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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year

In attempting to understand the direction of American culture, and shed some light on how it can change for the better, I tend to look for the hologram, the part that reveals the whole. The New Year's weekend is always a great source of insight in this regard, and this one had plenty.

Like millions of people in this country I watched the Tournament of Roses Parade and a couple of bowl games. I like seeing the bands from all over the country, and am moved by the efforts made to appear in the parade. The floats are fun to watch too, and I enjoy hearing about how they are made. Though I'm not much of a football fan, I appreciate a good performance, and often the best of college football can be seen in a bowl game.

What is revealing, though, is what the television industry does with these events. The parade is shown on all three major networks, and they tend to have emcees who are actors from shows they are trying to promote, or, as in the case of NBC, someone from one of their "news" shows. They tell a lot of inane jokes and puns, and generally display their self-centeredness and shallowness, the usual fare for TV. I changed channels whenever I was disgusted, which was often.

Three glaring instances of arrogance, stupidity, and tastelessness stand out from all that was said and done over the weekend. The first was on CBS. The actor/emcee covered many subjects in his hour upon the stage, and finally felt the need, or was prompted, to say something about the tsunami that devastated the nations in the Indian Ocean. I'm not making this up. He said "For all the people who were affected by the tsunami we want you to know that you have our most heartfelt sympathy and that you are not forgotten." Or words to that effect. Yes, the people of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and India are all glued to TV sets watching the Tournament of Roses Parade, just like everyone in the U.S. Especially the people in the areas hit by the waves.

It gets worse. Later in the day I watched the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl." I suppose that instead of a parade they had a Tostitos fiesta, but it wasn't televised. The game wasn't particularly memorable, but the halftime show was one that will live in infamy. The big event of the show was having the wife of a soldier serving in Iraq attempt to throw a football through a hole in a target. If her aim was true $100,000 would be donated to the USO (United Service Organization - provides entertainment to soldiers, especially overseas). To build suspense and interest, the announcers added that Tostitos had secretly flown her husband back from Iraq for the weekend, and he would be appearing after her throw of the football. She threw and missed, so the USO got only $25,000, and then her husband came out in his desert fatigues, wearing a navy blue cavalry hat from the days of Custer and Sitting Bull. The lack of surprise on the wife's face was curious, but, hey, this is TV.

So "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is really just an advertising vehicle for Tostitos. The good guys at tortilla chip central have united this hero with his family for a weekend. Then it's back to Iraq. I assume they gave him a few bags of chips for his flight back. Maybe even some for his buddies back in the land of depleted uranium sand. But there's more.

The last revealing TV segment of the weekend wasn't from the bowl festivities, but from a Sunday talk show, "This Week," with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. I rarely watch this type of show, but the time was between shows I wanted to see on PBS, so I gave it a few minutes. George Will, the original man who knows everything, was holding court about the meaning of the tragedy in the Indian Ocean. He sad that it was a great opportunity for the Bush administration to mend fences with the Muslim world. There's not much I can add to this in the way of comment. The meaning of 150,000 deaths from a natural disaster is that it is a great opportunity.

So there we have it. Any one of these instances would be enough to paint a picture of American commercial culture, the culture of the moneyed elites. Taken together, they reveal a Salvador Dali-like surrealism that is a Dante's Inferno of the mind. All that is real and meaningful is turned on its head, with money and appearance being the only values. Is it any wonder that executives of any corporation are interchangeable with executives of any other, and that they will say and do anything to promote themselves, their companies, and their products? Whether it is the tobacco companies, Enron, Halliburton, Merck, or Tostitos, they are all the same - do anything for money, do anything for power, do anything for appearance.

Ending with my usual optimism, it should be kept in mind that an elite this dumb is not going to last very long. In the grandest plans of the Project for the New American Century they didn't bother to plan for their own stupidity. It isn't just the Bush crime family. The entire megastructure of the American power elite is filled with the kind of people who think the things mentioned above are examples of American greatness. If something is seen as good public relations, then it is good. It isn't just that they should be easy to defeat. We should be able to raise the level of dialogue and perception to a much higher level than the money changers. It is for those of us with common sense and decency to chase them out of the temple. We can appeal to the entire world for help in this struggle. Sociopaths, such as those in the Bush crime family and in the corporate boardrooms, are not likely to change. The rest of the country can. If we can rise to the highest level of communication possible, this evil can be overcome. We don't have much choice.

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