WHY ARE WE HATED SO MUCH?
“Patriotism has become a spiritual syphilis that devours the brains and grins out through empty eye sockets with moronic hate!”
-Danish composer Carl Nielsen
Periodically I tend to wax somewhat passionate about just what is wrong with my native country, the United States of America. Lacking a suitably academically oriented colleague to bounce these stray threads of understanding against, my grand indictments of our unquestionably troubled nation usually end up being sent to friends, appended to letters of very unremarkable conventional correspondence. I am sure that, in most cases, they are disregarded with merely a scratch of the head, or a puzzled look. Occasionally, when they collide with a firmly entrenched American, right-wing reactionary mentality, they come ricocheting back at me with little warheads attached, proximity fuses firmly set and primed. Some of these friends regard me as definitely hostile to the precepts of Americanism, almost casting me in the role of a doctrinaire heretic who is probably working for whatever forces of dissolution are considered The Current Great Evil of the period (Communism used to be the favorite scapegoat--what's up now?). To their limited manner of thought, one ought not to be critical of one's national circumstances, regardless of the constructive motivations inherent in that posture of embarrassingly limited perceptivity.
Small minded thoughts aside, and miniscule pea-brain intellects not withstanding, the fact is simply that the United States of America is indeed beginning to nose over into a grave-yard spin. Already the first ripples of vibration are sweeping over the land, as the social 'lift' of the nation's cultural, economic, philosophic and institutional airfoils start to transition from laminar to turbulent flow, presaging a massive stall into future decades of severe internal and external difficulty.
Why do I say this? What prompts me to take on the gloomy affect of the philosophic naysayer? What motivates me to put on a figurative sandwich board stating that "The world as we know it is coming to an end!....?" (Probably more importantly, what makes me feel that anyone in that world gives a shit about my thoughts on the matter?....but consider for the briefest moment that it is MY sandwich board, and I'll damn well put what I want on it!......).
The answer to all of the above is simple enough: I care about this sordid race of above-average intelligence animals known as mankind. Beyond that, I also feel that we human critters owe it to ourselves to face up to the realities of life, put all the superstitious mumbo-jumbo and religious faith in supreme deities behind us and accept the fact that we have a rather more serious problem facing us: namely, how to get along with each other, and do so in a manner which won't destroy the planet we all depend upon for survival.
Certainly I do not presume to state that in successfully doing so we shall insinuate ourselves into infinity, for there are far too many challenges facing our admittedly ingeniously clever adaptive resources to make any safe bets on the ultimate survival of the human race. However, if we are able to overcome the basic problem stated above, we might possibly ensure that human life may continue at least into the foreseeable future (several hundred years is as far as I am willing to postulate).
Recently, and entirely almost by accident--there being absolutely nothing on hand to read to pass the unspeakably dull moments here--I read a biography of that great man, Charles Darwin. There was much about him, as presented in this book, that inspires the human spirit. Not only was he an original thinker, and able to pursue virtually heretical concepts in the face of daunting social and religious convention, he was more importantly a caring, concerned, brother to his fellow man--a sensitive human being who apparently cared deeply about humanity and the course of its progress on the planet.
What struck me deeply, however, was not so much further reflection on the qualities which made Darwin's life uniquely meaningful and valuable to humanity, but on the contrasts between the budding awareness of the benefits of the infant scientific tradition which existed in his day to the present state of affairs in which scientific technology has gone so far beyond its role as a key to understanding as to assume substance as the major, driving force behind virtually the entire range of human awarenesses in our present age. Even a simple comparison between the conventional understanding of science's role in social progress that existed then and that which exists today provokes potentially disturbing and deeply unsettling reflections on the modern transformation mankind is undergoing.....a transformation being achieved not for the overall betterment of civilisation, but for purposes of allowing elite elements of commercial power and wealth to simply exploit the world far more effectively for personal (i.e. corporate) gain.
What is, in my opinion, so disturbing is not this fact in and of itself, but that the socio-economic philosophy of American capitalism has welded itself firmly to scientific technology, which through use of irresistible modern tools of social conditioning (advertising and the audiovisual media), has resulted in the rise of a new and extremely dangerous form of social mind control that threatens to degrade the whole American culture across the entire spectrum of its component elements. To distill the essence of the contention a bit further, the original concept of "Freedom for the sake of liberty of the human spirit," has now been supplanted by one which may be characterised as "Freedom for the purpose of being commercially exploited".......a trend which would be completely impossible were it not for the use of powerful tools of media manipulation.
In Darwin's day a fervent belief in God was a given. Although all the sordid little aspects of man's dual nature (a capacity for polar opposites of behavior, coexistence of good & evil, kindness & cruelty, ad infinitum) continued to thrive and flourish in his day, at least a high-minded awareness of the more noble ethics of human conduct was usually maintained. To varying degrees, this was partly supported by the institutionalised church and its erstwhile precepts of conduct based upon the "laws of God." At the same time, economies were of necessity far less organisationally developed, far less efficiently structured, almost entirely regional in basis, and a tremendous diversity in economic philosophies obtained throughout the world which no process of collectivisation of conceptual thinking could significantly affect or alter. What economic exploitation, colonization, and mercantilism existed was limited in scale and scope by the relatively primitive state of industrial technology, to the extent that what could be achieved through massive application of human labor and interaction, whether cooperative or coercive, necessarily took place over a protracted period of time.
The contrast with our present situation is both illuminating and deeply depressing, for the rise of two of the most monumental "revolutions" in the history of mankind has given birth to a sort of merger from hell which I feel spells ultimate doom for the sociopolitical permanence of the United States of America. These major shifts I refer to are the ascendancy of largely godless, hard-driven American-style capitalistic materialism, and the present development of the electronic information technology which Darwin's fledgling science has helped give birth to, wittingly or unwittingly, like some sort of Frankensteinian monster mid-wife. What formerly took decades to accomplish in Darwin’s day now takes mere seconds.
While the United States of America is without doubt (in my own mind) one of the greatest and most noble sociopolitical experiments in the history of the world, it has begun to undergo a transmogrification from its original form of haven of refuge for socially, politically or religiously persecuted peoples, to a dangerously sophisticated, secular system of unchecked materialistic exploitation, which regards the population of not just the nation but the whole world as its basic natural resource for capitalistic profit....and in the frightening absence of any guiding precept save that of unconstrained utility.
What makes this situation so dire, not just for the average dim-bulb American citizen (force fed as he is on the mind-numbing opiates of excessive consumption and media brain-laundering), but for the entire world, is the power conferred upon the monstrous commercial interests behind the process by modern scientific technology. No longer simply a mercantilistic power, cultivating markets and garnering resources in the Victorian British colonial style, the United States now has the means to effectively manipulate the world through the export of its carefully synthesized "pop culture" affect.
The iconic symbol of American "pop culture," that hip image of the hedonistic, carefree, slightly rebellious, and affluent young American which is being promoted around the world through the use of electronic media, is a cold-bloodedly synthetic, and entirely hollow fabrication of commercial American advertising industries. It is about as real as the animated fantasy cartoons of the Disney Empire are real, but a million times more deadly than Bambi with rabies. Regrettably, the false nature of this obsessive co-opting of reality by commercial interests is not critically examined by the average individual, squeezed as he is by the constraints of limited time imposed upon him by the same commercial forces at work in American society, and pressured to unthinkingly accept the images projected by advertising. In fact, so unquestioning is the American consumer that he generally accepts this commercial substitute for reality as a genuine reflection of his own concerns, reflections and attitudes. The fantasy image become a self-fulfilling prophecy, lacking a more substantial “local” reality to model upon.
There is no question that without the massively influential medium of electronic media devices, this manipulation of public consciousness would fail miserably, for we would again be reduced to a world of regionalism, and noncontiguous spheres of invariably conflicting interests. Our common instrument of social conditioning, through which ANY version of reality filters down to us, is the television, and due to the increasing insularity of Americans from meaningful communal interaction, is it any wonder that we are eager to have our awareness of real life custom tailored for us and shoved down our gaping maws? The electronic revolution, starting with the first primitive attempts to communicate with radio waves and continuing through the present extremely advanced expressions of broadcast media, has presented the means through which vast wealth and power (manifested by the so-called multinational commercial and industrial powers) may effectively achieve the ends of the capitalistic exploitation process (i.e. orchestrate public opinion, shape consciousness and formulate world views) which in my opinion, so threatens the world today. To my great regret, it is almost impossible to escape from this electronic, cycloptic surrogate parent, so permanently entrenched is the role of television in our lives.
The consequent threat facing not just the United States, but the world, is very real, although hidden behind a masterfully executed screen of obfuscation. With the never before achieved efficiency of mind-control which the electronically enabled advertising media has put into the hands of the commercial interests in our society, we have gone far beyond the point of being a society which merely electively exercises a freely chosen preference for specific consumer goods based upon simple informed awareness, to one in which the vicarious commercial interests themselves are dictating not only our choices, but shaping the perceptions of reality themselves, which serve to prompt those choices.
This is an extremely dangerous turn of events, although the possibility that the process is carefully contrived is wholly dismissed by the powers of capital enterprise as inconsequential, and coincidental. Given the virtually godless lack of constraint exercised in the pursuit of profit, which powerful business interests manifest in these days of massively pervasive influence mongering, the overall effect of this force is one in which any vestige of traditional respect for human integrity, dignity and moral circumspectness is replaced entirely by the relentless, crass drive for personal (corporate) profit.
The hard drive for profit without any significant regard for moral, social or cultural consequence, is focused on several elements of human personality which, unfortunately, are contentious and deeply rooted in basic human nature and the human psyche. They may be briefly summed up as 1) sex, 2) power, and 3) titillation (stimulation). The “targets of consumer convenience,” as it were, are most effectively configured among the youth of today. Youths, as immature, incompletely evolved “adults to be,” are easy game in view of the fact that they are quite naturally seeking answers to the formulative youthful questions of “What am I? Where am I going? What does life hold in store for me?” With the growing financial power of today’s youth, and given their easily co-opted and manipulated group dynamics centering on personal identity and peer association status, they are virtually preyed upon by powerful business interests who have absolutely no concern whatsoever about the impact of the awesomely concentrated mind-shaping forces which are unleashed upon them. The bottom line, to use that awful phrase, is to get youths to spend their not inconsequential disposable income on material goods......whether or not they develop distorted or harmfully exaggerated concepts of reality in the process.
The old adage “Youth will not be denied” is worth reflecting on, here. Youths by nature are rebellious, and instinctively chafe under a perceived yoke of pre-packaged, imposed absolutes, ostensibly forced upon them by a largely parental adult society. The opportunity to exploit this instinctive behavior of youth to rebel is irresistible, and consequently the combined power of American capitalism united with the formidable forces of electronic attitude shaping (advertising & media) subtly co-opts the genuine youthful rebelliousness by fabricating and substituting its own virtual reality of what it ought to be. Of course, the fact that the substituted reality has about as much relationship to real youthful concerns as the TV program M*A*S*H has to real battlefield medicine, is entirely submerged in a hormone driven miasma of consumer product related status associations, and since the persuasive promise behind all these icons of youthfulness is peer group popularity, no critical gaze is turned upon the process.
Beyond encouraging uncritical youthful reactionism, all the while shaping it and channeling it into profitable directions, this massive capitalistic process encourages less self actualised, and less critically focused adults (largely less well educated, it is safe to postulate, but possibly also less intelligent, and certainly less well prepared to think for themselves, by caring, enlightened parents, in an increasingly complex world) to emulate juvenile attitudinal responses to these formidable forces. By pandering to the vanity and insecurities of the arrested child within adults (who secretly fantasize that they can remain young and carefree indefinitely), these same hard-driving market forces spread the pervasive lies of substituted reality across the whole spectrum of American society.
Ultimately, given a human predisposition to seek the path of least resistance in daily concerns, an inherent tendency to regress into an infantile state of dependency whenever possible, and a marked preference for immediate as opposed to delayed self-gratification, the deliberately fast-paced, disorienting effects of the mind-shaping commercial processes which are directed towards planting a youthful sense of uncritical wanting in society at large begin to undermine the very foundations of that society. This process gains substantially in the face of a corresponding drastic decline in the ability of traditional value sustaining institutions (family, religion, and cultural precepts) to resist the insidious mechanisms of commercial attitude shaping conditioning.
The rise of substitute reality, as packaged and financed so brilliantly by commercial entities such as the Walt Disney corporation, is now encroaching even further upon our abilities to discriminate between real and unreal with the advances being made in electronic information processing and communication (electronic communications and computer technology). It is now easier than ever before to utterly abnegate personal responsibility for shaping one’s own attitudes, opinions, perceptions and basis outlooks, thanks to the daunting onslaught of the substituted realities which are almost always cleverly designed motivational forces to promote consumption of ever greater qualities and qualities of commercial goods. After years of evidence of this fact.....witnessing the results of a presidency run by a former Hollywood actor.....is there any remaining doubt that one dimensional fantasy is frequently misconstrued for reality in the United States? After all, President Reagan SEEMED so genuine, so warm, so believable, so real!......
The point of all this can hardly, in my opinion, be misunderstood. The economic forces at work today are vastly changed from those of the previous century. In other words, what started out as a slight sniffle in Darwin’s era has now become a raging epidemic of immense and potentially damaging consequence, an erstwhile capitalistic HIV strain of the most dangerous and ineradicable variety. All of it largely thanks to the unholy alliance of western (American style) secular capitalism run amok with powerfully irresistible tools to shape world outlook, that are the fruits of modern, mercenary scientific technology.
The United States has already traveled too far along this path to moral, ethical and cultural oblivion, but due to the massive appeal of this false commercial reality-substitute that is America’s “pop culture image,” the rest of the world is already starting to become fatally caught up in a seeming “death-embrace” with the worst parts of the American “disease” of unconstrained capitalistic materialism. All over the planet, again thanks to the tremendous infusion of advertising, which obsessively promotes the powerfully effective youth, sex, power formula, other nations, cultures and peoples are surging forward to embrace the perverse fantasy that they perceive as the advantageous American cornucopia of plenitude, ease and material happiness. There is no balance in this process whatsoever.. This is not an equilibrated expression of fair-minded, altruistic capitalism in its highest and most beneficial manifestation that the world is becoming dangerously infatuated with.
There is the stink of unconscionable, hypocritical artifice about this expression of so-called “American free enterprise.” And yet it continues to prompt an uncritical fascination with it by countries possessed of civilisations which go back thousands of years, and which ought to enable them to be able to penetrate the exploitative nature of crassly superficial American “culture.” Evidence of this rush to embrace the American model may be seen just about anywhere--Japan, Korea, former Soviet Bloc nations, China, almost anywhere that humanity has managed to progress beyond the phase of development where tribe is still literally slaughtering tribe over small internecine squabbles of race, creed and religion.
The prospect of what this is doing to our shrinking planet, as everything becomes one huge potential profitable resource for profit gouging, is scary beyond belief. The pervasive force of this American style drive to consume everything, underscored by a natural human inclination to avoid dealing with problems until they reach a critical, life-threatening stage, bodes poorly for the continuity of the human race on Earth. Not that humanity deserves to thrive.... It has been my opinion for most of my life that the very best thing that could ever happen to the planet would be for mankind, with its paradoxical and insanely perverse ability to exercise supposedly rational thought, to become extinct. In the absence of man’s self-serving and madly efficient ability to strive for material excess with complete disregard for any deleterious consequences, the Earth would once more resume a sort of equilibrium in which all creatures and organisms would again conform to the natural rhythms of ageless biological and physiochemical forces.
That mankind is a pathetic little, self-defeating--if amazingly ingenious and endlessly fascinating--parasite on the body of this planet is a given, to my way of perceiving things. At the present rate of “progress” through which the forces of Western capitalistic materialism are reducing the world’s resources into the two resultant products of consumer goods and toxic effluent, it will very shortly no longer be possible to enjoy any kind of “quality life” in future centuries--even if mankind manages to continually evolve retroflexively in the face of its own depredatious disasters and stave off extinction.
If this all seems hopelessly gloomy and pessimistic, I can state that it is purely a matter of logical observation of the cause and effect mechanism as it is further complicated by mankind’s infuriating duality of spirit. It can only take on a slightly hopeful sheen in the reflected spiritual fantasyland glow given off by such utterly ridiculous, if practical and utilitarian, projected manifestations of mankind’s boundless collective ego, insecurity, and vanity that we know as “religious faith.”
My own belief is that mankind is not imbued with any sorts of divine qualities, but is just another natural biochemical response to certain physical forces which occurred in response to certain other events and circumstances that took place in our complex and unfathomable universe over millions of years. The same is true, in my opinion, of all organisms, life forms and inanimate organic and non-organic matter which inhabit our planet and possibly which fill our cosmos. In other words....no one out 'there' gives a steaming shit about the inconsequential 'human race.' It is high time we faced up to this unhappy little fact, and accepted some personal responsibility for wiping our own collective bung holes. And if that means giving concern for the human condition some equal time along with the obsession for making money and sacrificing everything else on its alter, it is damn well overdue!
Naturally, it is a terribly frightening thought to believe that we might be nothing more than a fluke of physical coincidence, an accident of biochemical substance, and of no more importance in the cosmic grand scheme of things than that. And it is equally understandable to explain the primitive human indulgence for clinging desperately to such value-creating and sustaining myths that are religions, deities, supernatural consciousness, and the whole pantheon of theological snake-oil shows which we surround ourselves with, faced as we are with the frightful prospect of just such a scenario of ultimate nothingness.
Unfortunately, intuitively perceiving this to be the case doesn’t do much to help to deflect the disastrous course of our present plunge into social, cultural, and possibly even biological extinction. Today, it is no longer possible to effectively escape the reach of this grinding reduction of higher integrity, meaning and human values into consumable raw material. Although some nations, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, perceive the threat posed by insidious American-style capitalistic materialist hedonism, and strive to protect their people against this sort of sophisticated encroachment, even then their intent in so doing is not so much to protect the people for their own good as to serve the more immediate political objectives of the state (i.e. perpetuation of the reigning monarchy). Regrettably, whereas it might have been possible to screen out the western world’s creeping influence in Darwin’s age, in our modern era of world-wide electronic communications, there is no longer any place on the Earth where one may avoid the taint of this contamination. Not even the Saudi Bedu are safe anymore!
In almost every instance we can see that the obsessive individual concern for self-promotion and fulfillment tends to transcend the overall concern for the greater good of the race. Again, a sense of responsibility for the general welfare of mankind is subordinated to distinctly insular, partisan interests which invariably take precedence over the common good.
In Darwin’s emerging industrial world, such selfish thinking was relatively harmless, for the means to exercise widespread control over thoughts and actions were primitive, poorly developed, dimly understood, and physically ineffectual. In today’s world, in which the affairs of all nations and the activities of billions of human beings infesting the Earth are intricately interconnected through electronic communications, not just the awareness of the potential for change exists, but the ability to exert active influence--one way or the other--exists as never before in the history of mankind.
It is a great tragedy that as the entire Earth becomes inexorably driven by the economic influence of American-style materialistic consumerism, the opportunity to use that influence for the good of humanity is being entirely shunted aside, as the consciousness shaping tools of the electronic media revolution continue to be prostituted for the sake of materialistic excess.
And so, when I criticize the excesses of my native country, when I hasten to attack the frighteningly sick and inhumanly heartless forces of capitalistic materialism which drive the nation today, when I point to a deeply rooted problem that permeates the whole American system from bottom to top, I am not being undeservedly critical, nor am I being obliviously disdainful of all of the finer, more noble aspects of the American system I am permitted to live within.. I am simply pointing out that things can be far better than they are....that there is more to live for and savor the human life experience within than the crass and spiritually empty morass of American materialism... that it is almost too late to maintain any sort of realistic hope for altering this massive and overwhelming dive into cultural oblivion which we are poised on the brink of taking......
Is this being 'unpatriotic?' I think not. I think it is simply a matter of exercising concern over the fate of my fellow parasites, as we continue to infest Ghea’s body.... Call it what you will, but in this passage between two points which each of us must take--the path from physical birth to physical death--we must all keep ourselves amused and occupied by maintaining some sort of operative Weltanschauung, no matter how contentious and controversial it might be. I choose to waste my time worrying over the mad affairs and insane behavior of my fellow humans, despite knowing fully all the while that it is about as frustrating and meaningless--and therefore justifiable--as any other human pastime we engage in, while staring into the face of the black void of eternity to confront our colossally puny significance and the dubious distinction of claiming to be sentient organisms.
Update: 7 Mar 08:
For a brilliant documentary presentation by the BBC on the massive lies and distortions of truth that prompted the George Bush post-911 Invasion of Iraq, do not fail to view the following. It is lengthy (about 40 minutes long), but carefully researched and intelligently set forth by the BBC, an organisation long noted for its fair-minded and cogent news analysis. http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/lies/video.html