“The world has stopped believing we stand for anything but our own power. We have lost legitimacy. Torture, above all, brought this into being. Obama’s refusal to go after the torturers delegitimized us further. Gitmo, Bradley Manning, violating sovereignty willy nilly, drone strikes even on American citizens… Basic disrespect for the principles we have preached so self-righteously to the world, on a scale that makes even prior hypocrisies (Reagan’s Central American policies, Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia, dropping atom bombs on cities full of civilians, genocide against Native people, slavery, internment) look like prologues to planned global domination.”
Here at home we slumber in the trance of exceptionalism so seamlessly portrayed in our media and entertainment. Our heroes are always conquering enemies from whatever country we’ve deemed evil lately, who just happens to hate our freedoms.
It helps if they have darker skin and cultures so alien we have no intention of understanding them. Most of us know we are the most marketed to people on Earth but do we recognize the propaganda embedded therein? Nah! Not really that important. We’re exceptional and even though propaganda is pumped at us like a fire hydrant opened on a hot Summer day, it’s still better than being a citizen of any other country.
With regard to modern industrialized countries, we’re number one after all! In incarcerations, gun ownership and related violence, military might, unequal distribution of wealth and religion. Oh and lest we forget, healthcare system costs as a percentage of GDP, which we don’t want anyone to touch because it’s the best system in the world, regardless that overall outcomes are worse than most equally modernized countries.
Don’t we have some domestic problems too. Yes, but we declare war on them and some day we’re going to win one of those wars. But until we do, we can make lots of noise about the war itself, instead of its failures. Kind of like the wars on drugs, poverty, and crime. Unless of course it doesn’t suit our political purposes and then we can stop declaring war on it, like terrorism.
So are we a country full of bad people? No, not really. We are a country full of clueless people being thrown about in a complex system of complex systems that no one consciously and purposely created to function they way it does. The elements of which, come together in an indescribable number of ways to produce the oddities we love to commiserate about.
Our difficulties start when we try to find the causes by examining the system by objective reduction, i.e. top down analysis of the variables that make up the system. We are dealing with a complex system of complex systems that can only be understood by observing the epiphenomena, i.e., the emergent properties that result from the way the system functions. Bottom up, so to speak.
So the negative epiphenomena are often the undesirable and unintended consequences coming from well-intentioned interactions of complex systems that have evolved with no intention to achieve a common purpose.
For instance, the political, economic, social, governmental, educational and the main stream media are all complex systems designed to achieve their own outcomes. When they come together they form an even more complex system of complex systems, the outcomes of which we can rarely predict.
The good news and the bad news is we’re no better or worse than anyone else. We’re just richer. Well at least some of us are for now.
Robert De Filippis