Saturday, October 08, 2011

Why Has It Been So For So Long ?

Before I'd even arrived on these shores I'd become puzzled about an aspect of life in the USA. Having chatted to several Americans online, I'd noticed a recurring theme: problems arising from lack of universal health care. One person with whom I chatted regularly had had their own small construction business, a home and small amount of land adjacent. Cancer struck. The insurance wasn't sufficient to cover all expenses, first for removal of one eye, then one kidney. Home, land and business had to be sold, in favour of living in a rented trailer, on whatever money odd jobs would bring in. How, I wondered, had a country with such glitteringly gleaming PR: Land of the Free, American Dream, Leader of the Free World, Greatest Country in the World....etc. come to this? Why hadn't the people risen up to object? Why hadn't they voted out the bums who had allowed this state of affairs to continue? My online friend was just one of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands in the same situation.

That was back in 2001/2. Having lived in the USA since 2004 I still found no sure answer, other than making the assumption that a general apathy about the fate of their fellow-men had brought about the status quo here. A couple of pieces appearing at Salon recently has thrown some light on the matter:

Paul Nevins : Why Are Americans So Docile?

After reciting details of the current situation he asks:
So how does one explain the deafening silence from the legion of unemployed, underemployed and impoverished Americans who, by virtue of their status and their enforced leisure, surely now have the time to take to the streets, to organize politically and to make their voices heard ? Why, given the emergence of what former Nixon political strategist Kevin Phillips has described as the "new indentured servitude," has the growth of plutocracy in been largely met with silence or grudging acquiescence in contemporary American culture?

A good comment from one al loomis which I'll copy here~ Mr loomis does a kd lang - uses no capitals, so I shall leave his comment in that mode :
..........americans are docile for several reasons: there is no need for political education in a nation where 535 people have almost all the power to direct national affairs. knowing nothing of practical politics, they ascribe god-like power to the people who fight their way into office, and can't imagine resisting them. americans have no experience or training in creating citizen initiative in the federal sphere. so they remain isolated and conscious of their impotence to change things acting alone.

perhaps most important, they grow up in a society that is awash in self-congratulation. schools and media daily inculcate the notion that america is as good as it gets, and any point of apparent inadequacy is the result of personal failure, not social. when all else fails, americans are reminded that life at the top is so good that poverty at the bottom is acceptable, that losers deserve their fate. the american dream remains that of medieval society: to escape the lower class, to join the elite.

so alienation and shame keep them quiet, cowering alone and hoping no one will notice when they have to start dining behind restaurants in the dumptster.

al loomis
September 30, 2011 06:20 PM

Mr loomis later went on to expand on the matter himself in
Why Not Democracy
i often wonder at the passivity of the american electorate, they watch the nation lurch into periodic convulsions, putting millions out of work and out of their homes, and they don't say, "let's stop this." why not?

they watch the nation attack other nations for reasons that are bad to begin with, and turn out to be utterly false as well, and they do nothing. trillions wasted on war, hundreds of thousands of foreigners taught to hate america, and the american electorate just watches, and does nothing. why?
concentrating power created a weak point of the nation. a few hundred politicians could be bought and controlled by personal and corporate wealth, so that the application of a trivial part of the nation's wealth to the owning of congress resulted in a nation that, no matter how it voted, any party or independent, the result was under the sway of money.

the founding fathers aimed for stability, got inflexibility, and are continually one accident away from ruining the nation, long after they are dead and their slaves freed.

at the same time, there is a psychological aspect to the 'why' problem. it's simply this: a child raised in a wheel chair will never be a good runner. indeed, if every child is raised in a wheel chair, even the prospect of walking will inspire panic and flight, rather as though someone suggested flapping your arms as you step out a high window. in politics, americans are raised in a legal wheelchair. they do not participate in the management of the nation. they are told it's too hard for them.

so the answer to 'why' is simple: americans have no legal machinery to direct the state, and they do not have the character to create the machinery. like the wildebeest they mimic, when asked: "why don't you turn together on the political hyena pack, and stamp them into the ground?"

the answer is, "we always have run away, it's our nature."

And a comment from old new lefty, with an optimistic ending:
Unfortunately, part of the American disease has to go back to the Pilgrims. The idea of America as God's gift, the black and white standards of morality, and the outright, pure, unadulterated materialism of the USA all combine to make the rest of the world scratch its head and wonder how so many passive morons could be produced on a particularly large part of the North American continent.

But these very qualities also have properties much like a computer dip switch. Once it's switched into the "on" position, the force becomes a wave. I believe that the era of American passivity is quickly coming to an end, very quickly.

The fervent hope is that passivity IS now coming to an end. The efforts of the Occupiers of Wall Street, and similar protests popping up around the country could well be the avant garde of a massive turn around in public attitude.



When Romney, presidential candidate, says that "God wants America to dominate the world" (and he appears, with many other Americans to believe such bull...), the case is not less medieval than some third world despot (even from Saudi Arabia) decreeing about other people's or his own "subjects' rights.

The American dream (speak dollar) has become a devilish machine. It's grindings have been obvious for quite some time but to only a few. They now become visible to the many, at home and not just abroad.

PS. Different today from the Middle Ages: It used to be that the Devil was working all the time, 24/7 and with a night time job on top of it.
His part of "American Dream" now is that he can relax, finally take some vacation. For plenty of ambitious Americans (from successive Chairmen of the Federal Reserve down to lesser pupils of his) became so efficient at keeping "the machine grinding" by itself.

PPS. This is a fatalistic/medieval point of view. But after so many detours, is Putin not another Zar in Russia? History tends to repeat itself. So it's not obvious to me why America should stop being a hypnotic but always materialistic dream.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Twilight, the corporate-culture's induced and perpetuating fantasy of the "American Dream" has become a nightmare for far too many, and will inescapably become a reality for all of middle America unless we stand up and stop the continuing destruction.

The Occupy Wall Street message is loud, and its message is clear. The occupations are spreading, and as circumstances deteriorate, will continue to get stronger.

Please join a local or nearby group if it's at all possible. If not, please view each group's website for how you can participate and assist from afar.


JD said...

I don't think it is passivity but is more to do with the whole idea of 'self sufficiency'
If you work hard and diligently then the American dream will be realised. This idea is so ingrained that to fall on hard times is seen as a failure.
That is very definitely the sub-text of a lot of comments of some of the more strident bloggers who think 'socialism' is the root of all evil.
Which means those who do fall on hard times are reluctant to ask/demand help for fear of being labelled scroungers/socialists/workshy or just failures who deserve their fate.

Twilight said...


Re: So it's not obvious to me why America should stop being a hypnotic but always materialistic dream.

Important point to be considered here is that the USA is a very young nation when compared to Russia and Europe, Britain and nations of the East. It has been, and still is "an experiment". As in all experiments, mistakes are made, things are learned by trial and error. The US is definitely in an "error" moment just now, but at a point where, with determination by a few - growing to a mass - the error could be successfully adjusted. not to say that perfection would ever be achieved, but an improvement and change of perspective has surely to be possible.

JD said...

see also-

Twilight said...

Jefferson's Guardian ~

Yes, thanks J's G. I seriously doubt there'll be any local group here in reddest Oklahoma - but I'll watch for any indication of one arising, and will certainly try to find ways to assist from afar, as you suggest.

Twilight said...

JD ~~ There is some of that in the mix, yes, and it has been played into for decades by the brainwashing corporate media.

People of the USA are, by and large, a hard-working bunch. Most get by on far fewer vacations, and work longer hours, than we did in the UK. Whether they do so in order to pursue some fictional American Dream, or simply to give themselves and their loved ones a decent standard of living, I don't know. Whichever, they have been used and abused by the Powers That Be, and haven't fully understood what was happening until fairly recently.

I think the abhorence of the very word "socialism" has been fostered by those on the hard right, and by memories of the McCarthy era.

Twilight said...

JD ~ thanks for the link - that's a good piece! :-)


JD: If I understand what you're saying, the 'WASP' work ethic is still strong enough to guarantee a continuation of things as they are.

But this will require keeping the hispanics in check, for a starter. Making sure Obama will NOT lean towards "who (so far) can" is another perequisite for T.'s dream becoming true. Interesting developments in waiting.

PS. Not uninteresting, astrologically speaking, the "Occuppy W.Street" thing is happening as Saturn enters an opposition to himself in the natal chart of when the N.Y. Stock Exchange started operating, on May 17,1792, at 9.00 a.m.

Twilight said...


It's becoming more interesting by the day!

Thanks for pointing out the astrological link, LEE.

Anna Van Z said...

What an insightful piece - those quotes are very on-target. And yes, I also think that the days of public passivity are ending, as well.

Wisewebwoman said...

Excellent post, T. Interesting takedown of the USian psyche ably assisted by commenters.
Brainwashing is what I would call it. The USian cult of "best in the world" which has often been laughed about in Europe (and in Canada - what's "best" about it? - your middle class fortune can be wiped out by a cancer cell? Hello?!)
I guess no one reads the stats on infant and mother mortality, children in poverty, etc. Equivalent to the 3rd world, A joke.
I am hopeful of and for the Occupation but in dread as to what purpose all those new prisons and jails were built, for such uprisings? For such citizens?
We need to get bigger.
The 1% have the ferocity and clout to suspend civil rights.

Twilight said...

Anna Van Z ~~ Thanks, Anna - And a loud Hallelujah from me too!

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ Thanks.
Brainwashing, of a subtle kind, has been going on for longer than any of us would care to believe - not only in the USA either.

I feel certain the movement will grow, some setbacks will be inevitable, but I believe the core of it will survive and if put down by any means, will regenerate. In fact, putting it down will mean the regenerated version could become even stronger.

I'm keeping in mind the idea I had recently that the real change, the flower of this seed, will not be seen until around 2024/5. It'll be a rocky road until then.

Vanilla Rose said...

Michael Moore did an amusing experiment once where he was pretending to order people who said they wanted the state to play less of a role in people's lives to get off state-funded lakes (in state-funded parks) and state-funded roads.

That is using "state" as in "the state", not as in one of the particular states of the US.

All but one of my friends in the US would like to see state-funded healthcare (and the other one did me a great favour despite my having argued with her about this to the point where I thought I had been impolite).

I recently saw an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" where a family (both parents working, 3 children) had run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills because one of the children had been born with a heart condition. The insurance firms decided this was a "pre-existing condition" and therefore her parents' health insurance would not cover it. How anyone can defend that is beyond me, but I am sure a few Americans can.

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~~ Thanks for your input.

I don't understand the people who say they want government out of their lives. What? Do they want to go back to living in a wilderness, with no laws, no regulation, no firefighters, no police, "free for all" - devil take the hindmost? Michael Moore had the right idea. I kind of understand conservatives, but don't agree with their views, but I don't understand the strongly libertarian mindset at all.

There's been a disease at the core of this country's political system for decades - the cancer of greed, bought politicians. It has grown more severe recently, to the point where a large number of people cannot ignore it any longer.

R J Adams said...

Sadly, the 'Capitalist Dream' (far more accurate than simply 'American Dream'), is being spread far beyond these shores. The UK is sinking fast into the abyss. Yesterday saw the Tories' Health and Social Care Bill pass unopposed through the 'Lords', opening wide the door to privatization of Britain's National Health Service. Some doctors have already begun charging patients for minor procedures. US insurance companies hover close by, like vultures impatient to swoop on bloodied remains, once Cameron's knife strikes the mortal blow.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ I guess it was inevitable - even so....all I can think of to respond with is my time honoured profanity: shit, shite, bugger and damn!!!!!!!!

Hieronimuss said...

hm, self sufficiency and many other fitting descriptions, made me look one more time at Sibly's chart - tight Venus Jupiter conjunction in the seventh in Cancer. And sun squared by Saturn from the 10th. Imo, it's fear of the material loss that causes the docility.

Twilight said...

Hieronimuss ~~ Hi there!
That's one likely common cause, I agree, backed up by astrology too.