An American’s Lament
I am focusing on the U.S. because this is my country. I’m an American, I was born in the midwest and I’ve lived in rural areas as well as the suburban and inner city. I’ve been to both coasts, I’ve seen both oceans, I’ve swam in Lake Michigan. I live in a city on the Pacific. The concepts, however, apply worldwide even if you have different names for them.
When I began formulating my own political opinions I found the one that matched most closely to my beliefs. I called myself “Libertarian”. But this is not an attack on any single political party.
I sang the hymns of the free market with reverence and decried the evils of government constraints upon it. It seemed quite clear to me that the government was poorly equipped to provide for the country without creating significant waste in the process.
However, I’ve also always considered myself a scientist. A scientist in the sense of one that adheres as closely as possible to scientific methods. I observe and collect information, I create models of behaviour, and I test my predictions based on that model, based either on direct experimentation where possible and often by analysis of data as it becomes available to me. Most importantly I cannot discard evidence that disagrees with my current beliefs, no matter how damning.
This process often requires that I change my model, or even my base assumptions, or even my beliefs.
As I researched, and as I observed the world through the lens of my world view, an image began to emerge that was not wholly pleasant.
Individual rights remain of central importance, and my motto now as before is “Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium”. However there is something that attacks and betrays the Individual, something that starts out as the triumph of individuality, something that we hold near and dear to our hearts.
In the Declaration of Independence our forefathers stated thus:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
In 1931 James Truslow Adams, who coined the phrase “The American Dream”, said in his book The Epic of America:
The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. […] It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
This also is admirable, enviable even, there are many places in the world where this upward mobility is not possible. How could something of such a powerfully positive force become something that attacks and betrays us?
It is a concept embodied in but a single word: Corporation
It is clearly and singly the most powerful extension of an individual to represent their success - a team of hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of people working together in concert under the tutelage of an individual to bring their ideas and ambitions to fruition. It is an incredible and awe-inspiring concept. A child from humble origins, perhaps even one such as myself - a child raised by a single mother below poverty level - to rise from the ashes of their past and forge forward up through the social strata to attain great things, to lead an organization of men and women to unprecedented heights of human achievement, to leave a legacy of charities and universities bearing their name, to touch the lives of every man, woman, and child if not in the world at least in their country.
But this same great construction we have wrought has a dark side. It has became all the more achingly clear that corporations have an innate draw towards avarice.
They habitually integrate themselves with the power structures they find, both government and church, thereafter attacking their own workers and fellow Americans at the first hint of obstruction to their greed and lust for power. Their treatment of non-american workers both at home and abroad is beyond even that, they are little more than slaves - or indeed precisely slaves - to them. These third world citizens are bullied by the police and the military of their own government at the behest of our American corporations.
Now again they attempt to bring that oppression back to the homeland - to you and I, our families and our friends - to serve their whims and feed their ever-more-voracious appetite.
When the only goal is the bottom line, and the only metric of success is wealth and power, atrocities becomes inevitable. Our values are skewed, our humanity lost, and we’re left with what? Was it worth it? We leave such damage in our wake, magnificent forests and great landscapes in shambles, our beautiful planet poisoned, and bodies, so many bodies. We leave our fellow man strewn about, human lives flickering out behind us like used firewood.
Perhaps it is our nature. 200,000 years of modern man, and there is copious evidence that we trend towards warfare and exploitation of both our world and each other. I cannot discard this data, there is too much.
Yet, however naive it may be, I believe we can do better.
While I still support many of their causes I can no longer call myself Libertarian, and indeed I cannot find a party to represent me that can bear even the most cursory scrutiny. My party is Nameless, for in the eyes of the men - and yes they are overwhelmingly men - on top, we are no one at all. Numbers merely, or demographics perhaps.
Are you represented? Do you vote Republican? Do you vote Democrat?
Do you really believe these people so far removed from you hold dear the same values you do? Would they turn over their police and military to the banks and oil companies? Would they allow multi-billion dollar corporations to forgo paying taxes while you and I lose a third of our paycheck? Would they pay the bonuses of the executives who gambled away our economy while forcing our students and homeowners to make payments on predatory and inflated loans? Would they take away your right to free speech and peaceful assembly while granting new rights to those who are willing to pay for them?
I exhort you to reconsider your place in politics, whatever it may be.