It is 23 days until the next U.S. congressional midterm election.
The previous post included a quote from Umair Haque (originally trained in neuroscience, now a London-based consultant, often cited as one of the world’s great thinkers) in which he called out America’s Generation X members for not stepping up to modernize America into a decent, working society.
Had you clicked the link and read the headline of his article, “Why America Stayed a Backwards Society (and Collapsed), While the World Grew (and Prospered) – The Unholy Trinity of American Collapse,” you may have wondered what he meant by backwards society and the American collapse.
Had you read the article itself (I admit, this is one of those times he’s difficult to read; I re-read sentences and paragraphs two or three times to unravel his meaning.), you would have found some damning accusations and labels. In fact, if you count yourself among those who believe the United States is, hands down, the best country on the planet in which to live, I suspect you wouldn’t have even finished reading.
Here are some of the phrases he tossed around about the good ol’ US of A:
“America’s a bizarre, weird, gruesome outlier among nations: an exceptionally backward society.”
“Just 20% of women make up political office, as opposed to 40-50% in Europe, less even than in Pakistan.”
“80% of people live paycheck to paycheck and can’t muster $1000 for an emergency.”
“Kids are routinely mowed down at school, and told to wear bulletproof backpacks — or put in concentration camps.”
“An apartheid state.”
“Grim and poisonous residue of supremacy, capitalism, and tribalism.”
“Economic attitude of extreme self-reliance, of naked, aggressive self-interest.”
“Social attitude of tribal supremacy — whites above everyone! Men above women!”
“A stunted, decrepit, crippled thing, a sham democracy.”
OK, so he thinks America is in decline, even collapse. What does that mean? What is his evidence? What are his standards?
If you dig into Hague’s recent writings, he’s brought it up often. In an earlier article, “The Anatomy of American Collapse – How America Imploded Socially, Culturally, Economically, and Politically,” he specifies more concretely what he means. (I found this one an easier read, by the way.)
“People fighting bitterly among themselves.”
“It’s as if America is hell-bent on confirming, as visibly and proudly as possible, the worst suspicions that all its fiercest critics had.”
“The result of incomes flatlining for decades, while the costs of the essentials of life, whether healthcare, education, rent, finance, food, or media, have all skyrocketed.”
“The middle class is collapsing, while inequality has skyrocketed — and that means the vast majority of Americans live right at the edge of ruin — every single day.”
“America is the world’s first poor rich country — what it means is that in terms of people’s lives, their lived experience is one of frustration, resignation, anger, and despair. Their expectations haven’t been fulfilled.”
When the generally accepted idea of hard work leading to prosperity and an improved life, when that idea is shattered, “people are going to grow mistrustful of their institutions and systems. They’re going to grow resentful of each other. They will grow afraid of the future. And probably hostile to the world, too. The rules are broken — why follow them anymore? Why bother with democracy, with civility, with decency, with any of these things? What did they ever do for you? … Maybe by dehumanizing and scapegoating those dirty, filthy animals, those Mexicans, those Jews, those Latinos, those blacks, those Muslims — just like those strong, strutting men who tell you will be great again — you will get ahead. Maybe these new rules will work for you — where the old ones failed you so badly.”
“The poisons and venoms of authoritarianism, of kleptocracy, of fascism, of theocracy, are now beginning to really kill the body social, political, cultural, and economic.”
I hope I’m not sharing too much. Seriously, read the article … slowly, deliberately, leaving yourself open to a new way of thinking. What if he’s right? If so, we need a groundswell movement to fundamentally change things before this country goes all “Lord of the Flies” on us.
We must begin investing in people, not corporate machines. I’m talking healthcare, education, employment, respect for everyone. We need to accept the idea our society is no better than how we treat the poor, the damaged, the vulnerable. We need to learn enough about the rest of the world to realize there are great people, traditions and cultures everywhere. We should figure out America is not the answer to everything.
So, can we correct all of this with the mid-term election in 23 days?
But we can take the first step by disciplining electorally the politicians who have allowed Trump and his hate-filled, rich-enriching, cruelty-loving minions to run rampant over decency. We must remove from office every Republican possible.
This would send an indelible message not only to them as they rebuild but to the newly empowered Democrats, as well. We must then stay on top of them, reminding that we have taken charge and are willing and able to boot them from office, as well.
We the people should feel the calling to press our new leaders to help us make deep, fundamental changes to our economic, political, social and cultural structures, changes that put people first.
Umair Hague is doing his job as a philosopher and observer, pointing out the American Dream is wearing no clothes.
The onus falls on us, the American people, to stitch together communal fabrics into an embracing, loving new society.
Radical, yes. More radical than watching the country implode … I think not.