens to be right now? Am I not being fair, not seeing the full picture, looking in the wrong places? I’m sure I am, to a small degree. I’m generalizing, I know that, but I’m not far from the mark.

Is the media to blame? Entirely? Really? It’s totally the media’s fault? Is it also the fault of the media that teachers make a small fraction of what the average white collar worker makes? Who’s fault is it that firemen and women aren’t getting their pensions? Who’s fault is it that celebrities and professional athletes are who our children look up to, instead of astronauts, scientists, the First Lady, or Army Generals?

I think I know who’s fault it is. It’s my fault. It’s your fault. It’s your neigbors fault, your brothers, your sisters, your parents, your friends, colleagues. We are to blame for the state of America’s society, political climate, economic condition, joblessness. We are to blame for the disgusting behavior of people like Charlie Sheen. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. The more bullshit we consume, the more bullshit we produce. If you eat shitty food, you shit stinks to the heavens (pardon the crude analogy). If we, Americans, spent even one hour per day consuming less of the things that do not matter, and consume things that do, imagine how many hours of importance it’d produce?

The empire that is America is about to come crashing down. I mean that, truly. I don’t think I’m overreacting at all (and rest assured that America is an empire), I think I’m stating what informed people know. When it comes crashing down on us, we’ll be so fat, stupid, hopped up on sugar, porn, celebrity gossip, and mindless entertainment that we’ll end up looking like the movie Wall-E. No, seriously. Fat, dumb, deaf, and blind – staring at, consuming, eating, injecting whatever orgasm is put in front of us by each other, by the media, the corporate giants producing it, the greedy vampires orchestrating it and banking on it.

I do have hope though. I have hope that America is suffering from a momentary lapse in reason, good judgement, common sense, and that the medicine is coming – in some form, some shape, some place. Maybe America like a man suffering a mid-life crisis, rejecting his old ways, leaving his family, breaking his own rules, driving a red sports car, carelessly getting laid, recklessly imbibing, and avoiding the reality check that is coming, the reality that his kids now hate him, his dog doesn’t know who he is, his wife loved him and still does, he was lucky to even have the job he had, etc etc. I have hope that this pendulum is reaching that moment where it pauses and changes direction.

The pendulum will swing. It will reach the center, and find another extreme.

I feel better now. Thanks for reading and please, take what I write with just a small grain of salt.

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    April 9, 2011 at 20:35

    Ben, It's certainly not the media's fault. Here in Canada we are inundated with most American media. We're almost as mesmerized by Charlie Sheen and the like, yet we're more aware of national and global issues. Our crime rates are far lower (gun control has little to do with that), our poverty rates are far lower, gap between rich and poor is smaller (we still have a healthy middle class) our banks act more responsibly (heavier regulation), we pay a shit ton more taxes (yay, nationalized health care), etc., etc., etc.

    Watching America from the outside gives us an advantageous perspective. It really is looking like the inevitable crash and burn of an empire has begun to take hold. Events like Katrina become very very telling.

      Ben Saren
      April 9, 2011 at 21:02

      So what do you think it is? If we agree that it's not the media, and it's more systemic, then what is it really? Do you agree that it's the population at large? It's our complacency, or ignorance? Naivete?

      Funny, cuz after I posted this on my blog today I was driving to Fenway Park to catch the game (the loss) and was noticing how awful the roads are. So many pot holes, so unkept, and I imagined what everyone thinks about our crumbling infrastructure:

      "These roads are terrible! When is the city going to fix them already?"

      And that's that.

      My point: we, the citizens, are so quick to point our fingers, blame someone else, demand that the government just fix it, but pay more taxes? No way! Take responsibility? Be accountable? Attend a city council meeting? Nope.

      Eh, I digress…

    Troy Zerangue
    April 27, 2011 at 11:38

    I think most people want to bury their heads in the sand, and not know what's going on… I have not watch the news on TV in the last couple of years, and think that I am better for it…Two hundred years ago, if something bad happened in another country we would have probably never known about it, and overall it should not effect our lives.

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