Being an American right now is a little dicey. Personally, I feel like I've been kidnapped by the circus, tied to a chair, and forced to watch a bunch of clowns, whom I detest with a passion, climb out of a car in a seemingly endless parade of big shoes, stupid noses, and bad hair, and behave in a manner that is supposed to be entertaining but is actually so appallingly and moronic that just cringing isn't enough. It is so bad I'm willing to contemplate chewing off my own arm to escape.
I have been trying to look back and pinpoint when we started as a people to fulfill every dire prediction about our cultural disintegration that I can remember reading or hearing years ago. PT Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute but I suspect that one is being born every 30 seconds these days. Marshall Mcluhan was certainly correct when he suggested that the medium has become the message. We are served up information as entertainment and whether that information is accurate is secondary to whether or not it is actual fact, which everyone appears to be making up as they go along, and no matter how often someone with half a brain points out that the facts resemblance to truth is non-existent, no one seems to mind very much so long as it is something that might be posted on YouTube and what they want to hear anyway. Andy Warhol was absolutely on the money when he said that in the future, everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame, only thanks to our technology, which we have come to worship like some kind of electronic god, that 15 minutes has turned into what feels like an eternity of some kind of self-serving, fame-lusting, orgy of bad comedy and bold faced lies on a loop. Imagine being punished for your sins by being forced to sit through one painfully unfunny stand up comedian after another in a Poconos resort until you want to rip your own ears off and the entire time he is spouting off lies and insults, you know that simultaneously, the resort is in such bad shape that it is falling down around us all and no one seems to want to address that problem seriously.
The Greek philosopher, Plato, put forth a very famous allegory about a cave, in which people had been chained to a wall in a fixed position for all of their lives. Behind them is a fire which illuminates a blank wall in front of them, their single point of view. What they see on this wall is shadows cast by people and objects that that pass between themselves and the fire. They are unaware that these shadows are being cast and manipulated by people they can't see and therefore, having neither the knowledge of this or the education, experience, or point of reference otherwise, the shadows become reality. To me, the entire country is now living in Plato's cave and our reality has become some kind of twisted shadow world that doesn't even exist, makes no sense, and is utterly without meaning. In the meantime, the real world outside the cave is collapsing in on itself and we watch puppet shadows on a wall while the circus tent buries us.
I have to ask myself, how did this happen? How did we get here? How did this grand experiment, conceived by some of the best minds in human history, come to this? This nation was founded by some of the most brilliant Renaissance men of their time. Highly educated, rational thinkers who devoted all their lives to freeing people from regimes based on Dark Ages feudal repression, believe systems designed to make them afraid and keep them under control, the tyranny of inherited rule, and a bunch of other things that needed to go away and no intelligent person would ever miss. If you read the words of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others, you realize that making that grand experiment work depended heavily on having a well educated and informed population. Hence, a good, functioning public school system, access to secondary and higher academic and vocational education for anyone, separation of church and state to insure that no one belief system has the power to create oppressive policy and manipulate legislation, and very important, a free press. Do we have any of that? Our public education system has been broken for a long time, because we have somehow turned out higher education system into a profit driven training program for sports teams that leaves serious students in back breaking debt before they ever get started in life, every time you turn around there is some belief system loudly telling us what we should think and believe and trying to turn it into policy, and perhaps most alarming, our press has been commandeered and is controlled by rich corporations of greedy thugs and gangsters with specific agendas and plenty of power to advance them at will.
Thomas Jefferson once said that, “ If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and what never will be.” Since a scary 20% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth despite centuries of scientific proof otherwise and a really big telescope we stuck in orbit that proves otherwise, it makes you wonder. And when our entire culture seems to be based upon stuff that comes out of zombie central, Hollywood, the ultimate shadow maker, you begin to understand why the State of Texas wants to remove Thomas Jefferson from their school texts. He is so last week.