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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Conspiring in its own regression—U.S. in willful decline

Spiegel Online’s “President of Disappointments” spreads sweeping culpability of a nation mindlessly in peril
Excerpt, editing, end comment by Carolyn Bennett

Poor, oblivious, careless, and clueless

The fiscal and social systems are still designed for a superior economy that derives its prosperity from constant growth in consumption, Ullrich Fichtner, Marc Hujer and Gregor Peter Schmitz write.

“But the old days in which everything worked out somehow thanks to the sheer energy of a great country are drawing to a close and America has no plan for its future as a nation still powerful but no longer superior.”

Many problems are simply ignored. Los Angeles, for example, is the biggest Thai city outside Thailand and the world’s third-largest Spanish-speaking city. Three-fourths of all children in the giant Los Angeles school district speak Spanish.

The obvious question— is this or is this not a problem — is neither asked nor answered.

U.S. East/West vs. center-divide

The “spirit of multiculturalism” that prevails in Atlantic and Pacific-coasts cities “is not shared by all.

“In the forests, deserts and mountains, and in states along the southern borders, a new sense of anxiety — and a new racism — is taking shape in the form of new, crude immigration laws.

“Local ethnic conflicts heating up in southern California, Texas, Arizona, Alabama and Florida are hardly ever mentioned in national debates. But these conflicts will not disappear of their own accord.

“The United States is a poor country — at least in much larger parts of it than the world suspects.” Its unsophisticated backwaters are populated by people living in huts and in run-down mobile homes, people lacking the bare necessities and; even more often, lacking so much as an elementary education. There are an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country, about half of them Mexicans. Almost one in four teenagers is unemployed.

“There is no question that America needs a new plan.”


Government malfunctions  

“The 112th Congress of the United States has been the most unproductive Congress since the end of World War II.”

Major national projects and monumental global tasks are sidelined or neglected “because domestic sports scandals or sexual improprieties capture the headlines, because lunatic pastors decide to burn Korans, or because new statistics are released showing that three-fourths of all Americans are overweight, more than 46 million live in poverty and gunshots kill more than 30,000 people a year, suicides included.”

Media collude

In a country where an American television personality’s 72-day marriage or the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate can have a longer-lasting impact on the news in the United States than any environmental policy initiative, that high gasoline prices (less than half the price of gasoline in Germany) are so important to so many people that they could decide an election, that 52 percent of Republicans in Mississippi believe the president is a Muslim, or where 46 percent of Americans believe that man was created precisely as is written in the Bible—can render political debates extraordinarily tedious, boring, mind-numbing.

Media feed flames of vacuous controversy and “controversy gets people watching” the idiot box. If people are angry, they will turn on the television to get angrier. “Confusion is produced where clarity ought to prevail” and a result is further division and disconnect.

Disconnect ensues
People from people
Government from government
Government from governed

“Americans gossip and chatter but no longer talk to one another.” The country’s infrastructure is crumbling. Public schools and large segments of the education system are in disastrous shape, as are many cultural institutions. U.S. administration, especially federal governance in Washington, is in urgent need of renewal.

Compromise is essential yet everyone “gets into the game of painting things in black and white” and because it is difficult to come up with catchy campaign slogans for America’s extremely diverse society, attempts to reach people are getting increasingly crude on all sides.

Watching a show of warring opposites, calculated failure to compromise, wedging (arms, abortions, marriage: god, guns, gays) one against another other, politics reduced to a “black art” whose objective is to suppress truly important issues and focus on the unimportant—a confused people loses interest in public affairs. Many Americans “no longer want to discuss politics.”

If a nation or people entrench themselves long enough in the status quo, they can only trend backwards. The Spiegel Online writers are right.

The United States of America does indeed need a new plan and a new project. But it also needs new blood, a new intelligence, a new ethos, a new consciousness, a new courage. And, sadly, nothing in current Washington—in any branch of government or among their allies and partners — measures up or rises to the critical global and domestic imperatives of our time. It doesn’t have to remain this way.

Sources and notes

“The President of Disappointments: How Obama Has Failed to Deliver” (Ullrich Fichtner, Marc Hujer and Gregor Peter Schmitz, translated from the German by Christopher Sultan), Druckversion – Spiegel Online - News – International, June 14, 2012, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/president-barack-obama-has-disappointed-in-his-first-term-a-838648.html


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