Wednesday, August 03, 2005

America the Dysfunctional

A lot has been said about the politics of fear. What I don't think many people realize is the extent this has influenced the culture and the tone of society and the way we relate to each other. For example, I awoke this morning with a strange image of a young girl begin tied up to a bed by a grown man. The horror of such an act is mind-boggling. And yet too many incidents like this take place every day and I wonder at what is wrong with people who do such things. This leads me back to what I said in the previous post about humane government and the lack of one we have now. The Rude Pundit has this to say about where the stupidity begins.

Unfortunately, in America paranoia and stupidity of every kind runs rampant based on the politics of fear and the fear-mongering of the media and the policies coming down from the Bush White House. Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" shows that our northern neighbor Canada is not so afflicted with fear and paranoia. This can only be explained by a fundamental difference in our respective views of whether people are generally good or generally evil, and, whether we see ourselves as part of a larger whole or as isolated individuals.

The dysfunction of American society is the result of a severe dysfunction of the American psyche pushed so far into itself that we have reached an existential crisis. Michael Douglas has the dubious honor of portraying both sides of this problem in his performances in "Wall Street" and "Falling Down." In "Wall Street" we have the "greed is good" line. The character fails to understand the moral implication of what he's said and, even more deeply, is shocked to find himself betrayed due to his own lack of humanity.

In "Falling Down" we see the implications of the "greed is good" line as the lead character finds himself out of work as "not economically viable." His journey from downtown Los Angeles to Venice Beach is a telling sojourn across American society and the dysfunction that now pervades it from gangs to foreign shopkeepers to corporate rules to paramilitary white supremecists to the narcissistic elitism of the golf course. The basic care and consideration we should have for each other as human beings is just not found in America today and we see it played out in the increasing mental dysfunction of a man who just wants to see his daughter for her birthday. The larger issue of his failed marriage is not explored. It is merely put there to show he was a lunatic to begin with as if nothing in the greater society has anything to do with it, and yet, his journey shows all the ways in which a person's basic goodness can be thwarted.

As Mencius said, "The trees of the Ox mountain were once beautiful. But how could the trees and mountain retain their beauty if they were hewn down with saws and axes? Still through the activity of the vegetative life day and night and the nourishing influence of the rain and dew, they were not without buds and sprouts springing forth. But then came the cattle and goats to browse upon them again and again. To these things is owing the bare and stripped appearance of the mountain, and when people now see it, they think it was never finely wooded. But is this the nature of the mountain?

"And so also of what properly belongs to man; shall it be said that the mind of any man is without benevolence and righteousness? The way in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind is like the way which the mountains are denuded of trees by axes. Hewn down day after day, can it--the mind--retain its beauty? But there is a development of its life day and night, and in the calm air of the morning, just between night and day, the mind feels in a degree those desires and aversions which are proper to humanity, but the feeling is not strong, and it is fettered and destroyed by what takes place during the day. This fettering takes place again and again, the restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve the proper goodness of the mind; and when this proves insufficient for that purpose, the nature becomes not much different from that of the irrational animals, and when people now see it, they think that it never had those powers which I assert. But does this condition represent the feelings proper to humanity?

"Therefore, if it receives its proper nourishment, there is nothing which will not grow. If it loses its proper nourshment, there is nothing which will not decay."

America is a mountain denuded, the goodness of the people having been chopped down and their minds filled with fear and their natures twisted into something inhuman. We must reclaim our humanity and set things right once again if we are to have a society worth living in and to keep our children safe from harm.