Growing up in the Fifties was an exercise in out-of-body experience. One unforgettable first-time encounter was with the term “brainwashing“, as applied to citizens of the former Soviet Union and their indoctrination with the tenets of Marxism-Leninism. Distorted, mutated, warped and terminally twisted by Stalin and other totalitarian apparatchiks, they were the subject of great derision by the American pundits of the day. The idea that propaganda and indoctrination via repetitive training and education practices could result in mass acceptance of principles so obviously false to us more discerning citizens of Freedom and its enterprises, had Uncle Sam’s collected heads shaking for over two decades.
The Soviets were spectacularly successful at brainwashing, if we accept as given a complete surrender to and subjugation of the citizens’ free will and thought to the prerogatives of the Soviet State. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable given the comparatively primitive state of delivery mechanisms then (blackboard, reel-to-reel audio, hypnotism, etc.) and those of today. The influences on public thought and discourse are nothing if not numerous, diverse and undifferentiated by the usual constraints of cultural respectability at one extreme, and cultural tabu at the other.
We have hundreds of cable channels, the Internet, designer drugs, free porn, mass marketing, commercials, haute couture, Play Station, peer pressure, competitive consumption, Word of God, NeoCon men and women, poor physical health born of self-destructive habits, -its a lengthy list getting longer. It takes little time in the presence of these pervasive influences to develop the kind of serious mental and emotional dependency on them that produces withdrawal discomfort in withdrawal. A slang word for such withdrawal from heroin is “jones”, noun or verb. “Keeping up with the Joneses” thus produces the tastiest double entendre we’re likely to discover for awhile.
We are beginning to glimpse a future when the human proponents of unbridled material consumption and behaviours associated with it, are called to the streets by their dealers in the name of “grassroots organizing”. Wiser heads have tagged this an “astroturf” movement, marshalled and bankrolled by those whose obscene affluence came from producing, promoting and dispensing the products, e.g. the information, disseminated by such choice purveyors as Fox Broadcasting (no, make that anything possessed by Rupert Murdock), big insurance, big pharma, big for-profit health care, big banking, big chemical, big petro, big mining, and big a-hole (as in the vote-for-hire GOP/Dem hacks who live in their pockets).
Our disdain for the Soviets turns out to have been spot-on, for at their most influential, given that their people didn’t have the facts at their disposal when they swallowed the Big Red Lies. On the other hand, US citizens today have more facts at our disposal than at any time in human history. Virtually nothing stands between us and comprehension of our current precarious national condition but our own apathy, disinterest, arrogance and the self-assuredness that we already know all we need to know to fight Obama on any and every issue.
There are, roughly estimated, maybe 100 million adult US citizens who are free to operate vehicles, buy and use firearms, range across public lands unhindered, or to disrupt public meetings on healthcare reform, but are incapable of naming more than a handful of government officials in agencies as obscure as the Cabinet, the Supreme Court or the House and Senate. They can name 10 brands of beer, every sports franchise in every city that has one in the NBA, NFL, two major baseball leagues, and pro golf and tennis, but they can’t identify the Group of 8 advanced nations on an outline map of the globe.
This is our big problem. It’s big enough to warrant special attention in the media, and study by Congress and thinking people everywhere, to look for remedies that will de-program these citizens and get them learning to think for themselves again, instead of for those whose entire business it is to maximize profits on discretionary goods and services to which their business practices have addicted so many of us.
As long as the minds of so many of our countrymen are abandoned to the forces of greed and consumption, our collective future is mortgaged to them. Until the problem is acknowledged, quantified and addressed by policy and programs, it mightn’t be a bad idea for those of our “friends” who have accepted US military presence in their countries to wonder out loud in their national press, and between diplomatic communicants, exactly when such efforts might get underway.
When other nations have, or aspire to get, weapons of mass destruction, we speculate about the outcome should a country succumb to widespread civil disruption of the sort that might create conditions where control of the weapons should end up in the hands of less than rational forces. The recent Bush Administration was such that this very situation might have come about in the US. It wasn’t someone else’s country. It was an administration of The United States of America that showed itself willing to torture and invade and snoop and lie and steal and terrorize and break any law if it would serve the prevailing neo-con ideology to do so.
We elected President Obama intending that his administration would divert (one wants to say arrest, but) this dismal current. They have barely slowed it down, but already many of us show signs of subsiding into the lethargy and inattention necessary for matters to get as bad as they did in the past. If the election result had turned out their way, our lives would already be immeasurably worse, for the people who are sending these mobs of brainwashed citizen tea-baggers, birthers and America uber alles mokes spawned in the hundreds by the ideological centers of vested interest, would be running the show instead of screaming from the astroturf outside the doors and windows of public meetings. These, our fellow citizens, are not the root cause of the problem. They are but one of many symptoms. They are the cannon fodder placed in the path of refoms by those of the deep pockets and the kind of cynicism about notions like the social contract that these have characterized these force historically.
Something must be done to deprogram and educate fools and true believers, and for no better reason than to save them from their own folly. They have been left behind, accidentally or by their own option. We who are their kin should accept the responsibility to point out for them the full extent to which they have been duped into the embrace of lunacy, to serve as simple tools for shaving policy and intimidating policy-makers in the decreasingly United State of America.