It has become clearer and clearer to me recently that the United States is on many levels in a most serious situation. We may bounce back somewhat from the Great Recession, but alarming signs point to trouble ahead, perhaps a year or two away, or perhaps twenty years away, but in any case, not in some far distant future.
1) The citizens of the United States are badly informed on cultural priorities, such as understanding what aspects of social policy make life better in the long term, and which aspects are self-damaging. The citizens, when receiving new information, have trouble distinguishing between self-serving deception that seems to bring immediate results to the people, and public-minded efforts that may require temporary restraint or discipline by the people of the country.
2) There is a lot of bad information provided by corporations and other special interest groups, in order to ensure that the American public stays badly informed, and divided. That does not always mean direct deception by corporations and other commercial and political entities, although that certainly happens and too often; however far more prevalent and pervasive are other kinds of bad information that becomes part of our culture. For example, the implication that not having a shiny new and expensive car means one has failed in life, or that love is only expressed in full when a diamond is acquired, or that life is all about competition rather than building alliances, communities, and consensus.
3) The Supreme Court has had its most recent several judges appointed by an extreme right-wing Administration, and now as of last week voted to allow corporations to act like humans in making large gifts to political candidates, while previously they were somewhat constrained by separate, much lower limits placed on corporate campaign donations. Tea parties seem to be popular, devoted to tearing down what is going on in Washington DC.
What is most disturbing is that those who are supposedly progressives and liberals have been convinced that strong advocacy and action is wrong, that they must always compromise. I say, allow a filibuster! Stand up for the important things, debate the issues publicly, call a lie a lie. Politely and very firmly.
And yet... the American public, when confronted by a non-functioning healthcare system that is vastly overpriced and yet that delivers worse medical results than in most other industrialized societies, when faced with such a decision to be made, this American public condemns government for trying to make significant change. As Joe Bageant says, this is a troubling sign that America may be entering a long period of steady decline, constantly mistaking its error as being not doing enough of the wrong thing. Doing more and more of what is bad for human nature, does not make a better society.
I must say, I do know an escape route for the individual. That escape is to follow one's own important commitments. Those commitments can never be taken away by another. Those commitments are the ultimate assertion of individual freedom, freedom not to do whatever one wants, freedom not to conquer and grab whatever seems appealing, but freedom to express and strive towards the best that we as human beings can accomplish, for the greatest good of all.