Post 911 world and the risk of cynicism.
Warning Non-Kayaking Content.
I was 27 years old when I and saw two planes hit the World Trade Center. I didn’t even know how to contextualize it, or process that sort of event. It seemed part of some sort of Dadaist nightmare, or more fairly like Guernica. As the days and weeks of news onslaught continued, the thing that struck me most at the time was the collective shock of people around me. They kept asking why would someone do this to us. That is indeed a very good question. Why?
In my heart I knew the answer, and it lay in the shock of not understanding the hatred for us as Americans. We have the greatest country on earth. I truly believe that. And my life would not be possible without the democracy we have. That said, this greatest country on earth status has created three very serious problems. These problems will never excuse the horrific level of violence and hatred that led to nearly 3000 people losing their lives that day. But it frightens me to this day, that these three things seem to have changed very little over the last 10 years.
One. The greatest divide between haves and have nots since the Roman Empire. We have more than everyone else on this planet of everything. We are the fattest, loudest, richest, laziest, most ignorant sons of bitches the world has ever seen. While the rest of the world fights over scraps, we are nearing the point where legs and arms will literally be nothing more than vestigial t-rex limbs to shove cake in our pie-holes. Inequity breeds hatred. Pure and simple. Our own economy is in the crapper because of the have’s scheming to control the seemingly unending stream of wealth flowing into this country. As we found out to our peril, unwatched and un-regulated, our own greed will destroy us.
Two. Isolationism. Less than 30% Sources vary of our citizens possess a passport. The numbers come from The US Department of Travel, and the US Census. The passport may seem like a strikingly luxuriant item to some. Who has the money to travel outside of the US? That’s for rich folks. Well, is it? What it tells you is that there is a cultural lack of curiosity and isolationism in our society. 90% of our population could effectively never be in a situation where they didn’t know the language. Meekly pointing and grunting for their essentials. Again this may seem like no big deal. But traveling outside of your country puts you into a disadvantaged position. This position of humility where you must observe new customs, see new things, and maybe even widen your world view a bit. I think overall it builds empathy. Most of the world Europe included has a guarded skepticism of our motives, methods, and actions on the world stage. We tend to act like presumptuous teenagers who reach for that last slice of pizza before checking to see if anyone else is hungry.
Three. Arrogance. Our military and our technology have put us into a position of carefully cultivated technological arrogance. Empires have been destroyed by events and technology no more advanced than disease, or a steel knife. Our greatest strength as a country should not be in technology. Is our strength in Blackhawk helicopters, Drones, or the NSAs ability to listen in on phone calls and internet activity. Or is our strength in democracy, our culture, our art, our films, our music and our ability to re-invent ourselves. We place so much value on technology. In the end technology is what will sustain life, but it is not what makes life worth living. If we presume for one instant that we are the best country on earth because of our technology we will be forced to repeat mistakes like Vietnam and the Iraqi insurgency.
My wish for my children is for them to see the world as it is. But I would prefer they didn’t grow into a world of inequity, isolationism, and arrogance. Will they have to continually be looking over their shoulder for death and destruction? We need to create a world where the world can say, “that is where I wanna live.” Instead of a world where people see the stars and stripes and say, “I’m gonna get those bastards.” I’m enough of a realist to understand the world is mean and cruel filled with bad, crazy men who do horrible things. But, the realist also knows that it is within our power to create a world with greater equality and empathy.
The world is filled with cynics and skeptics to dismiss the possibility of change. Billy Bragg said in his CBC interview that “we have to guard against our own cynicism”. I have to say that this really moved me. Because we are at another very serious tipping point in America. We have another choice in 2012. A choice between allowing the cynics of change and equality to win. Or maybe, again in Billy’s words “reminding our leaders, sometimes with a boot up their arse”, that we elected them 4 years ago to start something new.