Out of Step

April 2005


Sometimes I feel like a traveler in time. When I speak with many of my fellow citizens, I feel as if I am trying to debate women's rights to a person from 15th century Egypt.

How did it happen? How did my country, my nation, the people of my homeland and I travel so far apart in so short a span of time? All distance is relative, but I do not feel as if my position has changed radically in the past twenty years. My views have, if anything, mellowed with my advancing years. I was a progressive, free thinker when Nixon was in the White House and I don't think my basic belief system is all that changed since George W. was elected.

And yet, to hear tell of these United States, the views and perspective of my countrymen and women have undergone a dramatic and thorough change. People are alleged to be much more religious now than before. Where before, say 1950, the average person was passionately pro-union, today we're alleged to be at best ambivalent about organized labor. We are told that we elected our current president because of "values" rather than issues.

When I contemplate the picture that is painted in the mass media of the American public and its representative citizens, I feel entirely out of step -- as out of step as I would have been in 12th century Canton.

This begs the question whether all these contemporary values Americans are supposed to subscribe to are real, or whether this picture of ourselves is not just more marketing hype.

Let's have a show of hands. Everybody who thinks that Donald Trump is a better human being than Albert Schweitzer, raise your hands. Mr. Trump certainly has more money. By contemporary ethics, he must have done something to deserve his wealth. What he did must have been at least several thousand times more admirable than my own contribution to humanity. I deserve to earn in a year Mr. Trump's income in a weekend. I don't mean to pick on Mr. Trump especially. He's just one of many well known people with more net worth than many member nations of the UN.

Would anyone like to discuss the topic of a "just war?" To me a "just war" is a fine theoretical concept, like "virgin birth," but it will take much more than a boatload of free loading politicians to convince me that we've got one. The Catholic church agrees that our foray in Iraq does not qualify as a "just war." The inevitable inference is that it is a war of aggression and that every single casualty (on either side, by the way) qualifies as a war crime. OK, another show of hands. Who thinks we're guilty of war crimes in Iraq?

If I were in some relatively progressive country in 1425, say for example what is now Libya, I'd object to some common misconceptions. I would object to slavery, for a start. I would object to public beatings of misbehaving wives. I would object to the ritual killing of infants with minor birth defects. I would object to a great deal. And the average person on the street would not have a clue why I objected to any of these things.

OK, I object to wage slavery. I object to institutionalized poverty and ignorance. I object to gambling as the national pastime. I object to prostitution and beggary on a planetary scale. I object to the destruction of everyone's planetary ecology for the profit of the few. In short, I object to capitalism in all its forms. And the average person on the street would probably have not the foggiest notion why I object to growth, development, globalization, or prosperity itself.

I can only hope that human kind survives to a time when the present hegemony as portrayed in our corporate media will seem as dubious to the average Joe as foot binding and burning witches does to us today.

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