4/3/08

Thoughts on 'American Society'

Perhaps it's because everyone knows I'm not interested in working in a library forever, but I've noticed in the last few years that I get counted in with the librarians because, as someone who could give a shit about libraries, my opinion has always been very welcome, or at least I think of them that way. So today, we talked about higher education becoming a business, and I wanted to say it has no other choice: students are borrowing so much against their future earnings that they have no choice but to expect grades and results out of the institution. As a result, education is no longer about getting an education, but rather about getting a good job so that you can pay off the debts of going to college and get a nice car and a bigger diamond for your girlfriend or a Playstation III for your husband.

College and university used to be a privilege, but now that more and more people are expected to go, it now has to function as a cause and effect, purchasing plan institution. Because I'm paying for it, you owe me an A. I'm paying tuition, so this had ought to be done for me by the library because it's not like I'm here for free.

But what is the alternative? Is it totally unfair of students to say these things when there is nothing but pressure to go on to higher education? Unless you go to college and get a degree, you're unlikely to get a decent job that allows for all the material things you want because you saw it on "The Hills." Effectively, the goal of "the man" or corporate America is to create a class that makes and a class that buys. If you're not working at Best Buy trying to sell an iPod, you're on the other side trying to buy that one that has 100 gigs of space for the 5 gigs worth of great music in the world.

And the acts of violence that seem to be all over the news are no exception to the expectations of life. We're all supposed to have our 15 minutes, right? Well, if that's not going to come by magically ending up the next American Idol or winning the lottery, you might as well end your life and take a few people out with you because outside of fame and money, there's nothing left to live for...right?

At some point in this country (I speak about America because I've lived here all my life and don't know better) we forgot that working hard is a part of the 'American dream', your wishes aren't filled by the same guys who can do your glasses in an hour. We started looking for everything to be handed to us because for a long time, America could do that for it's citizens.

But not anymore. We're living at a time where the rest of the world sees us as a danger and not an asset. We're more likely to bring you famine than save the day. Culturally and intellectually, we're no longer leading the world and we're on the brink of becoming a non-entity on the global scene. America has stopped mattering, except that we've got a lot of bombs and no longer seem to be afraid to use them.

American life and America's attitude towards the rest of the world has become about control: we're losing it, so we're doing our best to find it in other ways. We keep telling ourselves that we're relevant, but the simple fact is that in every aspect but fear, we're no longer needed. Europe now has a stronger economy than America, which for at least a century has not been the case. They needed up to get them up and running after World War II but now, Europe has modernized and is back so strongly that America is really out of the picture.

What we still have is raw materials and other things Europeans can use, but ultimately, everything we've been good at is going over seas. All of our educated folks are going into things that aren't government. All our the tech support and technological skills have gone to what we used to call the Third World. India and China are America's industrial jobs, so while the Rust belt is truly rusting away, our corporations are making huge profits. You're worried about White Slavery? Try American slavery because we're living in the middle of it right now.

It's at this point in any essay or speech that one would say "but things aren't all bad", but in this case, I am hard pressed to find a silver lining. We as Americans are so happy to have our iPods and big screen TVs that we're not even aware of what we're watching and listening to. We've taken the ultimate shiny object maguffin and are so passive now that we longer care about standing up for anything. As long as we make it home for "Lost", George Bush's desire for a third term doesn't matter to most Americans.

In this way, where is hope? The only thing I can think of is acknowledging the end of the American experiment, which I feel started off so well, but ended up corrupt and diseased. America as a promise has been gutted, and while I think this will not dawn on many folks for a long time, it's best to begin planning for what to do next.

Don't ask me what that is.

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