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A System Reinforcing Our Passivity

Posted by libhom Monday, March 23, 2009

My last post, A Rapid Fire Rant on Controlling Corporations, got a particularly interesting comment from Christopher of From the Left. I wanted to expand on my interpretation of it, since it brings up some things which have been bothering me for some time, but I haven't gotten around to ranting about.

I wish more people would rant about the greed and excess of corporate America.

But I also understand how damned worn out most Americans are today.

From the realities of unemployment, to worries about their housing and concerns about losing health insurance.

The country is in a bad way and the real victims are regular folks like us who have to make choices each day as in, what bill gets paid first and will the HEEP allocation cover the cost of the utility bill before the warm weather finally arrives.

These all are wonderful points. Yet, it is useful to keep in mind that this didn't all start recently for millions of Americans. When you add the economic inequality and difficult financial positions of major segments of our population that started with Reagan and kept getting worse except during the tech bubble, you can see why many people feel so beaten down.

There are other factors. College costs have been going up way faster than the cost of living. I think this is partly intentional. It freezes many people from not so wealthy backgrounds from good universities, and it buries millions of Americans in student loans. When you have to pay back enormous amounts of money, you are less likely to fight for justice in college and less likely to cause trouble when you get out.

Being in an economic equivalent of a vice is bound to make many people feel depressed and demoralized, even powerless. People who are quite understandably "worn out," are facing a food industry that is not even close to being on their side. If you are having trouble finding the energy to get out of bed in the morning, are you going to cook yourself a healthy meal or are you more likely to buy crap at a fast food place?

This is problematic. The movie Supersize Me (available free here), shows a rather hardcore example of the kind of diet that so many Americans eat. The most sensational aspect of the movie is the threat to peoples' lives posed by eating fast food.

I would like to focus on another part. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's 30 day Mickey Sleaze only experiment caused major mood shifts. After a few days of eating only McDonald's food, he became lethargic, apathetic, and "worn out." It makes perfect sense. Digestion takes energy. Overeating makes you lethargic. Overeating without getting adequate nutrition makes you even more "worn out."

Then, why not pile on other reasons why people feel powerless and frightened. After all, that's exactly what society does. Search engines make so much of our lives open to employers and future employers. It is a standard practice at most workplaces to "Google" people before they are hired. Kind of makes you want to avoid taking a controversial stand on an issue, doesn't it?

Let's not forget the media. The heavily biased, inaccurate, and censored "news" the corporate media hand to us is designed to make any improvement in our lives seem futile, extreme, crazy, and even unAmerican. It's like Soviet Pravda in the closet. It makes people distracted and encourages them to stay in denial, reinforcing what their difficult lives does to them all the time.

The most extreme example involves that major war our country is in...you know, the one in Iraq. It's ravaged that country, killed well over 1.3 million of its people, while devastating ours. Yet, it is so easy to watch TV news and pretend everything is OK.

It's too damned easy.

I wouldn't say there is one big conspiracy behind all of this, though there are little conspiracies within many of the parts. What we have is a system which makes a few people a lot of money while keeping most people deprived, fearful, disenfranchised, and miserable.

When candidate Obama and his competitors kept talking about "change" it felt great. How could it not? The problem is that we have become so demoralized, alienated, and separated from the realities of our own lives, much less society as a whole, that most of us have little left to actually come up with our own ideas of what meaningful change would be.

I think it is worth the effort. If we don't engage in hard thinking about how we think the world could be, we will be powerless to push for a society we actually want to live in.



  1. Lew Scannon Says:
  2. I think you hit upon a lot of good points here, let me pass along what I have observed.
    Better educate people have more awareness of food sensitivity issues, such as reactions to MSG, carageenan, etc., that working people and poor people don't seem to have. Is it because the better off a person is, the less likely they'll have to stretch their food budget by buying more processed foods, thereby never building up a tolerance to food additives? Or, are the poorer people less likely to be aware of negative reactions to food additives because they don't have access to as good of health care as those college educated people do?
    For example: I live behind a "discount" grocery store where a lot of assistance recipients shop when their entitlement checks come. While the food their is inexpensive, a lot of it is processed, or of lower quality, and contains doses of refined sugars and such. As a result, a lot of them tend to be obese, and slow, while their children tend to be more hyperactive and unruly.
    On the other hand, I usually shop at the grocery store where a lot of the more educated people shop. Their the emphasis is on fresher items, with processed foods being relegated to the more health conscious (the other store doesn't carry much in the way of diet food)lower calorie type. There the people tend to be more active, fit and well-behaved.
    Like you say, there isn't a conspiracy, but there does seem to be a disparity between the two.

  3. GDAEman Says:
  4. A friend of mine, who is one of the founders of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) gave me the following strategic advice. We need to divide our activism time among three pursuits:

    1) Addressing urgent issues, like saving the 500 year old tree threatened by "development";

    2) Being part of multi-generational social struggles, like bringing corporate power back under human control; and

    3) Investing in new models to solve current problems, like worker-owned businesses.

    Not all people have the luxury of time to do this, but it's a powerful strategy to keep in mind.

  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. Very thoughtful. But I would add that some people, whether they realize it or not, are quiet happy with how things are. THey may bitch and moan, but truth be told, they don't want change. That would require effort.

    Any change of any kind, big or small, requires thought, effort and--gasp--sacrifice of some sort. Speaking of sacrifice, Obama and others keep talking about the sacrifices we'll have to make in order to get things "back to normal" (whatever that means. And do we really want that?). But other than maybe doing without a little of this or that because my money doesn't go as far, I don't quite understand what this sacrifice will entail. It's starting to sound like just mumbo-jumbo. And it's starting to trivialize the whole concept of real sacrifice. Like going without food or something--that's sacrifice (not that I'm endorsing it). But right now, it seems like we're all being asked to somehow suffer with is just one less trip to the Apple store, and that insults my intelligence.



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