Symptoms, those lost children at the bottom of the raging water, when compared with root causes, are the addiction of our culture.
Root causes, however, are our only hope for survival.
There are so many legitimate reasons for our compulsion to "fix-the ooowwwie" with a band-aid that we seem blind to the deeper and often hidden sources of so many of our personal, domestic, organizational and even town and city or provincial and national issues.
- We love the comfort and the tradition of our local customs and continue to do much to preserve them for our children and grandchildren.
- We love and need the positive feed-back from "making a difference" in someone's life in the moment and our social policies often reflect our "attention" to that driving need/motivation.
- We also are raised as children to pay attention to the "pennies and the nickels" and the dollars will take care of themselves.
- We are fed a smorgasbord of information daily, hourly and even second-by-second by an array of devices, that in turn feeds much of our social discourse in the office, the factory and the home.
- In the midst of the flurry of data, we attempt to conduct our lives in some useful and engaging manner making a living, paying our bills, enjoying our various unique diversions, activities, hobbies, entertainments, travel and consumptions, especially notable on this, another Black Friday in North America, the day following the American Thanksgiving.
- Some of the information that washes over our consciousness includes an increasing amount of "how-to" do or avoid or resist or challenge our bad habits, in the somewhat conventional hope and belief that, if we actually implement some of these changes, we will live more fulfilling lives, and in the example of smoking or excessive consumption of pain-killers like alcohol and mood-altering drugs, we might make a better "world".
- So we go to the gym, to the bar, to the restaurant, to the movies and the theatres, to the symphony and the lecture halls and the seminars for our "health" and our well-being, in pursuit of new insights, new research and new approaches to whatever "goals" we have or are attempting to set for our lives.
- Our diet includes a tsunami of megabytes of daily and hourly business, economic and political information that engages the most interested and committed among us to the goals of power, wealth and "happiness" as if power and wealth were the elixirs of our lives.
And in our exaggerated and willful participation in that "economy" we measure how we are doing as a town, a city, a province and a nation.
For the last several weeks, for example, we have been served a stream of commercial messages for the United Way campaigns, in various locales. These messages are directed to individuals and corporations to magnetize funds for social programs to assist those in most need. In one specific region, the messages tell us that some 70,000+ people are served by the programs funded by the United Way, in a region of perhaps 300,000 people. If 25% of the people in that region need social assistance of some kind, that is obviously not being provided by the public purse in the strict definition of that "purse" (that is by the integrated, targeted, accountable and transparent programs of all levels of government, funded by law through taxes) then the private sector must fill in the gaps. And yet those gaps are growing exponentially, as we continue to slide down the slippery slope of our own fixation on the moment, at the expense of the next decade, and even century. Corporations are riding a wave of public "spotlighting" of their philanthropy (and garnering significant tax relief) while more and more people, families and neighbourhoods are sliding under the bus.
Or are they, through our negligence, indifference, apathy and narcissism, being thrown under that bus?
Canada, for most of our history, has been a country that struggled to emerge from a land and a climate and a pioneering spirit that demanded much of its original settlers. We have a deep literature of "roughing it in the bush" and, as a result communities could only originate and sustain themselves through collaboration, mutual assistance and sharing of resources. Perhaps it is now naïve and idyllic to resurrect such an image, when our future seems to promise more rugged isolation than collaboration, more attention to our acquisition of and addiction to such activities as techno-leisure, or on-line consuming, or on-line relationships or the acquisition of power and status through our manipulation of other people both "within the law" and outside its boundaries, given the gap between our technologies and the laws that regulate their deployment.
We are in danger of letting our individual and our collective "protectionism" through manipulation of our immediate situations for the goal of generating more consumption, more buying, regardless of the long-term impact on our culture.
We learn of meat department workers in supermarkets who change the packaging on the meats displayed in their refrigerated counters daily, to remove soiled colours and odors, while at the same time not changing the original "best before" data, thereby endangering the lives and the health of their consumers. We learn of rail cars, substandard in their design, that carry billions of gallons of toxic materials along the rails, endangering every community along the way should there be an "accident" which would have been prevented had the design met the new standards, and been both required and inspected by officials from an objective and detached and "public-service" trained and dedicated cadre of people.
However, if individual acquisition and retention of power, influence, wealth and control replaces the primary goal of public service, the new version of how communities grow and sustain themselves, then our own protections will continue to erode. Cloaked in the arguments of job-creating, profit-seeking, income generating, tax-reduction and smaller and less invasive "government" as if that were the disease from which no society recovers, and for which there is no effective antibiotic antidote except removal, this wave of "conventional wisdom" is washing over all of our public institutions, our public perceptions and our public attitudes as if it were the cleanser that makes everything "whole" again.
Budgets for community security and protection will continue to be cut in order to serve this monster ideology. Budgets for public health care will continue to be slashed as part of the almost sacred creed of worshipping at the private-sector's altar of achievement, purchased as we all know it is, through the "purchase" of political acolytes and sycophants who are mere programmed puppets, liars on behalf of their corporate benefactors. And the serfs of that "messaging", the media, also seduced as they are into a dependence on advertising dollars driven by ratings purchase by those same mega-dollars available only to the very rich, continue to feed those same self-defeating messages that enhance the ideology in ways that make Madison Avenue manipulation the imaginative fuel that has turned so much profit for so many companies for centuries. It now infects every public statement, every press conference, every corporate media "opportunity" in the belief that the "consuming" public will be so distracted by the opportunity to acquire its own level of "wealth" even if it comes from the army of "dollar stores" that pop up like Tim Horton's coffee shops on every corner, while the BMW dealerships also appear in the "gated" communities of the rich.
And we think, act and perhaps even believe that our geopolitical issues are "over there" and have nothing to do with the way our nations do "business" as if the nations were the slaves and the agents of the money of both corporations and individuals of so much wealth that we have made their acquisition stories into another "industry" of manipulation.
Forbes magazine is the curator of all information related to the acquisition of wealth. Forbes magazine, however, has so many acolyte media in both print and the digital realm, that we have generated a new oligopoly of information management that is dedicated to enshrining the new ideology of pure Ayn Rand selfishness.
The churches have bought into the seduction too, as their coffers depend on a few meager crumbs from the vaults of the wealthy for their very survival while the theology of "profit" endorsed by God is preached from too many pulpits. The schools too, have been forced either into the shadows through such private-venture and corporate culture "charter" schools, funding the new selfishness with public dollars in the U.S. or have atrophied through the withdrawal of public dollars, in order to "balance the books" as more people are forced into poverty-level jobs at the "service-level" where there are no benefits, no opportunities and no tax revenues from their employment.
We are choking the government revenues, through our tax-evasion loopholes in our laws, and through our tax breaks for the wealthy who can and do purchase the discreet and diligent services of the best tax accountants and attorneys available. We also participate in the generation of an information culture of "restraint" through tax-cutting rhetoric of politicians purchased by the people who write the cheques for the political campaigns. This organized and deliberate campaign to mask the desperate and tragic realities of our unconscious submission to this chicanery risks the bottom half or more of our societies "falling over the proverbial water-falls" of despair. This despair includes poverty, alienation, hopelessness, hypocrisy and increased anger and violence that accompany the lack of a full education and/or an education filled with 'right-wing' platitudes, a failure to provide jobs and basic amenities for the majority, as wealth flows upward to the top and our unconscionable acquiescence to the deceits being perpetrated by our political masters enables and even enhances the upward flow of money.
And then we wonder why our health budgets are straining to provide necessary care.
And we wonder why our cities are showing signs of rage and decay.
And we wonder why our children are not looking forward to a future where clean air, water and land, as well as access to a full education and a high-quality health care system, that are the cornerstones of a society and a culture that believes in itself and in its capacity and willingness to care for itself, including all of its members.
And we wonder if and when this chicanery, this deceit in which we are all enmeshed, will end.
Will it be when there is so much unrest and civil disobedience that the public institutions will be unable to manage the anarchy?
Will it be when the oligarchy that we have created and the attitudes that come with that "nouveau riche" oligarchy so suffocate the capacity to breathe, both literally and figuratively, that we are dying in the streets?
Will it be when the forces of deceit, criminality and the pursuit of personal narcissism through both governmental power-grabbing for its own sake, and corporate power-grabbing for the sake of surviving in a Darwinian jungle of global markets succeed in joining forces against the masses and render us all slaves to their fiefdom?