Thursday, December 23, 2010

End of the Year Blogpost: Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on your way out, 2010!

What is to be said about 2010? Certainly not much good on the political side, if you consider yourself to be a progressive. Mordor appears to be gathering its forces once again to unleash all out war on the forces of Truth and Light…. Which is a totally over-the-top metaphor, but it encapsulates the way I feel about things.

On a purely personal level, though, I really can’t complain. My career seems to have “arrived”, in that I have a good (albeit very frustrating at times), stable job that pays pretty well for engineering. I am actually held in good esteem by my management and I am considered as something of a knowledgeable expert on several subjects. We finally finished up the four year long process which saw our family adopt our new daughter, which culminated earlier this year in getting her a U.S. passport and social security number. She’s getting settled in with her new high school. The finances are in good shape, we will have the house paid off in less than a year, and we have our health (with the exception of a pre-existing condition which may or may not ever cause a problem). So, on that front, life is probably as good as I have ever experienced. Given where I have been in my life, both literally and metaphorically, I have no reason to complain and every reason to thank both myself and Lady Luck (or whatever deity who would like to be thanked).

When I started this blog a number of years ago, I imposed a rule on myself and the occasional guest bloggers that I might coerce into making a post now and then that I would not talk about me. This wasn’t going to be personal therapy disguised as a blog. I wanted it to be about topics that people might actually be interested in looking at, at least for more than about 45 seconds. The use of the personal pronouns “I” and “me” were not allowed. Politics, humor, history, movies, interesting visuals, those were all part of the game. But this wasn’t going to be about me as a blogger. Opinions were to be expressed as some “greater truth”, because opinions that don’t really belong to anyone aren’t really opinions, are they? I wanted this blog, whenever, someone did stumble along, to be interesting. I don’t find myself a very interesting topic….

But over the last few years, and especially 2010, I have become more and more despondent over the entire sorry state of affairs that is The United States. I have come to the very unfortunate conclusion that a very large percentage of the population of this country is comprised of complete and utter ignoramuses. Oh, many are ignorant because they don’t have the education, which is not always their fault. You certainly can’t pick the life circumstances into which you are born. You have to play the hand you are dealt. It’s a tragedy, of course, that you only get one hand per life. You can’t really say, no, I don’t like this hand. I fold. I’ll get it on the next hand. Sorry, but as we all know, life doesn’t work like that. But I digress… Which is a nice way of saying that I am blabbering and forgot my main point. The point I was making is that many people in this country incredibly gullible and are easily manipulated (let’s just call them, for the sake of a label, IGEM) by the more intelligent, the more devious and the less moral. And those people make up another large percentage of the population “Greedy, Egotistical Assholes”, or GEA. The rest of us, although we still make up a substantial percentage of the population of this country, just feel overwhelmed by the others. It feels as if we are being sucked down into a black morass of stupidity, greed and hubris, a’la the La Brea Tar Pits. The more you fight against it, the deeper it sucks you in.

This is where it has become increasingly difficult, to the point of total rigor mortise, to write anything resembling a rational, unemotional blogpost. I can’t keep myself out of it anymore. I have never felt so despondent about anything in my entire life. Oh, I went through some extreme depression in high school and college. But that was focused inward. It was me. This is about the country, where it is going and where we might end up. I can’t help but feel that this country is on a long, downward trajectory. I don’t see a soft landing anywhere. It could be very bad and end up in some nightmarish scenarios envisioned by writers like George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. At the very best, I see the U.S. sliding into irrelevancy and becoming the largest Third World Country on earth, with lot of nukes and a huge, undereducated, largely unemployable mass of people that will make up the non-privileged class.

I won’t bother going into detail on all these various scenarios I could possibly envision. It wouldn’t mean anything and would probably just depress me further.

It is possible, I suppose, that 2011 will see the beginning of a slow return to rationality. It’s possible, but not very probable. Fox News will still be with us, as will Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc. etc. The GEA’s will still be in control and more than willing to do whatever they can to manipulate the entire setup such that they will become even that much more rich and more powerful. There will be many people, both big and small, that will try to fight back but ultimately, they will fail. Just ask all those Saber Tooth Cats at the bottom of the La Brea Tar Pits. Oh, you can’t. They’re extinct.

There are many aspects of our current society that are contributing to my despondency, but I think one of the biggest ones is the fact that we, as a country, are purposely devaluing learning in general and the importance of science in particular. We are purposely becoming a nation of dumbasses. Education is now something we don’t aspire to. We now snort derisively about education and use it as something to show our distain for “elitists.” Our social and political discourse reminds me of nothing more than those knuckle-draggers everyone knew in high school, those “good old boys” who sat in the back row, never paid attention in class, usually got failing or near failing grades and yet, found it within themselves to ridicule the “eggheads” in class, saying that we might “have good book learnin’, but don’t know nothing.” That’s what this all reminds me of. There’s no use arguing with people who don’t even know enough to understand how stupid they really are.

If you profess a believe, say, of global warming and climate change, what you normally get in return is a response that contains nothing but utter contempt and a retort comprised entirely of made up “facts” and even louder opinions. Fundamentalist Christians are doing their part, of course, to undermine science, because anything that might cast any sort of doubt on their interpretation of a book written by a large number of people over the period of several hundred years, based on verbal stories handed down from generation to untold generation, and has been edited and revamped on who knows how many occasions, cannot possibly be accepted without extreme pushback. Many people are more than willing to rewrite history in order to suit their particular reality. Reality, facts and conclusions reached by the scientific process no longer matter. All that matters is opinion. This is what I find most disturbing. We are actively trying to become ignorant, and we are succeeding. We are even demanding ignorance in our elected officials. I find this inexcusable. We might as well all go to the local hospital, en masse, and demand a frontal lobotomy.

Sarcastic humor and satire just aren’t funny anymore. I can hardly watch The Daily Show anymore. This isn’t because Jon Stewart isn’t funny. It’s because of the subject matter, the idiocy that is this country, seems to be beyond satire. It’s like trying to satirize Through the Looking Glass. The truly absurd and nonsensical is beyond satire, and any attempt at it is, by definition, absurd and nonsensical by itself. Who could have possibly imagined scenarios such as sitting senators complaining about being asked to vote on a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, because it was somehow sacrilegious to be voting on that during December, which is also the month that contains Christmas? That is just insane, but yet, it happens and hardly anyone blinks an eye anymore. The ridiculous is now so commonplace that hardly anyone blinks an eye anymore.

Another aspect of our society that appalls me is that the quest for every greater “profits” is paramount. Nothing else matters. Oh, I am not so blind as to not know this has been true for every single year this nation has existed. That’s the entire point of capitalism, as far as I can tell. Let the drive to make money be the primary purpose of the country and everything else that is good will follow along. The personal well-being of the population isn’t the primary reason our economy exists. It just sort of is expected that it will happen as a result, sort of the way a large boat generates a large wake wherever it goes. It’s a by-product, not the point. But now, anything that takes away one single iota of “earning potential” from those who already are very well endowed is something to be banished by whatever means. Minimum wage law? Must get rid of that! Protections and safeguards that protect workers and investors, not to mention the entire well-being of the economy? Too much of a burden on free enterprise! Begone! Pensions? Can’t afford them, too expensive! But if we would like to try to close some legal loopholes, such as not allowing giant corporations to locate their shadow headquarters offshore with the sole purpose of not having to pay taxes, that’s strictly verboten! Increased tax levels for millionaires and billionaires? Heavens, what are you trying to do, destroy the economy?

I really hate this society. We swallow camels and strain at gnats as a normal exercise. We fixate on the truly trivial and are oblivious to the truly horrific. State-sanctioned torture is now a fact of life. We are still involved in two wars that no one understands the purpose of. It is likely that many thousands of Afghans and Iraqi civilians have been killed, many on purpose, but since only American lives matter, then it is not a problem. You can’t have a war without breaking some eggs, you know. Global climate change may be the most single significant issue that this country will have to deal with in the future, and yet, it is treated as some nefarious plot by evil liberals to destroy the economy. Why liberals would want to actively try to destroy the economy, I have no idea, but that’s how it is portrayed these days. I feel like a good historical comparison for this particular time might be Rome during Nero.

So much for the rantings of an aging Boomer. I have a few more years until I can realistically consider retiring. I hope the fabric of society holds together until then. Perhaps I can then just check out, sit back on my proverbial porch and watch the show from a dispassionate place. I also might try looking in to relocating to another country. Who knows what this place might look like in eight to ten years? Even retired, I might not want to reside here. Until then, I have a feeling I am not really going to enjoy the next seven years. And, as things stand, I will be one of the fortunate ones. There will be many people who will experience significant pain and anguish for no other reason than that is how our society is set up. This doesn’t sound like a place I will really want to call home.

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