Saturday, July 04, 2009

Interdependence Day

I was 14 when America celebrated its Bicentennial in 1976. That was 33 years ago and the country I live in has changed dramatically.

My first book (still available, here and here) tried to capture aspects of small town life, using baseball as the vehicle to represent community life as it existed for a period of three decades, between the close of WWII, and up until the Bicentennial. In the "culture of the immediate" that we live in, 30 years is ancient history, and I'm personally aware of how irrelevant history has become.

When I write about the changes that I see, I'm moving beyond the theoretical. It's also much more than just a nostalgic longing for the past. It represents a 60 year study that's significantly more involved than probably 95 percent of living Americans have ever undertaken. Basically, I know a little about what I'm talking about.

What concerns me is how 95 percent of the U.S. population is oblivious to clear warning signs and red flags that are much more complex than what right-wing talk radio reveals, as well as most of what passes for "liberal" opinion on the events of the day. To be quite blunt, who the fuck cares that a freak like Michael Jackson is dead? To answer my own crass rhetorical question, a good chunk of America, entranced by pop culture, that's who.

Despite the wealth of information, and the plethora of well-written articles available via the interwebs, most Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to possessing the sophistication necessary to process this information objectively.

Two cases in point that are worth reflecting on in lieu of the subject of true independence (interdependence) that is merely symbolic on this July 4.

Morris Berman, at his intellectually informative blog, Dark Ages America, has a recent post about tribal consciousness. What I found pertinent in this longish post is the part of how information, particularly the "accepted" kind is transmitted. Berman delves into meme theory, and also, Mannheim's paradox, and how information is transmitted. His somewhat depressing, but I think, realistic view is that society is not evolving in a rational manner, but in a tribal way. As always at Berman's site, don't neglect reading down through the comments as Berman engages personally with his readers, which is why I keep coming back.

Another writer that I continue to respect and have mentioned several times before, is Chris Hedges, who posts regularly at Truthdig.

He discusses that merely knowing truth isn't enough to change the outcome of the game, as it is currently rigged. He begins his June 29th piece with this opening paragraph:

The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The pernicious idea that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the freedom to accumulate vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others has collapsed. The conflation of freedom with the free market has been exposed as a sham. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out and people get a taste of Bill Clinton’s draconian welfare reform. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.

Like Berman, Hedges recognizes that our current world is one where the "irrational has become the rational," as Kafka once pointed out.

That's a problem, and one that doesn't have a simple solution.

If this was a radio show, I'd close out today's broadcast with the Grateful Dead's "US Blues."

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