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America's Optimism Is Gone

by Magnifico Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 02:11:14 AM EST

Gary Younge, the New York correspondent for The Guardian, has a commentary in today's paper (15 October) about how America's sense of optimism is gone.

It is a well-written essay and worth reading in full. I think Younge has nearly perfectly captured the general hopelessness that many Americans are feeling now about their country.

In his essay, The land of optimism is in the dumps, but refuses to accept how it got there, Younge writes:

This sense of optimism has been in retreat in almost every sense over the past few years... America, in short, is in a deep funk. Far from feeling hopeful, it appears fearful of the outside world and despondent about its own future. Not only do most believe tomorrow will be worse than today, they also feel that there is little that can be done about it.


While many will see this as Americans coming to terms, finally, with their place in the world. Up until the country placed George W. Bush in power, this picture of James T. Kirk is pretty much how America had seen itself at least since the end of the Second World War.

The awesome Capt. James T. Kirk

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."


Even after America's defeat in Vietnam, the country was still a perceived as superpower. Europe was divided into Eastern and Western power blocs and Americans saw their country as needed to counter the Soviet threat. America has been in bad spots before. Such as during the 20th century, America survived Watergate, came back after Pearl Harbor, and reinvented itself during the Great Depression and during each crisis, most Americans didn't lose their sense of hope and optimism.

But, no more. Hope in America is quickly fading. Younge believes Americans have lost their optimism because of "three main reasons". The first reason he gives is the economy.

Closest to home is the economy. Wages are stagnant, house prices in most areas have stalled or are falling, the dollar is plunging, and the deficit is rising...

The sense that things will improve for the next generation has all but evaporated.

Younge omits mention of the neo-Gilded Age that is taking place in the United States. The gap between the richest and poorest in the country is growing by staggering leaps each year. The middle class in America is threatened -- squeezed to a point where the line between poor and middle class has blurred to an obscurity.

The second reason Young gives is America's international reputation.

Second is the Iraq war and the steep decline in America's international standing it has prompted...

For if the war in Iraq were going well then this probably wouldn't matter. But it isn't. All surveys show that for some time a steady majority of the public believe the war was a mistake, is going badly and that the troops should be withdrawn. One of the central factors in which America's self-confidence was predicated - global hegemony based on unrivalled military supremacy - has been fundamentally undermined...

While the United States spends enormous piles of money on weapons and other military equipment, the country's approach solving things with a show of force still isn't working. With having the Soviet Union collapse and success of the Gulf War (1991), many Americans felt all the world was theirs for the taking.

After a decade of macho diplomacy and neocon planning, the terrorists attacked the country on American soil. September 11th, 2001 made most of America stupid. Any reservations in America's government that may have held in check the Bush administration's policies were easily ignored with the blinders of patriotism and bruised ego.

The Bush administration ignored the lessons of Vietnam, the lessons of the Soviet's occupation of Afghanistan, and the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, and countless other lessons and Congress let them fight two wars on the other side of the world without mobilizing the country to fight. After 6 years in Afghanistan and 4 years in Iraq, America is stuck seemingly impotent before all the nations in the world.

Which brings, Younge to his third reason:

Which brings us, finally, to the political class. Once again the American public have lost faith. The rot starts at the top. Almost as soon as they elected Bush in 2004 they seemed to regret it... Bush's only comfort is that public approval of the Democratically controlled Congress is even worse... In other words, however Americans believe their country will return to the right track, they no longer trust politicians to get them there.

Little suggests that anything will change any time soon...

Most Americans want out of Iraq in a bad way and I think believed they voted for an American withdrawal in the November 2006 general election that placed the Democratic Party in control of Congress. But after almost a year with the Democrats in power, not enough has changed to make many Americans believe anything has changed.

Younge goes on to explain most of us in American aren't willing to begin a national self-examination or introspection into why the United States is in such a predicament. "For the central problem is not that they were lied to - though that of course is a problem - but that they have constantly found some of these lies more palatable than the truth," he writes. That is what America has become in a nutshell. Most Americans would rather live and believe in the lie, than face reality.

So as Younge explains, the 2008 presidential candidates are not discussing America's malaise and not publically doing any sort of root cause analysis. Instead, our politicians keep telling us how wonderful and great America really is.

Americans won't be able to fix the problems the country has until Americans are willing to admit there is a problem here. It may be cliché, but that, I think, is the State of the Union.

I don't have much to add other than I feel trapped here in the U.S. I expect things in America are going to get a lot worse before they can start to get better. If Americans want to believe lies rather than face truth, then America will slide into an authoritarian or fascist state in the very near future.

The smart thing for me to do since I feel this way would be to get myself and those I care about out of the country, but I care about more people than can just simply move. Where would we all go? So foolishly I stay and try to keep my last little ember of hope burning through activism and writing — trying to fight to keep the dream of what America could be alive.

Cross-posted at Docudharma.

Display:
Gary Younge wrote a good commentary, please don't let my framing dissuade you from reading it.
by Magnifico on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 02:13:13 AM EST
After several years of hate and staged outrage on Foxnews and on campaign trails, what else can you get?
by das monde on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 04:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
one case does not make statistic but i own a website that provides services to US businesses and i can assure you that i am seeing a huge drop in business since end of August.For the contacts i have there, beside Wallstreet, the mood is at the euphoria.
by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 03:46:33 AM EST
i mean NOT at the euphoria ;-)

my website provides services for small businesses.

by fredouil (fredouil@gmailgmailgmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 03:52:03 AM EST
Great diary...

where did you get this picture of Kirk?

As he grew old he became a much better person...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 04:43:44 AM EST
I came across it a while back surfing around various websites. It turns out to be a pretty common picture. Search the images at the Google for "kirk awesome".
by Magnifico on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 04:53:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny how Bill Shatner, that great american icon, was Canadian.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 10:13:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Shatner is is a Canadian. The show, however, is very American.

Canadians are uniquely positioned to observe the United States. Their actors often capture Americanism better than Americans do themselves. Canada knows how to parody the United States.

by Magnifico on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 12:52:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Younge goes on to explain most of us in American aren't willing to begin a national self-examination or introspection into why the United States is in such a predicament. "For the central problem is not that they were lied to - though that of course is a problem - but that they have constantly found some of these lies more palatable than the truth," he writes. That is what America has become in a nutshell. Most Americans would rather live and believe in the lie, than face reality.

Just in yesterday's Salon:

New York Times: The `Good Germans' Among Us (Frank Rich)

"BUSH lies" doesn't cut it anymore. It's time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: "This government does not torture people." Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of "torture" is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America's "enhanced interrogation" techniques have a grotesque provenance: "Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the `third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation."

(my emphasis)

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 05:41:56 AM EST
I'm glad you brought up this column by Frank Rich again.  Let me cite another section which i think is critical:

I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press -- the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration's case -- failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top.

As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin. <...>

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.

He is wrong in the last sentence:  There is more left to lose than "whatever remains of our country's good name."  In addition to that, each American can still lose our own personal right to say down the line (if and when we ever get past this madness), "I opposed the Bush government and I took meaningful action to oppose and if possible overturn its policies that I thought were unjust."

What do you call that crime when you don't actually commit the "original sin" itself but stand by and do nothing even though you had the ability to at least possibly prevent it?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 07:19:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In addition to that, each American can still lose our own personal right to say down the line (if and when we ever get past this madness), "I opposed the Bush government and I took meaningful action to oppose and if possible overturn its policies that I thought were unjust."

It's worth remembering that Frank Rich was a prominent member of that gaggle of truth-challenged stenographers who denigrated Al Gore at every opportunity during the 2000 election. Therefore, by being one of those who set the agenda, I think that he bears significant responsibility for ushering in the Bush disaster.

If, belatedly, he doesn't like what he sees then he should at least have the decency to apologise for what he did. Especially when we can see in the press reaction to his Nobel prize a wilful re-ena ctment of this derision.

so, it's a nice thing to see but, like Thomas Friedman, part of recanting is atonement for past sins. They have history and they have to, if not disown it, then explain it in the context of their current views.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 09:37:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apologize for what?  For pointing out that Gore was running a disaster of a campaign?  It was true.  The man who was on the campaign trail in 2000 was not the man we know & love today.

If Gore had managed to win his own home state, then Florida would have been irrelevant.  He lost West Virginia, which has gone Democratic in every presidential election but two since the Eisenhower administration.  And trust me, Tennessee and West Virginia didn't turn against him because some columnist for the New York Times didn't like him....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 09:57:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe he did run a bad campaign, but then again that's the DLC conslutants for you, most notably Bob Schrum. (The man currently presiding over Gordon Brown's residing public relations disasters).

However, the Bush campaign was based around easily demonstrated lies. Lies that the traditional media chose to ignore. Equally the campaign against Gore was also based on lies. Again, the media chose to print the lies and not examine the truth.

But when Gore spoke the truth, they rubbished him. Viciously. Al Gore might not have run a good campaign, but neither Mother Teresa nor Jesus Christ could have won an election for Dog Catcher with that sort of vindictive press. Let alone Presidet. So the press decided who'd be President and set out to report it appropriately (sic). Glorifying Bush and denigrating Gore. All who participated own the consequences.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 10:11:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
News flash:  all US political campaigns are based on lies.  Or on some combination of lies and spin, which is like Lying Lite.

Gore served as VP in the Clinton administration, which spent eight full years battling the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.  The GOP and the media were certainly no more vicious to Gore than they were to Clinton, and yet Clinton left office with a 65% approval rating.  So it's not like the tide was impossible to overcome -- Clinton spent eight years doing it, and a better candidate could have done it in 2000.  Perhaps the Gore of today could have done it.  But the Gore of 2000 did not.

He chose to distance himself from the most popular president in a generation.  He chose possibly the most conservative then-member of the Democratic Party as his running mate.  

Gore did, of course, win the popular vote, but it's also not like nobody ever warned him what the whole Electoral College thing was all about.   Yet he refused to allow Clinton to campaign for him in states that could have gone into the blue column -- like, oh, Arkansas.  He was the first presidential candidate from either major party to lose his home state since George McGovern in 1972.

Blame the advisers all you want, but it was his campaign.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 11:22:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm beginning to wonder if Gore has a death wish. Not only does he lose against Shrub - narrowly, but in a way that could have been avoided with a little more fire - but he also sets himself up as the perfect eco-candidate. And then refuses to run.

It's very odd behaviour. I'm sure there's a reason for it - there are always reasons - but it's still  very strange for a politician to behave like this.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 11:34:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's Oedipal. One of my friends criticised Gore back in 1996 on the grounds that he had been raised to be President.


We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 11:43:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I like him much better now.

SNL:

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 11:44:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another interpretation would be:

He won against Bush and the SCOTUS gave it to Bush anyway.

And he refuses to run because he knows the system is rigged.

I'm not sure one has to get into too much psychology here.  I've never heard anyone say, "If I were Gore, I would want to run again.  What strange behavoir that he doesn't want to."  

In fact, if he were to run, it would be a truly fearless (like going back to the scene of the crime where you were raped), selfless (he doesn't have to do this for himself), almost kamikaze act (he knows he's going in front of the firing squad and doesn't have a track record of surviving that) - which would be very curious behavior for a politician.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 12:17:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But he should have won easily, and he didn't. Some of that was because of the machinations of the Right Wing Noise machine. But there was a feeling around at the time that Bush and Gore were more or less identical and it didn't matter who you voted for - so you might as well vote for a change.

So it was his election to lose, and he lost it. The mad-eyed Clinton haters were never enough of a constituency to swing the result on their own. It was the Independents and even some of the Dems whom he failed to reach, and what should never have been a contentious result suddenly turned into a farce.

And now it's not so much about dithering, it's about being seen to dither. He's hinting, he's being coy, he's saying he won't and then suggesting he will.

I'm sure he's a good person for the job, but a little more decisiveness at this point might not be a bad thing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 04:25:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blame the advisers all you want, but it was his campaign.

Well, the only good part of that is that the very same DLC machine that made such a difference for Al is already warming up to sabotage Hilary after she wins the nomination.

DLC : a wholly owned subsidiary of the Project for the New American Century.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 12:34:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or on some combination of lies and spin, which is like Lying Lite.

you got that right!!!

i imagine reid, pelosi, and feinstein calling a press conference to announce the following:

'we'd like to be better democrats, and it's sweet how you keep expecting us to stand and fight for principles we know you all believe in, but there is one leetle problem...

we sold our souls to the dark ones, and the price wanted to claim them back is just more than we can screw out of you guys...

so you can all go home and give up on politics, we have it under control, you can stay asleep in front of 'american idle', dreaming about how you're going to buy that new howitzer, or i-wank, or how many glazed doughnuts fit into one gaping maw, or how superjesus is gonna come out of a cloud of glowing particularates and give everyone a my little pony...'

would you like fries with that?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 01:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe Ibsen is relevant to nations as well as individuals:

'if you take the life-lie from an ordinary man then you take away his happiness...' (The Wild Duck).  

 

by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 05:44:57 AM EST
Didn't I ask you to write a diary around that?

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 06:00:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you an elephant? You seem to remember everything...
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 06:10:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting piece. This "Bush's only comfort is that public approval of the Democratically controlled Congress is even worse", however, is an uncritical piece of conventional wisdom. The WaPo has a rebuttal, here.
The new Washington Post-ABC News poll also shows deep dissatisfaction with the president and with Congress. Bush's approval rating stands at 33 percent, equal to his career low in Post-ABC polls. And just 29 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, its lowest approval rating in this poll since November 1995, when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. It also represents a 14-point drop since Democrats took control in January.

Despite discontent with Congress this year, the public rates congressional Republicans (29 percent approve) lower than congressional Democrats (38 percent approve). When the parties are pitted directly against each other, the public broadly favors Democrats on Iraq, health care, the federal budget and the economy. Only on the issue of terrorism are Republicans at parity with Democrats.

Further down:
Deteriorating reviews of congressional job performance are linked to a broad-based assessment that Congress has not accomplished much this year. Although Congress has passed four of the Democrats' "Six for '06" agenda items and a promised overhaul of congressional ethics and lobbying rules, more than eight in 10 Americans, including large majorities across party lines, said Congress has accomplished "not too much" or "nothing at all" this year.

By a 2 to 1 margin, those who see little accomplishment in Congress's first nine months blame the inaction on Bush and the GOP more than they do the majority Democrats. Fifty-one percent place primary fault with the president and congressional Republicans, and 25 percent on the Democrats. Among independents, 43 percent blame Republicans, 23 percent Democrats and nearly three in 10 blame both sides equally.

(my emphasis)
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 06:46:23 AM EST
Even so, I think that 38% approval for the democrats should worry them. They may not have the strongest position, but they play it like a losing hand all the time. They are too easily cowed, too acquiescent, too easily fooled into voting for proposals that undermine their stated intentions. At best they appear amateurish, at worst they look cowardly.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 09:50:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly! They're still more popular than Bush is, though. And the media, despite being unwilling to report the vetoes and filibusters of the Republicans accurately (e.g. writing "the Republicans blocked legislation x" instead of "the Democrats failed [losers! losers!] to get legislation x passed [once again! losers!]") has not managed to distort the public's view too much. They rightly apportion the blame more towards the Republicans.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 11:03:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On an optimistic note; the underlying principle of Americans which has been a distinct difference from all the other countries is the ability to change. Most Americans come from somewhere else so 'change' is built into the DNA.

And a movement needs only 5% of the people to lead it and the rest will follow if they have been lied to, their quality of life is threatened and they realize change must come, which I believe the vast majority of the electorate feels.

As bad as Bush has been; ironically he may very well have brought about significant 'change' to the body politic. Of course the recognition of a deep recession would accelerate the change.

If a politician can make the case for change by declaring a class war from the us (95%) of the population vs. them (5%) combined with the need for social justice-the politician will go far. Edwards has so far made the best case but he has not declared class war and it has hurt him. Half measures do not work with the electorate. If anything the more forceful you can articulate the change; the better chance you have of getting through. Single payor universal health insurance should have been proposed instead of these tweak proposals which will be just as complicated as the system we have now.  Federal minimum wages changed to federal mandated quality of life minimums. Taxes on off shore profits-amendments to existing trade agreements which allow the displaced US workers to have the time and resources to get a new job or career where their families are not threatened. Free college education for all. 60% top tax rates for all incoome over 500,000 etc etc

The net allows the 5% to lead even if the MSM is against the change but the change needs to be articulated in a way which is easily understood and class war is the best argument for change. 'Yes we have been screwed by the elites should be the message and its time we did something about it'-Finally the candidate need to call for the impeachment of Bush and his coterie of crooks. To my knowledge-no leading Dem has done this.

by An American in London on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 08:15:20 AM EST
But the 5% who are winning the class war right now have the biggest pulpit and all of the tools of law and government at their disposal.

It doens't happen that the Democrats and the Republicans in DC are part of that cozy winning 5%. You'd have to politicize that 95% to get anywhere, and that's what anaesthetic like American Idol is all about.

Bill Hicks got it right in 92

So there, we have figured it out, go back to bed, America; your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, America; your government is in control again. Here, here's American Gladiators. Watch this !! Here's 56 channels of it. Watch those pituitary retards bang their skulls together and congratulate yourself on living in the Land of Freedom.
Here you go America.
You are free - to do as we tell you.
You are free - to do as we tell you


keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 09:46:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this comment.

The land of optimism is in the dumps, but refuses to accept how it got there | Guardian daily comment | Guardian Unlimited

ElliottCB

October 15, 2007 8:11 AM

Gary Younge - "A global-attitudes Pew poll from last year showed that 65% of Americans believe the country is less respected by the rest of the world than it was - double the figure of 20 years ago."

Good grief, what do the other 35% believe?

By coincidence, I read Bill Bryson's account of his childhood in the 1950s just last week. He quotes figures which I have heard elsewhere, but which his cheerful portrayal of postwar America somehow set in context. Figures for life-satisfaction and happiness in the USA peaked around the end of the 1950s. At this time, the USA was still the only industrial economy to have survived the war unscathed - indeed, substantially strengthened - and the others had not begun to recover. It was unambiguously the best place to live in terms of both standard of living and quality of life.

By the end of the decade, the USSR had beat the USA into space, launching in coming years the first satellite, first dog and then first man into orbit, taking the first pictures of the dark side of the moon, achieving the first hard and soft moon landings and the first probes to visit Venus and Mars, the first woman in space, first full day in space for a human, first multi-person space crew and first EVA. It also, by implication, was then able to drop nuclear warheads on the USA at will. As films of this era indicate, fear had taken hold in the USA.

From then on, per-capita GDP has burgeoned, but been overtaken, and quality of life has declined - and also been overtaken. America, it seems, has opted to trade standard of living for quality of life, working to consume at all costs and at the expense of happiness. It has probably justified this to itself through delusion - as the Economist reported a couple of years ago, about 18% of Americans believe themselves to be in the top 1% of earners.

Perhaps delusion no longer suffices.

by Nomad on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 08:31:16 AM EST
There was a huge period in the 1970s and 1980s where the discussion was fading America ... that the Japanese were going to take over everything ... Dark Pessimism, fading optimism has occurred before. Not stating that this is simply a fad, or that it reverses (necessarily), but pointing out this is not a new (even in relatively recent history) phenomena.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 12:08:52 PM EST
True, but I think it is different now than it was in the 70s.

I think it is much deeper now than then, because we didn't 'know' about global warming then and had not yet reached peak oil. America still saw it was an effective deterrent to the Soviets nukes — the perceived leading threat of the time. And, the country still had a manufacturing base and jobs for the middle class.

Japan is a much smaller country than China and has a declining birth rate. Plus China is not only a competitor economically, but also a direct rival in terms of power, both soft and hard.

You're absolutely right that the U.S. has in living memory been through this sort of dark pessimism before, the difference now is, I think, that this time a majority of Americans suspect the old cure-alls that Reagan and the other snake oil peddlers come around selling won't work. And, while though many will buy what they have for sale - 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 - it is out of habit rather than hope.

by Magnifico on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 12:31:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All of the world's middle class is more cynical than not. This article pretty much outlines the feelings of everyone on this site about the world in general, for example.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 01:02:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i think that america is well disposed to be the perfect crucible for the kind of mass change we need...not because of anything to do with superpower status, but simply because the communication tech is so good, they mostly speak the same language, and there is so much talent and creativity that is being suppressed and wasted in the colossal balls-up that it has become.

how to get to there from here is the challenge...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 01:10:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are absolutely right, Melo, and well put.

When the US people are pulling together towards a common purpose they are capable of virtually anything, I believe.

At the moment it is a malign purpose - the pursuit of profit - that is pulling the US apart.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 01:16:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is what America has become in a nutshell. Most Americans would rather live and believe in the lie, than face reality.

That's not it at all. Most Americans are actively disinterested in politics, and as such haven't been forcing the federal government to act in its interest for decades.

Even though the great social movements of the 20th century ended 30 years ago, I think we've still got a ways to go before a new movement can coalesce, and there is no guarantee it will be positive in nature.

If you want to leave and Europe isn't an option, I believe Costa Rica is a popular destination. Just remember you're still stuck on this planet, and the primary problems facing the world cannot be hidden from.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 01:16:12 PM EST
First the optimism then the entire thing.
It is scheduled, it has been planned and will happen totally be design.
by Lasthorseman on Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 06:40:06 PM EST
Of course it's gone, because the underlying reasons for the optimism are gone. American optimism of the post-1945 sort has been based on the rewards of a cheap and easy imperialism. We lived high on the hog and made others pay the price. But now that we can no longer do it, we're feeling sorry for ourselves because, guess what? We now have to live like everyone else in the world, painfully aware of our mortality, our vulnerability, and our powerlessness. And for a people that have built a self-identity as THE GREATEST PEOPLE EVER, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

Above somebody - a siegel? - noted that Americans have been here before. The "malaise" of the '70s. I think he's on to something, in a way. The crisis we face now is essentially the same one we faced in the '70s. The problem now is, we know we can't use the same tricks we used back then. To get out of the '70s funk we turned to a movie hero savior, rattled our sabers, blamed the poor and the liberals, and decided if we just believed in America again, it'd work out fine.

But we tried that, and we're back in the malaise again. So folks feel even worse because they know the cheap gimmicks of Reagan and Clinton have run their course.

Within the American people remains a community, communal spirit. Given the room to express itself, that spirit would reemerge, and we'd work through this unfolding crisis and build a better, more decent nation as a result.

But that spirit is actively suppressed by the media, by our politicians, by the concentration of wealth. 30 years of neoliberalism have destroyed the old community bonds that as recently as the 1970s were still in place. Americans look around them and see not a community, not networks, but hostility and fear.

Like you, Magnifico, I constantly think about leaving. My fiancee and I sit and scan the ads for jobs in Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain. If we had more sense we'd probably scan Slovakia, Bulgaria, Dubai.

But historians and librarians aren't exactly in high demand abroad, and though we could probably work an angle and find some escape hatch...we're both Californians by birth, we feel this place in our bones and in our hearts. It feels wrong to abandon it to its doom. Surely there must be some way to stay and help put things right.

To close where I began, America's pity party is the product of 60 years of imperial arrogance. Along with that came a massive ignorance of history. America did, after all, finally overcome slavery. We won some major victories in the '30s, in the '60s, even though just 5 or 6 years before, it seemed hopeless. Life is struggle, but it's not always a struggle doomed to failure. Americans need to reorient their goals, their yardsticks of "success," and then they might find the ability to forge ahead.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 12:30:58 AM EST
until a critical mass of americans are able to look america in the face and see what it has been and what it is. only after a sober appraisal can "what will be" be built.

as alinsky wrote, before every revolution there must be a restoration, an awareness of the necessity of radical change. that process will not be pleasant for those invested in the reagan backlash to the uncomfortable truths of the 60s and 70s.

by wu ming on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 01:46:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely. Our effort is to build that critical mass. I love that phrase, "an awareness of the necessity of radical change."

The problem is more people are invested in that Reagan backlash than is usually realized. Because Reagan's solution to the crisis of the '70s was to simply say that the problem was with the radicals; that if we just went back to the '50s, drew upon old "truths" that the Sixties had discredited, we'd be just fine.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 01:53:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, the good old wonderful 50's where people could be lynched in broad daylight. Too many people want to believe in the tv show Happy Days as reality or actual history.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal
by chocolate ink on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 02:33:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't go to Dubai.  It will only depress you more.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 02:32:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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