January 31st, 2004

Roman

aches

I seem to have some sort of "outrage" or "helplessness" syndrome, related to larger issues than my own. I am finishing up The Sorrows of Empire, by Chalmers Johnson, and I am upset. The book describes in rather grim detail (which I feel is necessary for those who will deny the conclusions) how the U.S. has embarked on a Messianic mission of hegemony - empire-building. The book outlines how this is happening militarily and economically, and how it is evidenced by the increased control of the media, the disinformation explosion, the infringement of the basic rights of many Americans (not to mention non-Americans), the increasing intrusion of spying into everyone's world. Cameras on street corners and buildings? These are nothing compared to the more secret spying done by Federal agents.

I am distressed particularly by the hypocrisy of the government and the gullibility of the American people. I think the success of our government's empire-building depends in large part on the "fast-food" inclinations of Americans: we want our food fast and we want our information fast. Don't expect us to spend time absorbing and understanding. We want easy answers. Thus, although there are currently at least seven books telling different versions of this story that just hit the press recently, not many of us are reading them. The story is out there but how do we get it spread wider?

This reminds me, for example, of an everyday situation. I recycle rather dutifully, but I know that individual recycling efforts are a bare drop in the bucket of what it takes to reduce our consumption. There is much much more that should be done to reduce packaging, to reduce waste at the start, and to develop products that last long with few repairs. Most of us are not aware that our efforts mean little. I think, in a way, we don't want to know, because we are helpless. There is little we can do on an individual basis that is going to make any difference.