Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A comment in a history book about how American empire is pretty much a carbon copy of British colonialism brought to the forefront something that had already been in the back of my mind. Much of America is patterned on the British which is a natural outgrowth since it was the British who initially settled here. The same with Australia and to some extent Canada. But what America has become has also been influenced by other countries such as Germany and other northern Europeans. The French influence never took much root here as it did in eastern Canada. Spain and Italy even less so.

Given the strength of the British influence I have also noticed that its influence tends to be rather global because America stepped into England's shoes after WWII as a world hegemon. The two greatest influences are in the realm of economics and education. These two in fact go hand in hand.

While there is a great deal of written material on the matter, I find that Pink Floyd is the perfect medium for highlighting the nature of these two influences. On Dark Side of the Moon is the track Money. The thread going through the next two albums (Wish You Were Here and Animals) culminates in The Wall and the nature of education as the linchpin of maintaining an adherence to a system that is anything but humane.

Unfortunately, America is now stuck in a paradigm that is also anything but humane, but the ability of the people to change it or chuck it is amazingly minimal given how well the educational system has schooled people into a system of thought that teaches them There Is No Alternative (TINA).

If there is to be any changing of the paradigm at all it must begin with a set of principles that can overturn what people have been taught. However, the entrenchment of what has been taught was perfectly encapsulated over 150 years ago in a story about the re-humanizing of Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

The point that Dickens makes is that greed is NOT good and profit for its own sake does not equal happiness. In other words, there is more to life than money alone. This is a moral axiom.

The other moral axiom is from John Donne in his poem "No Man is an Island" which ends with "never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

In other words, our existence, lonely though it may be, is not lived in complete isolation from the rest of humanity. People are not born capable of fending for themselves. Babies and children require the care and attention of others for many years before they become capable of taking care of themselves, usually requiring nearly 2 decades. And in that time no one ever gets everything they need from their own work or craftsmanship or skill in farming like some Jeremiah Johnson mountain man. The medium of money makes it possible to get the things other people grew or made.

However, in the years since WWII and the Highway Act of 1956 and the aggressive dismantling of rail systems around country by General Motors and others with vested interests in getting rich without a thought of the consequences, people are now more isolated than they have ever been. As a result, we have forgotten how to act as if we are not the center of the universe living a world full of other people. Our hearts are nearly completely shut to others whose only purpose is to make ourselves feel good about ourselves, whether warranted or not. The social fabric is in complete tatters.

We don't need an ownership society. What we need is a give a shit society where Martin Luther King Jr's words about "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" as real meaning, not to mention actual moral force.

I had meant for this to be simple, but instead I have blown a lot of hot air so I shall post this and edit it down later.