Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sometimes it's just tiring being an American. Americans seem to me like a people determined to commit psychic suicide. When you cling to illusions with all your might, it kills something inside you. And when you're killing yourself, it makes it a lot easier to kill other things, too: the livelihood of your employees, for instance, or an ecosystem; even the economic health of the global community. I think part of the reason for the absolutely ferocious brand of patriotism favored by so many Americans is that it helps us to ignore our fundamental unhappiness; and especially, for a nation besotted with its status as #1, to ignore the fact that Western Europeans are consistently ranked as the happiest people in the world. Even though they're "socialists". I guess when the personal ego is shattered, one invests all the angry energy one has left inflating the collective ego as a sort of last defense against non-entity. So please don't waste another breath trying to convince me that the world's fattest nation, the world's biggest market for illegal narcotics, the country with the highest per capita prison population on Earth, enjoys the world's best way of life! We've been perpetually at war for the last 65 years! Our health care system is ranked 39th in the world! Millions of Americans are one illness away from bankruptcy! Nearly every woman I know over the age of forty is on anti-depressants or in therapy, and the men are just too out of touch with their feelings to know they need them, too!
Have you noticed the things people here now do for a living? Do you know, or have you ever known, a little girl or boy who wanted to grow up to become a procurement specialist? Or a customer service representative? How about a communications director? Or a quality control supervisor? An insurance underwriter? (Look at any of the job sites on the internet and you will find page after page of this sort of thing.) No, I would wager my life that there has never been a single child in the history of the planet who dreamed of spending the coveted power and freedom of adulthood on any of these pursuits. And that is because these jobs, at which people spend precious years of their lives, have absolutely no meaning or purpose apart from the capitalist imperative of creating wealth for richest 2% of the population. They are dream-killers, soul-killers. No goods are produced, no craft practiced and mastered, no one edified, enlightened or inspired, no fundamental human need provided for by this sort of work. It is a human rights violation to ask anyone to do it. Digging a ditch would be more satisfying, if a ditch were needed and would benefit one's community.
My question is, why have the churches been standing idly by, in this most religious of nations in the West, as every bit of beauty is drained from our communal life, as culture becomes an elitist museum, as the search for a life of meaning becomes an entirely private affair? The feeble ethic the churches preach has, until very recently, focused almost exclusively on condemning lapses of that docile obedience which both State and Corporate elites count upon to enrich themselves as they deplete us; an obedience completely alien to the figure of Jesus as he is portrayed in the gospels. And how can we accept and cooperate in our own depletion, impoverishment, and dehumanization unless we can be convinced to swallow - hook, line and sinker - the peculiar delusion of the American mind; namely, that we, as the greatest of nations, are forever and inevitably making progress?
Always needing to make progress is tiring. But even more tiring is the effort to maintain the appropriate enthusiasm as we progress over the edge of a precipice.