On Paper   (2016Jan01)


Friday, January 01, 2016                                          6:49 PM

The major American wars were over legislation—the Revolution and the Civil War were both ultimately fought over pieces of paper. Granted, slaughtering the indigenous people—that original sin, the century-long continental sweep of genocide—that was pretty bloody. But given that, the subsequent Americans traditionally never fought over territory—we prefer to fight over the rules. We elect officials to office—but we are led by a piece of paper—it’s a doozy, but it’s still just words written on paper.

The words represent ideas, perhaps even ideals—but they’re not perfect words—they prescribe three branches: two places to argue over the words—and one place for a tie-breaker. It’s a prescription for an imperfect world—thus it breathes, it morphs, it accommodates us, as the changing times alter our problems and our perceptions. But I didn’t start out to write an Ode to the Constitution—I just can’t help myself—Hi, my name is Chris and I am a Yankee-Doodle Dandy.

But we do argue over the rules—we recognize that our rights and our voices are more valuable than property or privilege. Americans are a litigious bunch—and we’ve always been quick to expose corruption and malfeasance. Perhaps that is why gun violence is on the rise—now that the printed word is digitized, it’s lost some of its weight—not to mention the competition for attention from screens. Politicians and corporations play fast and loose with words now—words are branded rather than defined. Hard science is denied. Fear is popularized. The pen has lost its power—and we revert to pointless violence—something we’re used to seeing elsewhere in the world, but not here, in the land of the free.

An educated, literate constituency is so important to the proper function of America—our once-leading position in the world on Public Education was a major factor in all that we have become. And now our educational system seems to be broken—how can that be? How is it possible that we knew how to educate our kids in the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s—but we don’t know how now? How the hell did that happen? That’s our present government’s major malfunction—lack of education bleeds into the economy, human rights, our international status—into government itself. It is the foundation—the fountainhead—our most valuable natural resource. Do we act that way? Do we fund it that way? No and no. That’s messed up.

Higher education has been made into a profit center—it now produces more debtors than scholars—score another victory for capitalism free of reason and restraint. How’s that ‘trickle-down’ feel on the back of your neck?

And that is what enrages me when I hear a Republican advocate persecution of Muslims—not that it’s Hitlerian (which it is) not that it gives aid and comfort to ISIL (which it does) but because it is crap like this that keeps our eye off the ball. Education and Infrastructure—and fuck the rest. Or rather—take care of the rest without performing Wagner’s Ring-Cycle over every goddamned affront to your God-given bigotry. And focus on Education and Infrastructure—that’s your job. People elect you—you work for them.

See, this is the trouble with turning politics into a popularity contest—in a democracy, you vote for the best person to do the job—not the one you like the most. That is, if voters have the sense to understand that government is work—it’s not a debate society—it’s supposed to be a bunch of adults who work out their differences and come up with compromises. It’s not a show. They make it one on TV, but government is not a show. It’s hard enough to get a good effort out of a bunch of politicians without giving them all the wriggle-room that mass-media and the dumbing of America affords them.

Polls are a thriving business these days—if we’re not careful we’ll end up spending more money learning how we feel than we spend on teaching our kids how to think. Congratulations, America—you’ve invented religion-free dogma. Better yet—someone’s making a good buck off it—and all you have to do is put up with the unwanted phone-calls at dinner-time and the spam in your email. It’s a great business model, really—the owner of the business pays minimum wage for the telemarketers who call and question you —and pays you, the callee, nothing—and makes a bundle selling the metadata—ka-ching.

Anyway, I’ve lost the thread of what I was saying. Here are two videos from last year that I forgot to post before now:

 

 

O—and Happy New Year!

 

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