So, I was sitting at my computer going through an interesting comic. It is an ironical cultural comic that spends most of its time making fun of/lamenting the state of the world. Check it out: http://www.viruscomix.com/subnormality.html Warning: It’s not always appropriate or clean and often it is immature so if you are sensitive to those things you might want to give it a pass.
Anyway, so I got to thinking about of the state of the world: For example, sometimes I think it was better in the middle ages… I wonder why people constantly refer to them as the dark ages. Sure, they had their scary looking torture devices and heretics burning at the stake but really the biggest killer in those times was disease and famine. Percentage wise they probably weren’t killing more people by violence then. Now here we are at the peak of scientific development and we have gotten way better at killing and torturing people than the medieval people and we still have disease and famine.
Sure, maybe nobody you know is dying of a disease or famine. But look around you: Africa and Asia are plagued by malaria, poor water conditions and malnutrition killing millions upon millions per year. Scientifically speaking this problem is completely solvable: We have the money, we have the resources and we have the technology to virtually eliminate deaths from malaria, contaminated water and even malnutrition. But what does the world spend its money on?
The lists of most profitable companies I could find online were dominated by: Oil, banks, car companies, utilities providers, insurance agencies, and credit providers. No surprises there, basically all these companies attempt to maintain the status quo. They are governed by one motivating factor: self interest. Yay, self interest. Ayn Rand get bent, you took the American Dream and whored her out to the world in the rags of “Me first”. Ah, but Rand you are not to blame, I know that. You simply told the people what they wanted to hear. When the world has 97 percent of its wealth squarely focused upon a mere three percent of its population it falls to the individuals in that 3 percent to decide what to do with the wealth. If the computer you are reading this on is your own or your relative’s then you are probably in that top 3 percent. And if you are human you are affected by the so-called ‘American Dream’.
Americans spend money on insurance, credit, oil, cars etc. And continue to buy more than they need which props up the giant credit companies, manufacturers, etc. thus maintaining the status quo. Now, I did just say “Americans spend” but I really mean the rich (middle class included) in general; for to be rich is to be American. The American identity is no longer what it was around the time leading up to the establishment of the constitution: It is no longer that mysterious journey of finding your way in a new world, it is no longer a rejection or reformation of old ways by establishing a new society, it is no longer the desire to pursue happiness for all in a land of exploration and possibilities. Those ideas have been thrown out. See the new America—or shall I say the nouveau riche—of the world: a people based upon a different set of principles (or lack thereof).
There was a ‘once upon a time’ when wealth came with a sense of responsibility—if you were born rich it was because you were born a noble and were therefore part of the leadership. But alas, no more. Now, if you are rich—born or become—you have no responsibility whatsoever. You’re only responsibility is that to yourself, the individual, the self is what matters most and everyone else should worry about themselves (Rand is only one of many authors who have promulgated that dogma). This divorce of wealth and responsibility can be traced back to the self-interested monarchs and lords back in the feudal era and before. The divorce began when the nobles and lords started forgetting the responsibility and just saw the wealth part of their leadership positions. It boiled throughout the middle ages and nearly came to fruition with Cromwell. Yet, Cromwell was not to be successful. The Nobles remained in power (although thoroughly humbled and put in their places—er, somewhat… at least in England). Do I seem ridiculous? Perhaps, I do. Do I actually presume to trace historical self-interest like it was a political or philosophical ideology? No, certainly not, I realize that wanton self-interest is inherent in all individuals. I realize that it is not an opinion that waxes and wanes on the shoulders of social progress. However, looking around myself, I can’t deny that self-interest has indeed waxed into some luminous monster that dominates all western societies and is threatening us all with economic destruction. Can it be traced in history? Perhaps not, but can it be simply disregarded as ahistorical?
No, I think this idea—putting individual before the mass of individuals—came to historical fruition in the Declaration of Independence. Yet, not in what is said upon it but rather in what is left off of it. Thomas Jefferson’s original document (before a whole room full of politicians got their hands on it) said some pretty strong words condemning slavery. Now Jefferson was no modern man; the best alternative he could come up with was shipping all the slaves back to Africa and setting up a “free” “negro” colony. He wasn’t perfect, yet I still appreciate his intentions. Jefferson realized it would be pretty hypocritical of a nation to talk about democracy and free men, etc. yet have hundreds of thousands of people in a state of permanent servitude. He saw that maintaining slavery in America was just switching the Kingship of George with a new American tyrant. Here, at the birthing of the nation, the “founding fathers” had a choice. They had the choice between setting up a nation built on the principles of justice and freedom or setting up a nation that maintained the status quo and made life easier for the whites. Unfortunately, the founding fathers chose the second path. They placated the southern leadership who demanded to retain their slavery. Thank you, you cowardly politicians. This would lead to the civil war, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Malcolm X’s assassination, years of lynching and prejudice in the south. This whole process of emancipation and the winning of equality was retarded by almost 200 years because of the lack of principles held by the founding fathers. Thank you, you cowardly, worthless founding fathers for ruining the promise of America before it even got started.
This American compromise has now become the global compromise of the “free” nouveau rich. Sure the rebel colonies wouldn’t have had the support of the south if they went against them at that early stage. But they could have fought a civil war right then and there. The death toll would be much smaller and the British would have had to choose either the side of slavery or the side of freedom. Even if America had of lost that war she would have won in the end. The right principles fought for become more powerful the more they are repressed.
Yet now here we are: In a world where all that matters is me and my own transitory state of highly subjective ‘happiness’. Yay America, Yay world, Yay Rand, thank you all for contributing to the current dystopia. The rich and middle class people of the world have swallowed this ‘utopian’ ‘American dream’ hook line and sinker and now we are all shocked that we are choking on it. We are in some disintegrating world from the imaginations of Orwell or Huxley. Orwell’s horrors of the totalitarian state don’t look very frightening to us now but Huxley’s Brave New World is a little closer to where we’re at. Neither however captured the sheer mind numbing ignorant, apathetic, selfish, narcissistic world as it is today. Why are dystopia novels so popular right now? Because we are living in a dystopia!
The medieval era was “dark” and “backwards” and “intolerant” but at least they cared about shit. They didn’t just sit there on their flabby backsides changing the channel every time a fly-eyed African boy came on T.V. asking for the money they spend on their weekly trip to Starbucks. No, people in the medieval ages had to worry about survival under the constant shadow of omnipresent death. They loved more, hated more, worked more and celebrated more than we ‘immortals’ are even capable of comprehending. And there lies the difference: We act as if we are immortal as if we will live forever. Yet one thousand years of technical advances still haven’t pushed us beyond that mystical 120 year peak. Immortal? Pshaw. There are more ways to die now than ever before. If you aren’t born an African in the Congo or Sudan then you can still easily be punching your final ticket from cancer, aids, nuclear war, domestic violence, car accidents, drugs, alcohol, earthquakes, psychopaths, terrorists, etc. etc. So what? Live in fear? Hide in your basement watching cable? Watch make-believe people live make-believe lives on a piece of electrified plasma sandwiched between two sheets of backlit plastic. Yay you! You are worthless. You might as well go die this moment. You don’t contribute to the world at all. You merely suck its life like a flea or a leech. Aw, but a leech is too good for you; even leeches can be beneficial when removing poisons from the blood. Hell, even a flea is too good for you at least they follow their “evolutionary impulse” and breed. What do you do? Live and die for yourself so that after you are gone you won’t matter. You will quickly be forgotten by all the people you supposedly loved and the people you could have helped but never did will not think on your passing for a moment. It will be as if you never existed.
Ah, but I realize that the people I am addressing this to would not even get this far. Perhaps they will not even endeavor to begin to read this rant. They are probably glued to their screens: iPods, TVs, computers. Glued there not doing anything but taking in dross while the short seconds of their stunted lives count down to nothing. Pathetically proving a point I wish would be proved wrong.
But therein lies the hope. There is where the truth resides. I will not wait to see my point proved right. I will go out and prove it wrong. And I know that there are those miniscule few among the wealthy going out and proving it wrong as well. Those people who demand more than themselves. Who demand community, who demand peace, who demand love, who demand things so much more important than transitory prosperity. I will stand with those few who defy the army of the apathetically indolent. We will stand not for ourselves but for the other: For the poor, for the neighbor, for the sick, for the brothers, for the weak, for the sisters, for the oppressed, for the mothers. For all but ourselves and we shall forget ourselves focused solely on our goal: to love, to help, to build. We will not compromise. We will not give in. We will not be tempted by the slow wasting of our lives but we will go onwards against the currents of apathy up river to a new land. Not to a utopia but towards a conscious rejection of the dystopia’s hold; A conscious effort to attempt utopia in spite of our weakness and in spite of almost certain failure. We will aim at perfection and perhaps attain some piece of it here on earth.
Either remain in the dark-age lethargy of self-interest or throw down your mirror-walls and look out to see a window upon the world. This window is not a position from which to watch the world unaffected; but rather a view that informs and demands action. Look, see and act.