January 10th, 2011 13:52 EST
A Country Obsessed By Contests and Being Right Self-Destructs
A culture obsessed with contests
A society that turns everything into a rat race governed by ratings and odds is bound to petrify.
Such a winner-take-all society is reductive. Its nature is to polarize complex issues with misleading slogans and irritants. A society that understands or misunderstands itself in terms of platitudes "witness the Sarah Palin and Tea Party phenomena "finds its measure between a rock and a hard place.
Can such a society hold together or is it bound to become a rubble of its former self? Can a society that extols winners and disparages losers do anything but petrify and then break up in extremes of heat and cold, extremes of uninformed opinion? Can a society that defines winning and losing monetarily attain anything like the ideals of its founders or the great religions?
Our hyper-commercialism and consumerism have turned us into a gaming society. In such a society the majority will be losers, as in all lotteries. The house always wins because the game is rigged. But we shy from defining the house. Isn`t it Wall Street and its subsidiary, War Inc?
Is this what life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has come to mean? If so, the class system, the one we have so often deplored in England, inevitably reincarnates under our noses. A vast population of losers is ruled by crooks, liars, corruptors, bribers and bribe-takers. If you don`t believe this, stand in line a few days running at your local pharmacy and listen to the way Insurance Nation is screwing the poor and the disintegrating middle class.
The society envisioned for every mother`s child has become the servant of Big Pharma, War Inc. and Insurance Nation. A century after the war to hold the union together and end slavery, a new class of slaves has emerged "consumer bots with less and less money and more and more debt "and a new and even more dangerous divide has arisen, this time between the rich and the drowning poor.
How can a society idolizing luck and greed call itself Christian? And yet our resurgent nativists insist we are indeed a Christian nation especially blessed by God.
Our notions about ourselves do not parse because of our insistence on being right, on winning. A nation of people being self-righteously right is a nation of dunderheads because the willingness, even eagerness, to correct course, to change one`s mind in response to enlightenment or epiphany is the mark of intelligence and integrity. And yet we are treated with dismal regularity to the flip-flop issue in which one of us is accused of fulfilling the very purpose of education by changing his or her mind "accused, in other words, of considering the facts. How can a press that deems this an issue be respected?
The real flip-flop issue sleeps under the carpet "leaders bribed to fit their positions to those of the people who bribe them.
The more our economy worsens, the more we are scared into surrendering civil liberties and going to war for the wrong reasons, the more seductive a winner-take-all society becomes "as foreshadowed by the legions of down-and-outers who line up to buy lottery tickets they can`t afford. Television reality shows reveal the same petrifying mentality.
While we argue about whether casinos should be allowed and their effect on culture, the biggest casino of them all, Wall Street, runs roughshod over us, demands to be bailed out by the public, and then pays itself obscene bonuses. And all the while we elect people who say what`s good for Wall Street is good for everybody.
We are turning to stone because we will not revisit issues, because being right means more to us than anything else. No wonder our schools are failing. How can they thrive in a society that thinks education is about what we know, not what we have yet to learn? How can such a smart-alecky society educate its children to be anything but ignorant smart asses, like most of our politicians and their enablers?
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com