_ I discovered another paradox about life in the country of my birth.
On the one hand, people criticize “European socialism”...whatever that is as something that would destroy the country. On the other hand, the military is glorified. This is a large part of society that operates with pure socialism: all needs of soldiers and their families are provided for. Health care is so normal, that it is not even mentioned. Long vacations are expected. Pay is regulated on a published scale. Generals earn more, but not outrageously so.
That said, once finished with service, people are thrown back into the society that they defended and are expected to survive with no help. They must listen to the evils of “socialism” and about weakness of anyone not able to fend for themselves. No one cares whether they are healthy or sick, whether their families eat or starve, whether they have a job or not...even whether they live or die. Backs are turned and doors are closed by those, which they once defended and who continue to praise military service (which they would never dirty their hands performing). There seems to be a clever form of propaganda at work, which fools the masses into believing that suffering is good for them and bad for society.
Something is wrong here...and it ain’t “European socialism”!
I do not like to see people suffer. That explains my aversion to traveling to the United States, where one is constantly confronted with people pushing their worldly goods in a shopping cart. I try not to imagine the fate of children, and I do not need to see it.
I believe that, given the extent to which humans have evolved, that all should enjoy a minimum level of comfort, shelter, and nutrition. A whole bunch of people in the United States do not agree with me, and have been working for decades to push more and more below the poverty level. I am happy to live in a modern, civilized, humane country and region.
The always intelligent and articulate Amy Davidson touches on this subject in her New Yorker piece.
I do not have the slightest glimmer of a hope that conditions will improve in the county of my birth. On the contrary, they will become worse, as the rich get richer and politicians help ease their task of becoming richer. One must only read Dickens to understand how far US society has retreated. The country no longer must take unwashed masses from abroad: it’s doing a bang-up job producing them at home.
I have discovered why pornography is so rampant in the United States (besides being easily available and profitable for producers, distributors, and hotels). At some point in the past, “leaders” (for lack of a better term) must have conspired after reading Wilhelm Reich, who wrote that “sexual emancipation would lead to positive social change”. I don’t think that this guy is widely read in the Muslim world.
Anyway, Ariel Levy (notice the name) interprets this in the The New Yorker, “Good sex was the path to good society.”
I, for one, am happy that someone read the guy theories and am pleased with the result of this conspiracy. Things turned out well enough to make my teen years enjoyable. Of course, those spoilsports with religious affiliations still tried/try to instill guilt in all that might listen. Over the years, many have listened, mouthed their platitudes, nodded in agreement...and then disappeared behind the shed.
Modern day humans can thank someone or something for anesthesia—full or local. I just finished a novel set in the 1700’s (The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald), in which operations were performed after the patient received a shot of brandy.
I have survived several operations in my life under full narcosis. Yesterday, I learned that anesthesia does not dull all senses (one does not notice anything under full narcosis). One still feels cold and heat, as well as pressure. Fortunately, as long as pain is missing, other sensations are irrelevant. Of course, one can hear doctors and nurses babbling. I kept waiting to hear an “oh, oh”, but was spared that trauma. I knew already, but was reminded, that the sound of skin being cut is similar to the sound made by scissors cutting paper or cloth. It’s an unpleasant noise, but one gets over it.
While being cut up and sewn back together, I thought about the resilience of the human body. That got me thinking about how little a body needs to survive and how much humans can endure. Anyone that has seen documentaries or read about subsistence folks, Indian peasants and slum dwellers, or life in concentration camps (or read Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad) already understand what I mean.
In many advanced societies, people have so much and have come to think that they cannot survive on less. Such people avoid thinking about how the homeless, which they pass by and ignore, and people living below the poverty level can survive. Such an existence is far less comfortable, but humans continue to exist.
The big news in England is about McDonalds putting calorie counts on menus. The move comes, in part, from a government drive to combat obesity and improve health. Changing menus is easy, but achieving the objectives is never gonna happen. History in the United States proves the futility of such efforts.
I recall a similar drive, starting the in the early 1980’s (could have been earlier, but I did not notice) to make citizens more health conscious. There have been “drives” and “programs” and “warnings” and whatnot ever since. Food companies began at that time to offer “healthy” products (I worked for an advertising agency, so knew that the underlying thrust was profit) and to print more information on packages. What has been the result of years of effort? Americans have become fatter and less healthy. Even Oprah could not reel in the growing epidemic...or whatever you want to call it.
There is a simple explanation: human weakness. I came to this conclusion after hearing a statement during an interview with an overweight man in a program on obesity in America. He spoke for all his obese brothers and sisters of all ages. “It all tastes so good,” he said, when asked about why he does not change eating habits. Humans have weakness for sugar, salt, and fat, and neither government programs nor calorie counts on menus can change human nature...
This is the best, most enlightening article that I have read on economic theory/society, and the most disturbing.
I have not read anything by Karl Marx. (I prefer his distant relative, Groucho.) I must have heard about him during my education, but my impression of his writing is based mostly upon years of being fed anti-communism propaganda.
This article points out that Herr M. was correct about capitalism. (Once again, Germans got it right.) It, like democracy, contains and fosters the seeds of its own destruction. And, not unlike human destruction of the planet on which we depend for life, capitalism is in the process of destroying what made/makes it attractive.
I enjoyed the good years of capitalism and am observing the demise that this article explains. I am not optimistic about the future for my descendants.
Last night I watched an interesting program on cars, driving, and the booming automobile industry in India. It was also a commentary on Indian society, past, present, and future.
The photography was excellent, giving a good impression of the country without having to endure the odors or the food. One got a good enough view of the poverty, without having to fend off beggars.
I was struck by one statement of the commentator. She explained how old India was a country with unimaginable wealth in the hands of a very small minority, contrasted with staggering poverty of the majority. India is changing rapidly, especially in the metropolitan areas. Farmland is shrinking, and the poor are being removed to make way for highways to handle the growing number of cars and trucks. The burgeoning middle class is making demands, and wealth is beginning to shift. As in other countries, the rich are getting richer and the poor...well, as always, they get screwed.
This made me think. Is the opposite happening in the United States? Recent events have shown that wealth distribution is moving that way. With 400 families controlling as much wealth as the lower 50% of the population and the middle class shrinking rapidly, it could go that way. The rich flaunt their unimaginable wealth and the poor struggle with shrinking job opportunities, declining income, and hopelessness. The beggars I saw beside the streets in Miami depressed me more than I imagine being disturbed by beggars, if I were ever to travel to India.
A government body in London has announced a plan to charge children to use a city park. This marks the end of civil society as we know it. When fleecing children becomes government policy, life cannot become less civilized.
Of course, Americans can only hope that Republicans do not learn of this clever income source; even they have yet to target children. Or have they? Perhaps cutting back on education is their way of exploiting the weak.
Everyone should be familiar with that tired line: two countries divided by a common language. Another way in which the United States and United Kingdom differ is the way in which their societies are divided. Class rules in the UK, whereas money defines the pecking order in their former colony. The revolution was meant to throw off class divisions, but we’re dealing with human nature here. People must know where they stand vis-à-vis their fellow man. If the aristocracy is destroyed, then the only measure can be monetary.
But, the founders were clever: they knew the danger of revolution. After all, they had just managed to pull one off. They defined the fledging nation’s key value as self-reliance. Optimism in a land of opportunity and individual choice would reign. If you are a failure, it is your own fault, because this is the land of the free and the home of the brave. And, failure did not mean debtors’ prison, as it had in England. Some of the country’s biggest success stories started with at least one miserable failure. Debt can be easily written off, can’t it? Even the poor have recognized the ingenuity of this scheme. But, the average citizen has not noticed...or does not complain about...the way the wealthy have co-opted the system to benefit themselves even more than any aristocrat ever did.
Americans see class based upon birth as unfair, but a money-based system is strangely equitable. After all, anyone can run up credit card debt. Most have swallowed the line about self-reliance and equal opportunity. Anyone not believing the cant is branded a communist, even after that has proven to be a straw dog. After all, anyone can become President of the United States, whereas only the first-born male child of some old lady can become King of England. All school children are taught this myth is school. Of course, no one mentions the cost in terms of money, dishonesty, and character sacrifices. Or that anyone can question your birth certificate. Or that many have not learned the fifty states and thus might claim your birth to be foreign. Or that most voters are just plain stupid, might not recognize your significant qualities, and will believe whatever lie your opponent throws at them.
The English fawn over anyone with a hereditary title, no matter how worthless or impoverished; Americans worship self-made billionaires, regardless of from whom they have swindled their fortune. Unfortunately, both groups display many of the same traits: arrogance, snobbery, and lack of empathy. Often, the female of the species is the worst, especially if they enjoy the spoils of their husband’s wealth and have never accomplished anything (besides netting a rich spouse). None are familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s line: “The colonel’s lady and Mary O’Grady are sisters under the skin”.
Then again, all people are the same regardless of class or tax bracket...