12.09.2005

Crumbling grumbling


Ya gotta read "THE QUIET STORM: BLOWIN' IN THE WIND OF CULTURAL DECAY" by Sam Smith of The Progressive Review. A couple of clips:
Among the conceits of our elite and media is the assumption that America, in the form that they wish to imagine it, is immortal. Part of this is the arrogance of the big, part comes from an admirable if naive faith in progress, part of it is pathological delusion. For a host of reasons, beginning with our own survival, it is long past time to permit the question to be raised: is America collapsing as a culture?

It is easy to forget that history is strewn with the rubble of collapsed civilizations, entropic remains of once sturdy cultures, societies we now remember only thanks to a handful of artifacts guarded in museums.

Our own country was built on the wreckage of Indian culture. Guatemalans use Timex watches rather than checking the Mayan Calendar. The European Union is a covert chapter of Empires Anonymous. And in the Peruvian desert there are huge spirals in the earth and straight lines that stretch for miles whose origins are totally forgotten . . .

Our politicians, bad as many of them are, in the end are mainly symptoms of our disintegration. A strong country would not have fallen for as flagrant a fraud as Ronald Reagan or George Bush, nor ones as cleverly corrupt as the Clintons.

It is fair to say, however, that much of our decline began with the Reagan administration and, without exception, has continued since. The evidence for this is strewn across the landscape, but here are just 25 things that have gotten worse in the past 25 years:

1. Real income of Americans
2. Decline in wealth of the bottom 40%
3. Number of older families with pensions
4. Foreign debt as a percent of GDP
5. Personal bankruptcies
6. Housing foreclosures
7. Annual personal savings rate of families
8. Corruption in politics
9. Number of people in prison
10. Drug induced deaths despite drug war
11. Civil liberties lost as result of drug war and war on terror
12. Pensions that include health care benefits
13. Number of families without health insurance
14. Numbers of corporations controlling most of the media
15. Public trust in major media
16. Time children spend playing
17. Divorce rate
18. Increase in wealth of wealthiest senators
19. Decline in voting participation
20. Number of registered lobbyists on Capitol Hill
21. Wages of recent male high school grads
22. Wages of bottom ten percent of workers
23. Ratio of executive to worker pay
24. Decline in real value of minimum wage
25. Harassment of young people for minor offenses

It is particularly telling that in the past thirty years, America has passed more laws than it did in its first two centuries, a sign of a country that has lost its way and trying desperately to compensate by making the results of its failures illegal.