Wednesday, July 11, 2007


no- not the ones in email. i have been thinking quite a bit since live earth and the peaceswarm via the peace train. that swarm talked about american values and attitudes- as did live earth. and i thought about how unhappy we are as a nation. to quote jimmy carter,

"...But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy. I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our Nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else -- public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We've always believed in something called progress. We've always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world. As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning."

it is my contention that we have too much. we are attached to too many 'things'- that ubiquitous word that can mean so many 'things.' as a country, we are attached to the 'american dream' and it is costing us our democracy. we are attached to the notion of manifest destiny and 'our way' of looking at the world- and it has cost us allies. we are attached to our big houses and cars and clothes and vacations. we are attached to living like royalty- on a middle class budget and it is costing us our children and grandchildren. we have lost our ability to reason- and it is costing us our planet.

there's a reason that one third of americans abuse alcohol. there's a reason that we are building walls where once we wanted to 'tear them down.' there's a reason that we don't question authority and we take everything at face value. there's a reason that we long for 'the good ole days' and we want to regress rather than progress- it's called fear. we as a country are afraid of losing our things. we are afraid of losing 'our way of life' and therefore we want to keep everyone else out. we are afraid of not being able to buy things cheaply to maintain the illusion of wealth- therefore we allow sweat shops.

but none of this makes us feel good about ourselves. the depression, the anxiety, the low self esteem comes from this attachment to our image. and yet, we continue the cycle. carter gave his 'malaise' speech in 1979 and here we are. so- what are we going to do about it?

seems simple to me- start simplifying our lives. that means unloading some of our attachments. what are we willing to sacrifice and give up to save our sanity? our family? our country? our planet? are we willing to engage in meaningful discourse and question the status quo? are we willing to listen and debate and compromise with our fellow americans? with the rest of the world? can we be honest and learn how to communicate? are we willing to reevaluate what is really important? do we have what it takes to face tough times ahead? will it be too late to save our planet?

crossposted at the sirens chronicles


Larry said...

Excellent article.

I agree we have lost confidence in most everything.How many can have faith that our elected leaders will not sell out to special interest?

How many of us have confidence that our jobs will be there tomorrow?

How many of us have confidence that our country won't be forced into another needless war?

This loss of confidence has seaped into our personal lives as well.

And that causes defeat.

Chuck said...

"there's a reason that we long for 'the good ole days' and we want to regress rather than progress"

You got me there.

betmo said...

chuck- i have found that when things change or are stressful or whatnot- folks long for a 'simpler time.' there is an inordinate amount of fear in this country- about living life and not distracting oneself with things- and i think that reliving the past is part of that.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

Larry said it very well, re confidence.
the anxiety, the low self esteem comes from this attachment to our image
Speak for yourself, Lady!:) Now that I've taken a cheap shot at you...I'll be good the rest of the way!

are we willing to engage in meaningful discourse and question the status quo?
I agree with your question, but a number of questions immediatly arise: Who determines what "status quo" is? Who determines what "meaningful discourse is?" You know as sure as little birdies only poop on good people's heads, that there's going to be a blood bath over that before you get under way with anything else.

can we be honest and learn how to communicate?
To use one of your favorites, "when Pigs fly!" First off, honesty is punished much more often than rewarded in this society, secondly, most of the dipshits in this world think PCness IS communication, so you have a vast re-education project on your hands....and then there's the Reich Wing....who says We are, and do: You and Him just won't listen!!! The Sister question to that, and I am NOT making fun of your post in any way, is asked at every pig flying party: "Can we all learn to get along?"

I could have just said no, no, and no, but that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun now, would it?:)

Still more of your damn good work!!

QUASAR9 said...

Over here they were saying Bush may be in a spot of bother back at home (maybe now that Blair is gone)

Seems Senator's from both sides are asking how long this senseless Iraq war is to go on.

Maybe America will right into its Constitution - "that no future president shall send americans to war in far off foreign lands"

betmo said...

q- 'when pigs fly' :)

earl said...

Today the psychologist-in-chief has diagnosed the American people with "war fatigue" that's "affecting our psychology." Actually, we have Bush fatigue, too. And, since he's into psychological diagnoses, perhaps he can do a little self-examination about his state of denial.

Okay, one of the biggest lies yet was his response to Helen Thomas, "Actually, um, I was hoping to solve the Iraqi issue diplomatically." That's a whopper.



Time said...

Like most things, our lack of confidence is caused by our lack of involvement. Being a good citizen, takes practice. Practice will build confidence.

If as many people who voted in American Idol, wrote their representative, the debate would get louder, and clearer.

There's more ways to move our representatives, than just voting, and we must educate ourselves on those tactics.

As we blog each other, we are not the ones who need to get involved. We can disagree with each other, but at least we know what's going on, and are doing more about it than just voting. I don't see any of you (or me) having a lack of confidence to speak out or act.

The country spoke in 06', but the Congress still hasn't acted. I believe that's because the Congress needs more than just the vote to pull itself away from party politics, and into doing what's best for the country, or what the country has already stated what they want.

I see some good signs, but know its not enough yet. I'm not sure the people realise how hard the fight is, to change the direction of Congress and the government.

alaskababy said...

A loss of confidence. that's good... I wouldn't have narrowed things down to that word but it really makes sense.

and lack of honesty, definitely a problem. People tend to skip the part where our country was derailed and hang on tight to ideas that are no longer being practiced, that our country no longer stands for.

JollyRoger said...

I understand the longing.

I'm old enough to remember 1976. Even after the horrendous end of Vietnam, the oil crisis, the unemployment, America was still a looser society to live in then. A happier society. A BETTER society.

Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter didn't spend all their time trying to scare the Bejesus out of us, the MSM actually reported NEWS, you could actually survive on minimum wage, people were still getting OUT OF poverty rather than heading INTO it, medical care was accessible to almost everybody, the streets weren't full of Vietnam vets with no place to live, racism was being frowned upon rather than encouraged by the Government.... give me 1976 over today, by a long shot.

Mandy said...

Maybe I am wrong; but I feel if we lose our confidence then we lose our way.

C-dell said...

Great post. In this age we are faced with increasing distrust of almost all the social trapping are losing the trust that they have earned all for money

Thorne said...

Oh, betmo... Beautiful! You and "JC" make a helluva team!! (Har-dee-har) Yup. Complacency breeds apathy. I am often reminded of Aldous Huxley's "Brave new world". The illusion in which we americans have been living. "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark" and all that. I think that alot of the consumerism is about salving our lack of self confidence/awareness and complacency. It feeds the illusion. As long as we have X and XX, we must be doing okay. At the same time as our population grows exponentially we are asaulted by the knowledge that more and more of us suffer from neuroses, psychoses, addictions, chemical imbalances and other diseases that are an affect of our mind/body/spiritual malaise. As "our america" grows beyond our understanding "we the people" has become meaningless. "Somebody who understands or knows more" than us will surely "fix" things.
I'd like to see a comarison of stats from say '47, '67 and now as to actual percentages of people voting, lobbying for change, etc. I'm curious if we are not simply victims of our numbers and how "big" the world has become with technology... To quote HJHoP (bing) "I'm totally opposed to this world. It's shocking."