By Jason Miller
Slow, agonizing death by asphyxiation is sweeping America. Covert assassins are in our midst, and many are blissfully unaware of their presence. These murderers rob their victims of their defenses by lulling them into complacency. Like the Sirens of mythology, they seductively lure their prey to its demise.
Something wicked this way comes….
Fear and ignorance are slowly choking the life out of reason and intellectualism in the United States. For years, the ruling Plutocracy has perpetuated social forces which obliterate the critical thinking capacities of the citizenry of the United States. Churches, schools, and corporations employ propaganda and offer immediate gratification through various means to crush the desire for independent thought. Four textbook manufacturers (which own 75% of the market), the entertainment industry, and the mainstream media, are the three most powerful propaganda channels for the Plutocrats. The casualties in this figurative genocide are the minds and souls of many Americans. I am not arguing that we are a brainless nation, because there are many Americans who possess high degrees of business and technological savvy. Many of the Plutocrats’ victims are more intelligent than those of us who have escaped their clutches. However, the Plutocracy has worked tirelessly to smother mental endeavors such as introspection, deep philosophical contemplation and the study of the humanities. "Forbidden knowledge" includes the darker side of US history, such as the extreme brutality of slavery and the genocide committed against Native Americans. Awareness of the atrocities committed by our rulers undermines the “Norman Rockwell concept” of America used to manipulate the masses into believing we live in a morally superior nation. America's Oligarchs have created a population which is very heavily loaded with people who possess the mental acuity to man the military industrial complex, but who lack the intellectual capacity to challenge their bondage. Those who are incapable or unwilling to think critically are unlikely to reject the manacles of economic and psychological servitude. Reason is dying slowly, and there are still significant numbers who resist the alluring package offered by our rulers. However, emotionally driven, shallow means of existence are slowly suffocating rigorous study, debate, and thoughtful deliberation in the United States. While the victim is an abstract, the Plutocrats are still committing a heinous act.
America, the Superficial (compliments of our Plutocracy)
Hostility against intellectualism is a hallmark of the United States. A nation run by imperialists and profiteers does not have time for pursuits that do not result in increased power or wealth. Why waste time studying Islam or learning the cultures of the people of the Middle East when we can employ our vast resources to underwrite brutal dictators (i.e. the Shah of Iran) or launch an outright invasion (i.e. in Iraq) to ensure that we maintain an iron grip on their precious oil? Rape, pillage, plunder, manipulation, and ignorance represent a much easier path than the rigors of diplomacy, reason, study, and compromise. From birth, the media inculcates us into a culture obsessed with being number one, dominating, winning, youth, physical beauty, and money. Why bother reading something deep and meaningful when cable offers 300 channels of eye and brain candy in which to immerse oneself? Why attempt to discern what is really going on in the world when Fox News is there to spoon-feed the information in a "fair and balanced" way?
Over the last several years, a group of rabid pit-bulls have emerged to virtually guarantee that "Yankee imperialism" will continue advancing the cause of the continued enrichment of the Plutocrats ruling our fictitious republic. Karl Rove, Bush's master propagandist whom Bush affectionately refers to as "Turd Blossom", rivals the genius of Joseph Goebbels in his ability to manipulate the masses. Preying on the average American's relative ignorance about other cultures and societies, Rove whipped the US populace into a frenzy of fear and lust for revenge after 9/11. Drawing on the momentum of anti-Muslim and Middle East sentiment, Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush wove a web of intricate lies to convince the American public to become complicit in the invasion of a sovereign nation (which had no involvement in 9/11 and possessed no weapons of mass destruction). Thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, Iraq is in chaos and on the verge of a civil war. For the Plutocrats and Neocons, it has been a small price to pay for furthering their version of capitalism, which Bush calls "freedom and liberty". The reality is that America’s version of “freedom and liberty” enslaves people and ensures that the vast majority of the wealth remains in the hands of the few.
Make them pariahs before they expose us!
Americans who do have the misfortune to delight in intellectual pursuits that do not result in technological advance, increased military might, perpetuation of the "immediate gratification" entertainment industry, or financial gain are viewed as pariahs. In the US, there is little or no virtue in attaining knowledge of the humanities. In fact, awareness of history (beyond the white-washed version provided by textbooks), other cultures, literature, world events, and philosophy actually poses a grave threat to the Plutocrats and Neocons. A critical thinking person with knowledge of the dark history of the United States government, and awareness of the fact that not all Muslims are American-hating terrorists, might actually question the wisdom of the war in Iraq, thus jeopardizing the prosperity of the military industrial complex. Money flows to the coffers of those who marginalize and ridicule "fuzzy-minded liberal eggheads" like Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter.
As evidenced by the example of Adlai Stevenson, a noted intellectual who lost the Electoral College vote 442 to 89 in the 1952 presidential election, many citizens of the United States view those noted for critical thinking with suspicion and disdain. As an individual who thirsts for knowledge on many subjects, reads voraciously, articulates relatively well in two languages, thinks critically, and has a respectable IQ, I grew up feeling like a pariah. Lacking athletic ability, mechanical aptitude, or the desire to be involved with the "in crowd", I spent most of my time studying and interacting with my circle of friends who shared my common interests. Throughout most of my childhood and teen years, I felt shunned. I endured mockery and exclusion because of my qualities and pursuits. Keeping my nose to the grindstone, I achieved Valedictorian of my high school class of 320 and three relatively successful years of liberal arts study at a state university. After years of existential angst stemming from my "flawed nature", I quit school and intentionally attempted to extinguish the intellectual aspects of my being. For six years, I chose to work in menial, low-paying jobs which required little or no education. I intentionally watered down my vocabulary. I stopped reading and studying for pleasure. I adopted ignorant, close-minded viewpoints that included racial, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination. In the process, I reached rock bottom spiritually, intellectually, and financially, and lived on the under-belly of society for two years. While I take responsibility for making these choices, I am using myself as an illustration to demonstrate how powerful the anti-intellectual forces are in American society. About twelve years ago, a serendipitous encounter with the most important mentor in my life started me on my steady journey to once again embrace my true nature. I have returned to valuing critical thinking, the search for knowledge, compassion, the pursuit of social justice, non-violent means of resolving conflict, intellectual freedom, and openness to change. While rejecting my true self was emotionally agonizing, it was a beneficial journey. Along that path, I learned a healthy humility, an understanding of my strengths and limitations, an appreciation for those with different strengths and limitations, and an appreciation for the spiritual side of my existence. Best of all, I have become the antithesis of what our Plutocrat and Neocon rulers desire in their obedient subjects, and I have devoted a great deal of my time and energy to encourage and inspire others to break their psychological and economic chains.
In the Eye of the Storm
Living in Kansas, the epicenter of America's rapid acceleration toward social conservatism and fundamentalism (which reject intellectual endeavors as a threat to their dogma), gives me a first-hand perspective of the depth of the problem. While conducting Bush's self-proclaimed "crusade" (note his ignorant and highly inflammatory choice of words) against the fundamentalist Islamic world, the Neocons are facilitating the intensification of anti-intellectualism here in the United States. Various factions within the Religious Right have worked their tentacles into the highest levels of our government. Bill Frist, Tom Delay, and Sam Brownback are but a few of our leaders who faithfully execute the Religious Right's agenda, which includes a dangerous nationalism analogous to that which emerged in Germany in the 1930's, government-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals, a potentially never-ending war on "terrorism", destruction of the wall of separation between church and state, and an attack on science and reason (which threatens to plunge the United States into a pre-Enlightenment theocracy).
Yes, Kansas is at the heart of this maelstrom threatening to swallow reason and intellect like helpless dinghies on a tempestuous sea. Phill Kline, our attorney general, believes he has the right to view private medical records of 90 women who had abortions. Numerous members of the socially conservative dominated Kansas State Legislature openly challenged the authority of the Kansas Supreme Court recently when justices unanimously ordered the legislature to provide more funding for public schools. Social conservatives on the Kansas State School Board are rewriting state science standards in a way that will open the door for introduction of Intelligent Design (a disguised version of Creationism) into the public school curriculum. After wasting $17,000.00 of taxpayers' money on farcical hearings to determine the validity of Evolution, the board is determined to bring religion into the classroom while attacking a theory which has withstood years of scientific scrutiny and is supported by significant amounts of evidence. In a newsletter to constituents, paid for by taxpayers, board member Connie Morris went so far as to write:
"It is our goal to write the standards in such a way that clearly gives educators the right AND responsibility to present the criticism of Darwinism alongside the age-old fairy tale of evolution,"
Yes, the United States has the moral and intellectual superiority to enlighten the “backward” denizens of the Middle East. How long will it be before Bush appoints Morris as a science advisor in the reconstruction of Iraq's educational system?
Things were simply not progressing quickly enough to suit the Neocons
While the United States has a history of covert suppression of intellectual freedom through various means, the Bush administration has accelerated the process and heightened the intensity. While America produces 25% of greenhouse gasses, the Bush administration has used pseudo-science to "disprove" the commonly accepted scientific notion of the Greenhouse Effect, thus enabling them to protect "Big Oil's" business interests by keeping the US out of the Kyoto Treaty. Refusing to provide a reasonable level of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has significantly stifled American advances in this critical area of medical research. As a result of social conservatives' blind allegiance to the "preservation of life at all costs", hundreds of thousands of unused embryos at fertility clinics will be discarded rather than used for research with incredible potential to alleviate human suffering from diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. No Child Left Behind has left teachers behind as they have little recourse but to teach their students with the goal of succeeding on a standardized test, which represents a very shallow educational goal. It leaves little room for nurturing innate curiosity and fostering independent thinking. Perhaps the sickest joke behind this piece of legislation was over-burdening the teachers with requirements without providing them the necessary funding to fulfill the demands. For those who still believe the United States holds the edge in technology, consider that China graduated 325,000 engineers last year. The US graduated about a fifth that number. India graduated 40,000 computer science majors last year. While American citizens argue over Evolution, embryos destined for destruction anyway, and sustaining lives of those who have no hope of recovering quality of life, the rest of the world will pass us by like we are standing still. Plutocrat and Neocon behaviors such as continued consumption of the world's resources like obscene gluttons, willfully poisoning the environment, perpetuating an imperialistic agenda, and choosing profound ignorance about the rest of the world will continue to breed hatred and terrorism against the United States.
With the advent of television, America's rulers found a near perfect medium to purvey their mind-numbing messages, and further demonize intellectualism. Advertisers bombard the minds of Americans with seductive images and false claims. Mainstream news provides a corporate- censored, watered-down view of domestic and world events. Judge Judy and Jerry Springer celebrate and promote the vulgar in human relations and interactions. Sex, sensationalism, and violence captivate the masses to stay glued to their televisions, giving the Plutocrats a direct pipeline to the minds of their subjects. Thankfully, their recent bid to pull the plug on public television appears to have failed. Big Bird and Front Line have survived the chopping block, for now.
What can we do?
What can one do in the face of the immense wealth and power of the Plutocrats? How can one subvert their intense effort to convert Americans into servile, obedient subjects willing to perpetuate the Neocons’ avaricious, hateful agenda (which threatens the very survival of the human race)? Each person needs to find their own means of joining the non-violent movement to reject the Plutocrat and Neocon rule. My wife and I boycott Wal-Mart and other corporate entities that are destroying the American economy. We live frugally, and do not incur debt beyond what is necessary. We recycle. We teach our child together, and my two children, to think critically and to question authority to a healthy degree. I have chosen to join and participate with Amnesty International, the ACLU, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. When I am not working or parenting, I write informative, persuasive essays. I maintain my blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/, which promotes intellectual freedom, human rights, and civil liberties. I work with a project called Worldwide Renaissance (http://www.worldwiderenaissance.com/mainstuff/mainportalpage.asp?Level=Main) which promotes social justice. I am fully prepared to engage in civil disobedience when the time comes. If our corrupt leaders ask me to participate directly in one of their imperialistic endeavors, I will refuse. If the flag desecration amendment passes, I intend to publicly burn a flag, not as an affront to the heroic efforts of genuine American heroes or sincerely decent Americans, but as a stand for the First Amendment, and as a symbolic destruction of the twisted nationalism which the Neocons have brought the Stars and Stripes to represent.
I hope you find your way! The cause needs you!