Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My five minutes

When skimming over messageboards or listening to interviews, I believe that most of the time, our minds are made up within a very short period of time. Within anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, we start assigning labels to people.

"Oh that person is a loony leftie."
"Oh she's a neocon shill."
"He's just an ignorant redd'neck."
"He's some yuppity know it all New-Englander."

whatever. There's a million such labels. I wish it weren't true... I wish people could actually listen to others without pigeonholing them, but alas this is the world we live in.

I've come to the conclusion that a person only gets at most about five minutes of open honest consideration before things degenerate into a tangled web of preconceived notions that drown out any hopes of rational discourse.

So here is my five minutes. Here are the words I'd like to get out before people can peg me as one thing or another so they have an excuse not to listen any more:


It's sad to live in a time when the majority of Americans can't approve of their own President. Rationalize it all you will, but it doesn't change the fact that it's true. It doesn't matter what we are (daggone libruls, neocon hacks, etc), we're still Americans.

We have to ask the question... indeed we must find out what brought us to this point.

There are a few competing theories.

One. Liberals and particularly the liberal media have weakened the military and the country to the point where we could not even stop some crazies with a few box cutters and a lot of willpower. On the fiscal side of the issue, government should be small, and taxes should be low, because the people know better how to spend their own money and run their own lives.

Two. "Conservatives" have hijacked public opinion through a massive think-tank-run campaign of corporate sponsored propaganda. And lie after lie has turned so many people off that we basically surrendered our country to wealthy elite interests. Issue after issue is clouded and corrupted by the media to the point where people repeatedly vote against their own interests. The "death tax" is a fine example. Here is an issue that puts the top 0.1% against everyone else, and yet the big money media has duped millions into seriously considering the complaints of the elite minority. This is called "fair and balanced." And yet the real issues... the ones that put the bottom 50% against the top 50%, those issues are ignored by the media. Take poverty and the minimum wage for example. So the rich get richer, by orders of magnitude, while the bottom 1/2 of the population sees their Real Wages decline.

Obviously I fall into category two. Honestly I have a hard time even explaining the position of the other side because it is so rediculous.

First of all the media is not liberally biased. The hugely magnified focus on the top 0.1%'s issue (the death tax) is direct evidence of this. There is simply no other way to explain it, unless the top 0.1% are liberals! Not even Rush Limbaugh could spin this convincingly. But he's got his listeners so scared of daggone liberals that they rarely exercise their critical thinking skills.

Now look at one of the central tenets of Conservative Ideology: small government and low taxes. (I'm going to ignore the fact that under Bush the government has grown faster than under any president since FDR.) It's what all conservatives agree on most.

But it exposes the major flaw in conservative ideology: contempt of government. Isn't a government supposed to be "we the people, by the people, for the people"? And indeed if this is what you think then what sense does it make to want to reduce the size of government. Doesn't that mean we get less of the "we the people, by the people, for the people"?

::crickets::

That's what you believe if, in your heart, you really do have contempt for government. You know government is bad, because you know it is ruled by corporate interests. So you want to reduce it's size and scope and power. But what do you get by doing this? You get rule by the wealthy. That's really what conservatives are arguing for.

It's total nonsense. Government is a group of people, elected to represent the interests of the people. And those representatives get together and use their combined powers to make life better for the people they represent.

Take one simple example. An analogy. Let's say you have an apartment bulding. Each tenant is paying $40 a month for high speed internet service. They agree on one thing: they're paying too much! They all agree they'd like to pay less. So one of them comes up with a brilliant scheme. Why not buy a fiber line with enough bandwidth to service the entire building? So that's what they do. They buy the line and they buy a fiber switch and run a line to each apartment. They all pay part of the cost each month. And now they're paying $9 a month instead of $39! This is government in action. It's not what we think of as government but that's basically what it is. And that's what socialism is in a nutshell.

The funny thing is that most people who listen to Hannity, Limbaugh, etc, they are so scared of socialism that they don't even stop for a moment to think about what socialism really is. "It's communism! Damn commies, I really hate them!" Who are you to hate this? I'll tell you. You are someone who has spent too much time listening to the viewpoint of the elite wealthy. That is what Limbaugh and his ilk represent. That is the view they must have in order to get onto the corporate owned media outlets. And yes socialism is bad in their view. Go back to the apartment analogy. $9 a month is bad for the cable companies. So they sick their big money lobbyists on congress and try to make it illegal to do something that by all rights should be legal. That's bad. Yet that's what our government is. But by god the solution is not to cut down the size of the government... in essence to cut down on the power of the people. The solution is to get rid of the corporate influence. It has no place in a government by the people, for the people.

Like I said people like Limbaugh must shill for corporate interests or else they will not be heard. And that is how we are in the bind we are in. They've been doing it for so long now... the elite wealthy has used their money to control the debate, to win public opinion on issue after issue. They used this power to consolidate the media, and that gave them even more power. And every step of the way our country has declined because of it. I use the internet apartment analogy because nowhere is it more obvious what they are doing. That's why our internet service ranks so low compared to other industrialized nations. They will not let people work together to build intelligent infrastructure which saves money. They want us isolated, they want us believing that government wastes money-- that it is the big dumb government that spends $600 on a toilet seat! But it's just not true. Look at the last energy bill. Look at what happened during the passing of the CAFTA bill. Anyone who opposed the bills was given a big fat earmark, a barrel of pork to shut them up and make them go along. That's the kind of crap that leads to $600 toilet seats. Lobbyists in control of everything... Whether it's an oil company doing it, or a labor union, it's bad. (I think that's where a lot of the false left/right debate comes from.)

The truth is there for you to see it. Take a look at suburbia. What the hell is this? Who designed this? Well, no one really. And that's the problem with it. We spend over a billion dollars a day just on gasoline for our cars. This is a damn nightmare and it's growing by the day. If we don't wake up we're all going to lose everything. Instead of listening to neocon shills on the radio, we need to start using our brains. If we had done that years ago we would have put some thought into how we built our communities. So that it wouldn't cost us a billion dollars a day in wasted gasoline. For the money we spend each year on gasoline, we could have built the most elaborate mass transport systems the earth has ever seen. We'd have trains to take us everywhere not within walking distance, and these trains would always be on time. There'd be less accidents, less insurance payouts for medical bills and property damage. Not to mention less pollution. We'd pay for it with higher taxes. But when you factor in the utterly massive amounts of money we'd all save, it's a no brainer. Who cares if I pay more in taxes if it means what's left of my paycheck is going to go a hell of a lot farther? That's the one thing so many people have such a difficult time understanding. And the reason for that lack of understanding is because we have so many big money shills telling us what to think. What they want us to think.

I can't blame them for trying, because cars are big money makers, in ways I'll bet you've never even considered. Yeah you know that cars make us burn up more gas which is good for the oil companies. And they make us burn up more rubber which is also good for... the oil companies. And they make us build more roads, which is good for construction companies and their labor unions too. (Obviously labor unions, ie, UAW had a big role in all of this.) And they make us take out big loans which is good for the bankers. And they encourage us to stop at more places, like fast food joints, so we can spend more money and get fatter. But consider this: what aren't we doing when we're driving a car, that we could be doing when we're riding a train?

Reading a newspaper? Talking to people? Hmm? It's true we at least have cellphones now but isn't it important to just talk to people at random? Heavens no, they don't want us doing that. They want us to be good little slaves. We must sit in a car for two hours a day and our only thought toward our fellow man should be "get the hell out of my way, you jerk." And they want us to listen to the corporate propaganda on the radio. (You see, the rich media controllers have known for a long time that when you're stuck in traffic and you're pissed off, that is the best time to get you thinking exactly what they want you to be thinking.) And then they want us to go home and sit in front of the tv where again we are subjected to this awful one way communication of propaganda. We feel empty somehow, and that gadget we see on the tv will make us happier. So we must slave for however many hours it takes to buy that thing which will make us happier.

Look, there isn't a soul in the country who hasn't heard a story where the moral is "money isn't everything". Those little stories are the counterbalance to this steaming pile of corporate dung that pervades all our lives. It's madness. And the changes our country has gone through over the past 50 years have placed us, like pawns in a game of chess, into positions where we are less likely to be exposed to this counterbalance. So we are left with the madness and have nothing to counter it. This is no accident. It is a product of many minds of the elite wealthy. It is being done by design. And if you think liberalism (or socialism) is in any way responsible for this then you are mistaken. And no matter how many times they repeat that lie, it will not make it true.

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