Tuesday, August 3, 2010

#9: Corporate Masturbation

In light of the recent BP oil spill and the fact that I'm a bit buzzed, I can't put off writing about one of the biggest reasons Americans suck (I guess being buzzed has nothing to do with it, but I thought I'd throw that in there). Corporate masturbation (see also brand whoring, the business reach-around, Wall Street wanking, etc) is essentially the practice of excusing corporations for unethical practices unless said unethical practices are so blatantly brought to our attention that letting that shit slide won't cut it. However, even in those cases, most Americans just go back to hand-jobbing (is that a verb?) the very same corporations within a week or so (see Microsoft, Exxon, McDonald's, et al).

For some unGodly reason, Americans, most of whom are middle-class, working types, love corporations to the point of practically falling over themselves to defend these business entities to the death. It's gross. I mean, I can understand this attitude when, back in the day, American corporations actually supplied jobs to Americans, but that's not even the case anymore and even then American corporations found new and interesting ways to maim, cheat and otherwise give the shaft to their American employees. Steel mills, automakers, textile factories and similar corporations were always looking for ways to save a dime, even if that meant overworking, underpaying, and denying things like healthcare, maternity leave, or worker's comp to the people who kept their factories going. Yet, even then, in spite of the unions and class action law suits by a few, the majority of Americans were still very much ready with a handjob for these corporations because Americans are all about corporate handjobs.

And, according to these corporate prostitutes, it was the fault of the unions and worker's rights organizations that led to our current paradigm of outsourced jobs and more and more corporations moving operations overseas. It certainly wasn't the fault of the corporations. The very idea would be un-American. What's incredible is that, even with the corporate atrocities such as those we've recently witnessed with Enron, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Haliburton, Exxon, etc., Americans are still in love with corporations.

Which brings us to BP. First, I recognize that BP isn't an American company, but it does represent as aspect of corporate masturbation that really burns me up - the way that Americans practice a sort of blind faith when it comes to corporations. It's like we trust them to do the right thing; so much so that we're willing to say okay to potentially hazardous practices in regard to our resources, communities and families. Americans trust that corporations wouldn't knowingly endanger us. Americans trust that corporations have the best interests of our towns and cities at "heart." Americans trust corporations to do the best for their employees. Yet, time and time again, corporations prove that they have only one interest .... the bottom line.

No, I'm not blaming corporations for this. It's the nature of business to make money. What the hell else would it be. No, what gets my goat is how utterly stupid and naive Americans are in regard to the relationship between corporations and the rest of the world. It would be easy to say that corporations suck for doing the things they do, but that would be a logical fallacy. It would be like being pissed off at a lion for taking down a gazelle. The lion's nature is to take down the gazelle. I am disappointed in the American paradigm of just allowing corporations to get away with more and more to the detriment of our economy, ecosystem, and way of life. Americans need to stop sucking off corporations and ... well, I think that would be enough. Is it too much to ask?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

#8: Religion

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans became incredibly vocal against something called "Islamist Extremism" (see also Islamic Fundamentalism). Every American had an opinion about this new danger to America - everyone sounding off about how backwards Muslims were because of their religious zeal. Ahem. Pot, meet Kettle.

Of course, hyporcicy knows no bounds in this great country of ours and Americans just love pointing out in others the very faults that make us suck so much. Really? Muslims are zealous? I'm not saying they aren't, but I think it's fair to say that, as far as religious fundamentalism goes, we're probably tied for first with our friends in the Middle East. Abortion clinic bombings, hate crimes against homosexuals, the Klan, prejudices - all of these have roots in the engrained American Judaeo-Christian orthodoxy.

This has been the dominant religious, cultural and political paradigm in this country since the beginning. While folks in the 17th century may not have called it Judaeo-Christian, the fact remains they were following those practices, which are primarily based in the religious ideology of the Old Testament. Essentially, it is this: if you don't follow the prescribed moral instruction of the Old Testament/Torah, you will be smote by God. Smiting most often comes in the form of some angry white dudes doing terrible things to you (and sometimes to your goat too).

The first example this kind of justice occurred in the latter half of the 17th century when colonists, disturbed by women speaking out of turn, decided to accuse these women of witchcraft and burn the miserable bitches at the stake. This particular group of witch-burning fundamentalists was led by Cotton Mather (Increase's son)- the ideological great-great-great-great-grandfather of such fine, upstanding Americans as Joe McCarthy, Pat Robertson, Sean Hannity, and Newt Gingrich (and I'm pretty sure he's the guy Ann Coulter masturbates to every night in front of an alter).

From there it snowballed - Native American genocide, slavery, anti-Chinese leagues, etc, etc, etc. In modern times, the good Judaeo-Christian men and women of America make sure that homosexuals, Muslims, Indians, atheists, communists, and everyone else who holds beliefs different from the American way are perfectly aware that they are NOT welcome. No, we're not burning women en masse for witchcraft anymore, nor have we flown any planes into the cultural centers of any Islamic nations (er, wait a minute), but we do like to occasionally beat, maim, and murder homosexuals and tie them to fences. Shit, yeah! God LOVES US!

Most Americans don't want to hear such things. Afterall, America is the greatest nation in the free world. We can do NO wrong. God is on our side - shit, God blesses America (it's in a song). Well, guess what. There are a lot of people halfway around the world who thinks God blesses them too. Guess we'll know whom God loves more by who's left standing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#7: Waste

Americans are a wasteful bunch. There's no way around it. We use, use, use and dump, dump, dump all over the place. In 1990, it was reported that Americans dumped in the neighborhood of 270,000,000 tons of non-hazardous waste into the nation's landfills. In 2001, that number was up to 410,000,000 tons. That translates to over 1 ton of waste per American. We are a consumerist society and one that thrives on disposable consumables. And while the recycling movement has generated some change in this trend, the statistics for waste in the United States still point to one fact - we throw away a LOT of shit.

And I'm not just talking about gross trash like diapers or those special "rags" you fellas keep by the bed. We throw out everything. We throw out refrigerators, washers, dryers, old furniture, clothing - hell, we even throw out cars. No one wants to get the most out of anything, it's just junk it and move on. As technology changes, everyone has to keep up, and so it's out with the old and in with the new in regard to everything from cameras to computers. In just the last two years Americans have thrown out millions of old televisions to make room for their new HDTVs. Computers and other electronics are getting tossed at an exponential rate. Things that were perfectly good just a year ago are now fodder for dumps.

If it wasn't bad enough that we toss out recyclable materials or underused items like electronics and appliances, we also throw out stuff that other people are literally dying to get. Specifically, we throw out perfectly good food. Yes, I'm talking to you, guy with the half-eaten pastrami sandwich, getting ready to toss it out before hitting the freezer for some pistachio ice cream. Someone could eat that, douche. You're throwing away something that other people - people who are fucking digging in the dumpsters to eat - could use for nourishment. Every year, Americans throw out 96 billion pounds of edible food products. Yes, billion. Our American instinct tells us "BIG PORTION," but we rarely eat half of what we prepare (which is remarkable when you consider that we're all a bunch of fattys). We're also completely over leftovers. I mean, that's so Great Depression-era America. Nope, today we just throw that shit out.

Our waste is everywhere. It's on our roads and in our streets. It covers our wilderness and infests our drinking water. Oh, yeah, we waste water too. But, I digress. I mean, what does it matter, anyway? We're Americans, which grants us the right to do as we please. Who cares that we deposit our junk all over the place - I mean, we sure as hell don't. Whoever coined the expression "don't shit where you eat" was obviously not an American. I mean, shitting where we eat is the American way. Go America!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

#6: "Likely Voters"

In the 2008 presidential election, 56.8% of those Americans eligible to vote exercised their right to do so. It was a 1.5% jump from the previous election in 2004, which happened to be the first presidential election since the devastation of September 11, 2001. The media pundits were falling over themselves to remark on the relatively-high voter turnout, no doubt spurned by the charisma of candidate Barack Obama and his invigorating the youth vote. However, no one hinted at the fact that a 57% voter turnout meant that 43% of eligible voters - nearly half - were still absent from the polls. Why not? Well, maybe because that 50% range is just about as good as it's been in the U.S. for at least the last 40 years - since the volatile 1968 presidential election, which managed to rouse nearly 61% to the polls.

And while you may read this and think, "well, that's not so bad," consider that in mid-term elections, the voter turnout hovers right around 40%. And thus is the trend of American politics. It is a trend of apathetic indifference that, I am afraid, is far worse than the numbers suggest. Meanwhile, around the world, populations of people fight for the same right to a free election. Americans can't even bother to make it to a polling location in a 12-hour period. In fact, out of the 168 countries that have held free elections since 1945, the United States of America - the great beacon of democracy - ranks 138th. Yeah, that fucking sucks.

It's not just that we don't vote, it's that we absolutely could care less who gets elected to make the major policy decisions that shape the direction of our country. In spite of the 24-hour news cycle, fewer Americans today can name their governor, state senators, or vice president than could 25 years ago. Their knowledge of their "lesser" elected officials (local and state) is even worse. It's not that the information isn't available, it's that many Americans (right around, you guessed it, 50% of Americans) can't be bothered to find out. But, you can bet 100% have an opinion about these people because, you know, Americans love to bitch.

No matter what's happening in the States, most Americans just can't be bothered. Until, that is, the major political issues begin to affect them. Oh, and then it's, "those assholes in Washington are killing us, blah, blah, blah." America's recent issues with the economy, health care, and that bit of an oil leak in the Gulf have gotten the silent majority all in a tizz. People are protesting and sounding off all over the place - mainly about the economy, but that issue is really the umbrella for the other two, so there's the appearance of a very vocal, involved, and informed populace. Well, at least for now. As soon as some other issue gets top billing in the 24-hour news cycle, the "soup de jour" will be forgotten and those "patriots" not interested in education, the homeless or whatever-it-is-that's-next-on-the-media-menu will just go back into their apathy hibernation. I mean, does anyone remember we have a war going on???? (oops, I mean WARS!)

Even those Americans who do take part in the voting process, do so largely ignorant to the complexities surrounding a given election. Candidates veil policies in superficial campaign promises and platforms that, while seemingly informative, are nothing more than vague, pathos-driven platitudes designed to appeal to a voter's emotional side as opposed to the logical. The two most common emotions are fear and nationalism, though candidates, like Obama, may also work in "hope." Consider George W. Bush's tactics in the 2004 campaign when he, discussing Democratic rival John Kerry, noted that the "liberal" Kerry would be "uncertain in the face of danger" - the danger, of course, being the threat of further terrorist attacks on American soil.  Wars are great for politics as is a troubled economy. Someone will gain an advantage if he or she can use the right pathos. However, voting out of fear or out of a need for hope is not the same as making an educated choice and Americans just "don't have time" to make educated choices.

I'm not sure what's worse: not voting or voting in ignorance. In either case, the general attitude of Americans toward elections is piss-poor at best. Even the so-called patriots, who wave flags and talk about their "love" for "Merica," can't be bothered to take the time for real introspection in regard to their political decisions. It's a reactionary democracy and one that will, certainly, fuck up the whole beautiful experiment. Americans don't just suck because of their apathy towards voting, but they also suck because of their aggressive refusal to vote in any kind of meaningful way.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#5: Being Right

If there is one thing Americans love more than fast food, football, and/or God, it's being "right." If you're reading this and you're not an American, perhaps you've recognized this aspect of the American character. You know, how Americans will argue just about anything? What's more, you've probably also noticed that in those arguments, in spite of anything else, being "right" is more important that fickle things like logical facts or actual empirical data. If you're reading this and you're an American, chances are you're thinking something along this lines of, "this douchebag doesn't know what the hell he's talking about."

I hate to tell you, but you're wrong, friend (see!). Americans love to "argue" about almost anything. Yet, the worst part isn't that they love to argue, it's that they love to argue over shit about which they have no stinking clue. If that wasn't bad enough, Americans don't want to "know" anything - they just want to argue about it. Most are, what I call, "aggressively ignorant." The majority of Americans are distrustful of knowledge in any real sense of the word. They hate anything associated with "academic," "scholar," "intelligentsia," or the like. But that doesn't stop them from having an opinion just about every friggin' subject known to mankind.

Many of America's aggressively ignorant fall into the category of "conservative" or "religious Right" or, the newest brand of red-blooded Americans, "teabaggers." For the most part, this special breed of American gets his or her information from pundits and radio disc jockeys who, because they ARE Americans, disseminate all kinds of falsehoods veiled in "truth" and "facts." Whenever someone calls the idiots on some fallacy, that someone (probably educated or, even worse, foreign) is immediately categorized as one of the following: 1)a liberal, 2) a socialist, 3) unAmerican or any combination of the three. You can always tell when the aggressively ignorant get riled up because their voices immediately rise about 100 decibels and they start saying things like, "you're an idiot," or "just more liberal/socialist/bedwetter nonsense" and thus the argument ends. And that's how most arguments in America go, especially those dealing with politics, religion, or individual lifestyles. Then, the disciples of these blowhards regurgitate the same nonsense at any given chance. When faced with an opposing viewpoint they, like their idols, raise the volume or, when that doesn't work, resort to name-calling, belittling or otherwise attacking the individual who had the gall to put up the challenge - all in the name of "being right."

And don't think that it's just the "conservatives." Nope. Those "well-intentioned," "elitist" liberals are just as bad, if not worse because they actually have paperwork to back up their sense of intellectual entitlement. While the more right-leaning people of this country distrust education (because education is, after all, a sanctuary for dangerous liberal thought), the lefties commandeer education as a platform for a kind of veiled aggressive ignorance. Pseudo-intellectuals and recent college graduates wave their education around as though a mandate from  the nation's ivory towers giving them an intellectual "carte blanche." They manipulate knowledge to fit their own agenda and, like their conservative brethren, disseminate said knowledge as "truth" and "fact" and do so with an air of superiority because, after all, they ARE educated. The "leaders" of both sides massage the populace in one direction or the other, and work the unwashed masses into a dervish of self-proclaimed "experts" on everything from abortion rights to economic policy.

However, most of these idiots will never take the time to actually research any such issues on their own. The one side will never step foot in a library and the other will never really take the time to listen to any counterargument because neither of those scenarios satisfy that ingrained American lust for being right. The consequence of this brand of stubbornness is an intellectual gridlock stretching from the heartland debates in America's diners to legislative arguments on the floor of congress - everyone scrapping for a piece of the "right pie." And while Americans are fussing over the ownership of "rightness," the nation's economy, education system, industrial infrastructure, health care system and government are all falling down around us. Pretty soon, being right will be all there is that is left - will anyone take a break from the argument to notice? Probably not.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

#4: Consumerism

One thing that can be said about Americans is that they/we (I really don't know what pronoun to use here) love owning crap. We (I can't deny it ... I'm one of them) are absolutely addicted to having things. Combine this desire with an irresponsible credit industry and you get a real mess. Americans firmly believe that possessing various goods is an indicator of success, status, God's love, etc. What's more, it doesn't matter if we go broke doing it because owning junk is too important to let a little thing like debt get in the way.

Americans are indoctrinated into this paradigm in a couple of different ways. For most, it begins in the home, where children are taught that certain brands are better than others, that mommy and daddy get real satisfaction from buying that $2000 HD television (even though the other TV worked perfectly fine), and that there is such as thing as "ownership" and it's more important than a silly idea like sharing. Then, the little dears go to school. School is miserable for poor kids because they figure out pretty quickly that the cool, light-up Spiderman shoes they got at Wal-Mart are not as "good" as something called "Air Jordans." Before they know it, the poor kids are spending the next 12 years of their lives fighting the uphill battle commonly known as "keeping up the Joneses." Let me tell you, the Joneses are real jerks.

By the time we enter adulthood, Americans are slaves to consumerism. Cars, clothes, electronics - hell, even bed linens - become obsession. There are stores for everything and every product has its own standard. Much of the consumer industry is driven by the American celebrity culture (stay tuned), which lures normal people into believing that they can afford and should own $200 jeans. There are television programs dedicated solely to perpetuating the belief that "you too can look as good as people who make 20 times the salary you do." Even in hard economic times, Americans will sacrifice everything just to maintain the appearance that they are A) wealthy, B) attractive and C) better than you. The problem with this dynamic is that the poor are lured into this competition along with everyone else.

In the last decade we've seen first hand how consumerism destroys people. The consumerist orgy of the 90s and early 2000s lead average people to get themselves into insurmountable debt, buying new houses, new cars, tons of electronics and falling into trap of "designer" marketing, which convinced regular people that designer labels were accessible to them - that they could keep up with the celebrities they idolized. Now, those same people are losing their homes, having their cars repossessed, and many are watching their families torn apart all because of the stress and depression that comes with financial ruin. The orgy is over and we're left with a big nasty mess - millions of Americans are out of work, drowning in debt, and completely unsure as to whether or not they will recover. Yeah, consumerism is a real bitch.

For me, what really makes this part of Americanism suck is how consumerism destroys people - it destroys people's self-esteem and sense of self-worth. It really pisses me off to see kids dragged into it. Poor kids can't help that they're poor, but that doesn't stop the little rich bastards from making the kid with the hand-me-down clothes and generic-brand shoes feel worthless. And you know the parents of those little rich snots are just encouraging this behavior. Being well-off isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong, but there are just enough rich douches out there to make life awful for normal people.

If that wasn't enough, the media shoves the same ideals down everyone's throat daily. It continues to recklessly promote the consumerist lifestyle. Every morning "news" show, every daytime talk show - nearly every media outlet out there - continues to tell Americans that they "must have" this or that. There are people out there who can't afford to eat, but all the mainstream media wants to talk about is owning more, more, more. How about, I don't know, focusing on helping people, pointing out what's really important, revitalizing the spirit of humanism or corporate compassion? Nope. That would be counter-intuitive to things like advertising dollars and satisfying the insatiable appetite of the ever-hungry consumerist machine. It's the American way ... and is just another reason Americans suck.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

#3: Sprawl

Americans may not have invented urban sprawl, but damnit if we didn't perfect it. Nothing says American "suckiness" like the suburban wastelands that surround our cities. There are literally hundreds of thousands of square miles in the US that look exactly the same - full of strip malls, franchise restaurants, gas stations, and Pleasantville-eerie subdivisions with completely b.s. names like "Meadow Lakes," "River Run," "Hillside Terrace," or "Beaver Dam." Of course, none of these places contain any such landscapes - no lakes, no rivers, no terraces, and they killed all the beavers when they built the shit.

How did it start, you ask? Well, I'll tell you a little story ... once upon a time America won a war. It was a great, mechanized war, fueled by a relatively new energy source called "crude oil." During the war, the early pioneers of this energy source extracted millions upon millions of barrels of this stuff and synthesized it into various fuels, which powered war machines such as tanks and planes and jeeps and crap like that. After America won this war and her soldiers returned victorious, the great oil barons were all like, "shit, now what do we do?" The answer came in the form of cooperative agreements with automobile manufacturers and various state and city governments. The deal (in simplistic language) was this: we'll make it so every American has to have a car ... no, two cars ... and that way we can all get rich.

And so, urban sprawl as we know it was born. Post-World-War-II America saw growth unmatched by any other nation in history. Suburban counties and developers created a vast marketing campaign luring returning GIs and their families with the promise of country living close enough to the industrialized urban centers (you know, where the jobs were) that these new suburban "pioneers" could drive to work or to the grocery store and whatnot. Pretty soon, this concept exploded around just about every major city in the US, the most successful being places like Los Angeles, Detroit, New York City, and Chicago. I mean, the US had tons of land, tons of oil, an eager workforce ... why the hell not.

Well, now look at us. The entire nation is a clustercuss of traffic congestion and architectural hegemony. You can't get anywhere in this damn place without a car. Excepting maybe New York and Chicago, public transit in this country is a total joke. You can't really walk anywhere because there aren't any sidewalks - well, not really - in the suburban landscape. Even if there were, who the hell would want to walk? There are no trees for shade, you have to negotiate six-lane highways full of speeding idiots driving monstrous SUVs, and everything's so spread out that you couldn't walk to anything anyway. Not to mention, we're all fat (probably because we CAN'T walk anywhere). It's just one big mess.

Here lately, people have been throwing around ideas about things like "smart growth" and "pedestrian-friendly" planning, but the majority of Americans aren't buying it. We love our cars too much and we're way lazy. Not to mention, a large demographic of Americans harbor latent prejudices against the certain groups of people and wouldn't, not for all the transfats in the world, consider living in more densely-populated urban areas inhabited by those certain groups of people. To do so would call for a significant change in the "culture" (I use that term loosely and will probably be struck dead for doing so) and we all know how Americans feel about their "traditions" and "freedoms" and "independence" and blah, blah, blah. I mean, that's commie talk.

So, we're just stuck with the sprawl and all the joys it brings. Maybe after the great "energy apocalypse" Americans will get a clue ... but, Americans suck, so probably not.