Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We the People and Our Pursuit of Happiness

         Since moving to Chicago I’ve given much more consideration to the teaming diversity of humanity. We push ourselves together onto the trains and buses. We are not isolated in our personal vehicles as in Columbus, Ohio or Cincinnati.  We share spaces and much more.
          I know there are people out there who have known utter despair, whose lives have always been a struggle with demons, real and imagined, or people who suffer in real physical pain, or those lives filled with gnawing regrets. Our wounded believers in America, lives crumbling, lives walled off and regretting awful choices. 
         Our prisons are certainly filled with them, disposable lives. Thieves, psychotics, sadists, bullies, animalistic shadows of unfulfilled human beings, pitiful spiritless thugs, addicts and drunks who have no memory of sober days in recent years except in prison. All know despair quite well even if their awareness seldom extends beyond themselves. They had lived their lives in ignorance, in worlds of threat and evasion, some driven by risk and adrenaline. Unlike in the movies and Christianist millionaire pastor's sermons, few of them see their life’s purpose as devotion to evil, a lot of them see it all as “self-defense,” or accurately assessed “stupid moves”, and a few see it as defiance of authority. And, also contrary to some movie depictions, very, very few of them are evil geniuses like in action movies. For the most part the prison population represents a very low percentile of the intelligence curve. A lot of this is self inflicted from drug and alcohol use, trading their intelligence for the excessive self indulgence of misspent youth or trading intelligence for a numbing stupor for escape.
          Our prison population does not have a very large population of greedy people. This human failing doesn’t seem to fully kick in until someone has more income than they know what to do with. They evade punishment much more than they should. And, there's where the evil geniuses lie, in the board rooms and CEO offices of  Corporate greed. And, now our "greed is good" infected Supreme Court has destroyed the last vestige of democracy in its ruling that money is speech.  This American Plutocracy thrives on human suffering. Where indoctrinating children is a profit center, where physical pain is a profit center, and of course, the biggest government profit center selling munitions and drones to the military for an endless war on those who hate us. (be careful, Rush Limbaugh thinks "liberals" hate America. He would gladly send the liberals to concentration camps) 
         So, for every criminal whose life in prison and before is filled with desperate circumstance, there must be hundreds, maybe thousands, of Americans who know despair intimately. Certainly sales of antidepressants would indicate despairing Americans number in the tens of millions. All American Sadness is not the result of the Obama Presidency (as the Republicans would have it.) Nor is it from personal moral failure and sin (as the compassionate right would have us think.) It’s not always the result of bad faith or evil demons (as the religious further right insists.) And, of course, it’s not the fault of people with darker skins (as the farthest, stupidest right preaches.)
      “The pursuit of Happiness,” It’s such an admirable goal for us as individuals and as a society. Why do so many of us fail at it?
           For one thing, many of our maps down that road are hopelessly antiquated. They weren’t made for a world as diverse and complicated as ours (the American Right’s extremist  map repudiates diversity and does not believe in complication or scientific truth, there is only right and wrong, good and evil, us and them. Their map points only in the direction of copious amounts of personal wealth and the physical pleasures it can buy.) This map impairment, in itself, accounts for some considerable amount of grief. People trapped in lives chosen based on the wrong assumptions, children enslaved by parents who don’t care enough for them. There’s the source of a lot of emotional pain.
           But, of course, our society has made choices based on wrong assumptions. It’s been a mantra of the Right that the failure of individuals in our society to be responsible for their actions is a fundamental social flaw. It’s your fault that you can’t take the blame for your unemployable  personality. "Blame yourself", as Herman Cain famously said, specifically talking about the unemployed. This idiotic philosophy is a symptom of a society that's falling apart. No longer a democracy, America has seen it's better days. If we can't end the political power of that money obsessed Koch infused Gollum party that stirs resentments and hatred to bury our democracy, then we don't deserve to call ourselves a democracy.

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