For some time I have been thinking, writing, and gathering information, not necessarily in any good order, about our situation here in the US. For more than a decade I have thought that we are in a protracted crisis.
This crisis can be felt at the personal, family, local and national level in all areas of life. Some of the sources are systemic to technological change and the global dynamics of capitalism. Some find their roots in fundamental failures in humans – racism, sexism, religion, etc. Some flow from our political system, some from our economy.
The focus of this work has been to try to identify what this crisis is about within the US context, to describe it, without any real notion of even suggesting solutions.
Where Did This List Come From and Is There an Order?
I first started this list two or three years ago while we were still in the deepest part of the Great Recession. Most of the early entries related to the political system and economic inequality. As I have returned to it I have broadened the coverage of social and political topics. Most recently I have added ones that relate to the mythology underlying our approaches to life in the US.
Here is my current list of topics:
Underperforming, expensive healthcare system
Political system controlled by big money, private and corporate
Distorted role of corporations
Quasi-religious faith in “free market” capitalism
Race, sex, ethnicity, klans….
Myth of social mobility
National and State Political Systems Designed to Be Anti-democratic and Dysfunctional
30+ year stagnation of income
Disappearance of living wage jobs
The rich are at their feeding troughs
Expensive, underperforming K-12 educational system
Expensive, underperforming higher ed system
Web access and infrastructure
Homelessness and poverty
Bloated, dysfunctional global military and empire
Our longest war – the war on drugs
Criminal justice system – aka the judicial-incarceration gulag
Persistent income disparities
Super rich vs. everyone else
Intrusion by organized religion into government and politics
Energy policy focused on consumption instead of efficiency
The recent scene of Jon Huntsman, Republican candidate for President, stating that he believed in evolution surrounding this with the parenthetical comment, “call me crazy”, sets out in stark relief how idiotic our politics and body politic are at this moment. Every other Republican running for President has disavowed evolution. Even the middling muddler from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, could not bring himself to state a positive position on this bit of science.
A 2009 Gallup poll showed that only 36% of Americans believed in Darwinism. Here we are more than 70 years after the Scopes trial and Americans continue to be enormously ignorant of the science and technology that underlies much of our day to day lives. They show no increased interest in the amazing findings of research in so many fields.
This denial of fact-based thinking is tied up with the persistence of religions in their many guises. Even after a major global financial calamity that continues to reveal itself some four years into the Great Recession, most people persist in believing the endless claims of the miracles of the marketplace. History is replete with countless examples of the instability of markets. Even now, living through yet another real life example of the instability of markets, we have politicians surrounded by the hackdom of economists and Wall St financiers, continuing to feed market doggerels to the population still anxious to believe that we just need to be purer in our belief and application of market dogmas to achieve success.
As disturbing as the Republicans not believing in evolution, this matters fairly little in the short run. Their, and, to be fair, most Democrats and virtually the entire corporatist cabal in business and the academy, religious beliefs in markets is an active danger to our economy and our future lives.
I wish I could close with some path out of this miasma of received knowledge. But we seem not to have a political or social force in sight to hitch our increasingly decrepit lives to.