Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Bazz Fazz

I'm heading out to the poison ivy farm for a couple of days. Reflecting on the nation's birthday, I have to say I'm really torn between optimism and pessimism. The corporatist regime established after the collapse of the populist movement in the latter part of the 19th Century is seemingly as entrenched as ever. The peculiar pathologies of our culture seem equally enduring. These include radical individualism, and its strangely entwined, totally opposite identical twin, irrational cultism and militant conformity. Paradoxically, these largely co-exist in the same people, and the same cultural, media and political spaces.

We're in an economic crisis which I happen to think is much worse than the corporate media want us to believe. We're hurting everywhere but the good people of California are about to learn the hard way that in the end, you have to pay for what you get, and they're going to really going to miss what they refuse to pay for. The rest of us are going to learn it less abruptly, but we're still going to have to learn it. Over six decades, we've come to believe in eternally growing wealth and power as a law of nature. That's over now, for a long time to come. We're still a wealthy country and we can meet our people's needs with less than we have had in the past, but whether we have the wisdom and the generosity to do so is far from clear.

We are very far from truly accepting and confronting the world's multiple environmental crises. We're still hopelessly addicted to war and petroleum. Our mass media are shallow, corrupt, and cowardly. Yes, we have big problems.

But let's give ourselves some credit as well. We're in the midst of real social change. Gender inequality is still eroding, albeit slowly, and so is racism. (I'm not going to get involved in arguments over which is further along. I know we have a long, long way to go on both fronts, but you can't deny that there's real movement.) The pace of liberation for sexual minorities has been nothing less than astonishing.

Most important, the power of enlightened critical thinking in our discourse is growing. New information technology helps -- the corporate media find themselves having to answer for their sins, and we can even have these public conversations without them. We also have a much better understanding of the world than we used to, simply because science marches on and we just keep on learning and figuring stuff out. The planet is in crisis, but at least we are aware of it and have some ideas about what to do about it. More and more of us think of ourselves as planetary citizens and the claims of nationalism and tribalism are weakening in much of the world -- granted that they also benefit from a strengthening backlash elsewhere. And, nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging.

So, I believe we can overcome, even though we need to overcome a lot. La lucha continua.

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