A Disastrous Future?

March 28, 2011

The two most pressing questions now seem to be:

How bad are conditions in the world?

How much worse are they going to get?

I can't answer either with certainty. Obviously the questions are incomplete. We have to inquire: how bad for whom? how much worse for whom?

My sense, from reading as widely as I have time for, is that they're pretty bad already and that they're going to get worse faster than most people in the United States have imagined.

That sense was strengthened last night as I watched Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes interview John Chambers, the chief executive officer of CISCO. Mr. Chambers struck me as a complete loon, so far as having any idea of how a functional society might operate. The truth is, he doesn't care. All he wants is dramatically lower taxes so his corporation can make more money. He has no idea what the overall effect of this might be, nor does appear ever to have thought about it. He just wants more money. That's it.

Men with minds like John Chambers have more power in this country, right now, than anyone else. They have no vision, no plan, for society. They just want to pile up money, period. They can't imagine doing anything else. Where do you suppose they're going to take us?

When someone is so obsessed with his own motives he's completely indifferent to any effect they might have on other people, we say he's a sociopath. And a sociopath, by definition, is insane. I don't guess I'm quite ready to say that all the leaders of corporate America are insane but every time I see one expressing his views on TV I'm pushed closer to that opinion.

After watching Chambers and getting down in the dumps, I was pushed even farther down by reading the latest essay by Chris Hedges, published yesterday in truthout. To say that Mr. Hedges has become a Jeremiah may be euphemistic. He's far more pessimistic even than I. He thinks we have to construct our opposition to the corporate state from the ground up. We can't follow the Democratic Party's bland methods for reining it in. Every one of globalism's promises has turned out to be a lie he says, and as a result we're facing severe food shortages, panic about energy supplies, and political upheaval all round the world. And the answer to these threats in the United States has been a political discourse that consists of mindless sound bites.

Clearly, he's right to a degree. It's the nature of the degree I can't confidently put my finger on.

The answer to these problems was once thought to be the good sense and the good hearts of the people. Let the people finally see what's going on, it was said, and they will rise up against the malefactors of great wealth. But will they? How capable are they, in the mass, of recognizing what's happening to their country?

I wish I knew.

I can imagine many people watching John Chambers last night and thinking that he was making a lot of sense. Do away with corporate taxes and then the corporations will return their operations to America and provide more employment. It sounds nice. Maybe it even sounds plausible. But if you asked those same people how to raise the funds required to provide decent public services, what would they say? I doubt they would have any better answer than Chambers did.

The notion that taxes are unnecessary, that the government can operate without them -- maybe by reducing foreign aid -- is so engrained in the American mind it's hard to see what might wash it out. With an entire political party dedicated to pushing that lie, and backed up by persons who control the majority of wealth in the nation, we have to ask what it might be that would cause the average citizen to start looking for the truth.

Would a series of major disasters do it? Would the complete breakdown of the public schools make an impact? If the unemployment rate rose to twenty percent, would people seriously ask why? I wish these questions could be answered in the affirmative, but I'm not sure they can.

There's a journalistic myth in the United States which says that if you lay out a problem that seems pretty dire, you're required to offer a solution to it. But what if you have no solution? Are you supposed then to just keep quiet about the problem? I think that's nuts.

We do have a problem. Anyone who has paid attention to recent developments knows we do. To face that truth is the first step towards doing something about it. Otherwise you just blunder towards disaster, with the rich people consoling themselves by the thought that no matter how bad the disaster is, their money will protect them against it.

Actually, if we had an informed electorate, our social problems would not be erased but they would become solvable. But saying that just puts us back on the merry-go-round. How can we get an informed electorate?

Predictions in cases like this tend to be stupid, but if someone stuck a gun to my head and made me predict, I would say I don't think society is likely to get healthier any time soon, and it's probably going to get sicker.

If that weren't good enough, I guess I'd have to get shot.

©John R. Turner

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