Thursday, September 25, 2014

Post No. 192: Why Some are Concerned the Terrorists Might Win: “They Can’t be Bought and Don’t Seem to Mind Dying”



© 2014, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

This is a tad longer than my typical post of 750 words, but I feel that we Americans need a tongue-lashing, since we can’t whip one another since the Adrian Petersen muck-up. (This post is not only directed to my primary audience, college students, but to all citizens.)

My blog is about personal responsibility, choices, and making decisions. We didn’t like it when Jimmy Carter tried to “warn” us in 1979 during his speech which has been derisively referred to as the “Malaise Speech.” He described it as the greatest threat to American democracy. The truth be told, we Americans have become lazy and spoiled.

We do not like being inconvenienced or questioned. Our notion of personal freedom and pursuit of happiness may always outweigh what is needed to defeat the enemy we find embodied in the current group of terrorists, unless we have 9-11s of greater intensity and more frequency. The changes we had to make as a nation since 9-11 are relatively minor inconveniences.

In my view, Americans are the most spoiled people on the planet, and most of us still are not satisfied. It is why we seem to want our cake and eat it too, and have difficulty balancing competing interests so that they add up to a 100% course of behavior or conduct. Instead, we want 50 here, 60 there, and 20 in some other place. It’s one of the reasons why we are incapable, as a nation, of solving problems. Right now, we are a nation which wants the terrorists to go away, but at the same time, not engage in a war which might accomplish that goal.

The intransigence and polarization we are experiencing are not solely attributable to the current President. It is who WE have become as a people, and consistent with that notion, we decline to take responsibility for that as a people, especially on an individual level. Instead, we point the finger at easy targets. However, it is unfortunately what happens to humans who have grown accustomed to comfortable lifestyles and seen economic conditions improve for so long that they become “expectations” and “emotional entitlements,” pretty much through no effort on their individual parts, only to see things later fall apart.

When I traveled throughout Europe in the 1980s, my bags were regularly searched, the heels of my shoes torn apart, and I had to undergo extensive interrogations. Flights to certain cities (London to Athens and Cairo) were cancelled for extended periods. It was a royal pain in the ass; however, I was just a visitor. Just before I was scheduled to go to Cairo, the militia started storming the tourist hotels near Giza because they found out that they were going to have to serve 3 years instead of 2 years. I was in Europe very close to the time of the Leon Klinghoffer killing and the taking of the Achille Lauro in 1985. The people of Britain and Europe know what it is like to have bombs raining on your homes and exploding in your subways.

In the mean time, we’ve become a nation of dilettantes, yours truly included. Consider what Americans did to VOLUNTEER during WWI and WWII (real, practical, substantive, and tangible activities), and what they were willing to do without. (Tangentially, this summer I generated an incredible number of yellow squash and cucumbers from one plant each, and when I showed them to my 93 yr old Father with dementia, he said that he remembered people here growing Victory Gardens during WW II.)

While making a selfie or posting support on Twitter for our troops or revolutionaries in the Middle East may provide some personal satisfaction, pounding a keyboard is not going to be very effective against ISIS. Right now, you see very few people over the age of 30 voluntarily doing anything to aid in this fight.

Instead, we leave it up to others to handle, and sit comfortably in our homes ingesting an overwhelming diet of sitcoms. The constantly changing, theoretical, individual right to keep and bear arms, to protect us against our government’s activities, those with whom we disagree or feel are undeserving, and those who strike fear in our hearts simply when we encounter them, seem to outweigh those things that we could do to effectively make this a better, stronger, and more secure nation for our collective benefit. But we bitch about “someone else's” handling of the mess, which is a classic human mess, and not one really specific to our time.

And do you really believe that a legitimate, major, world power can function with a volunteer army?

These factors are also the same factors which, if we allow them to continue, will contribute to our decline as a world force. We’re dun fur if we do not think more comprehensively, and come to the realization that we are part of the global community, and that others have values dear to them which are different than our values. (Thus the subtitle of this post.) There is an argument to be made that we might rally a little bit during the next 20 – 30 years (and I sure hope so), but I’m afraid that we collectively do not care enough anymore. We’ve learned to dodge inconveniences.

Add that to the fact that we allowed Corporate America, although its conduct was legal in nature, to sell us out to China (who was our ideological enemy not that long ago) thus decimating our middle class and creating a massive security risk. We no longer even have the manufacturing capabilities to transition into making arms and supplies should we really get into a war like we did in WW II, not to mention a war with China. Furthermore, our internal infrastructure is so poor and in need of critical repairs, that if the enemy landed on our shores, we’d be hard put to mount a credible defense.

Having adequate, decent paying jobs here at home is what really matters. People need to have a sense of purpose, a feeling that they can provide for their loved ones, and a little self-esteem. The terrorists feel that they have something of value for which they are fighting. What are we fighting for? Another big screen TV, DVD recorder, jet-ski, ATV, or vacation home? Do those in poverty have the wherewithal and resources to fight the terrorists, or are they too distracted fighting for their mere survival? Jobs, also by the way, contribute to tax revenue which helps us all.

We need to come up with some new solutions for some historic human problems if we intend to continue as a legitimate world power.

Our inability to get anything done anymore is reflected in the way we wage battles against most everything these days – like a corporation making a cost-benefit, risk analysis, and only doing what it can on the cheap with the hope that it will accomplish its public relations goals in the short term, and that the guys at the helm will be gone when the long term negative consequences come back to haunt us. While I'm a technocrat at heart, and that might be just fine for corporate governance, in theory. However, it’s a bunch of crap when it comes to taking care of a nation of real, live people as opposed to financial investors.

Unfortunately, we are relegated to management by committee under our current governance model, and lack the ability to think about, and plan for, the long-term. Perhaps somewhat related, I recently heard someone on C-Span talk about Eisenhower’s concern regarding the threat posed by the Military – Industrial Complex. Apparently when the speech was first drafted, it read “Military – Industrial – Political Complex.”

A good buddy of mine has a quote attributed to Albert Einstein in his signature on all e-mails he sends out: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Although I generally disagree with him about 98% of the poop he puts out there, he is spot on about this one.



2 comments:

  1. Inspector, as usual you brought up many points and defined the problem quite well. I would like to preface my comment with this...
    We generally get the government we deserve.
    I had a PolySci professor who opined (seemingly ad nauseum) that societies create the same governments over and over. In other words, they create the kind of governments that they have traditionally held to be effective. I disagreed with him but I also agreed with him. It's complicated...
    And I found an error in your treatise: "individual right to have and use guns" does not exist, not even in theory. The right to use them is severely limited. When used, we must provide sufficient cause to the authorities or face imprisonment and worse. We have only the right to keep and bear arms and even that is limited in many ways. You should know that "bear arms" means to carry them, not use them. And that part of the 2nd Amendment has long been infringed.

    But, otherwise, the post is excellent. If I may elaborate on my prefaced comment, I would point out that we, as a people, have evolved into the description you provided over many years and many elections and the leaders we have are the result of our choices at the ballot box. We have the government we wanted. That those we have elected manipulated the system notwithstanding.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are quite correct, Douglas. It should read, "the right to keep and bear arms."

    Thanks for keeping me honest. I appreciate that. I often tell me in person, and perhaps not enough of my readers with an degree of frequency, that I have learned more readers calling me on issue than from any other source during the time that I have maintained this blog.

    With respect to the phrase, "We generally get the government we deserve," you may have summarized my piece in just 7 pithy words.

    And yet, as you noted, it is complicated. As a buddy of mine often says, "Being aware is the first order of business." I often add, "Being sufficiently motivated to do something about it is a very different issue."

    ReplyDelete

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