The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

McGuire's Current Indignations

I’m not even going to talk about Mr. Bush and his demented idea of being the Anti-Roosevelt (you know, like the Anti-Christ) except to say that his mean-spirited approach to “being in the world” seems to be gradually pervading this brilliant population. America in 2006 is marked by a burgeoning tone of narcissism, selfishness, insane greed, hyper-competitiveness, incivility and out-and-out sociopathy. How a society can survive that kind of atmosphere is a subject I won’t attempt to deal with here. I’ll confine the discussion to current peeves . And I’ll no doubt add to the list from time to time- There’s such a gold mine- or should I say tar pit- of material to draw upon in this glorious new- millennium America:

First Names- I don’t know if they write etiquette books anymore; but in former times- even twenty years ago- the height of social ignorance would have been to call someone you didn’t know by their first name- unless you were talking to a young child. Now any telemarketer feels free to call you at dinnertime, interrupt your meal and call you Joe or whatever. A society functions more smoothly if its members demonstrate mutual respect, not inappropriate familiarity. I think this first-name crap is an attempt to enforce “equality,” an American obsession. It’s a false standard. Real equality is manifested by showing respect to everyone, regardless of pedigree or wealth or position. That’s not done by being presumptuous and disrespectful. A janitor is just as entitled to a “Mr. Smith” as a bank president is. This may be another example of corporate hegemony in this country, the theory being that first names are easier than last names to pronounce when they telephone to sell you something. But I think that’s not really it. Psychologically it makes you not really their “equal” but their inferior when they call. Don’t you have to talk to someone who’s so superior that he can address you as though you were a child? I know many will think I’m overdoing this; but I don’t think so. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. I’d like to see the return of good manners. American bad manners are making this society- and the world- a cruddier place. Let’s knock it off.

Rudeness; Incivility- More and more Americans are becoming nasty and rude. I’m originally from the New York- New Jersey area, which was bad enough. I’ve had to relocate to southern California’s Orange County, where I’ve resided for the past eight years. Southern California is the most uncivil location I have ever witnessed; but my clear impression is that the syndrome is a national phenomenon. I have noticed the problem particularly when dealing with merchants and regional-government bureaucrats. And under the category “merchants” I include doctors, lawyers and the like. They used to be “professionals” but are now just outrageously-priced hawkers. What am I talking about? You must be experiencing it. You go to the checkout counter with six items and the idiot cashier asks you if you want a bag. Or you go to the reception desk of a doctor’s office and his staff continues to gab and socialize while you wait at the counter; then one of them finally approaches you , looking at you as though you were last week’s tuna salad. Or (this one is big in Orange County) you go into a store and ask for a common item that is not on the shelf. You ask if the merchant can order it for you. The response: “ Can’t help you there. Whatever is on the shelf.” I could go on and on. A couple of decades ago this kind of behavior was encountered infrequently. Now it’s the rule. Why? I don’t know for sure. But I think it’s part of the “me- first,” “for-profit-only” mentality that is destroying the social structure of the country. In other words, “ If you can bring me some immediate advantage okay; otherwise go to hell.”

“Education”- I attended both public and parochial schools as a child. Both were quite good. You got a solid grounding in the basics: arithmetic; English; geography; American and world history; civics; and so forth. You learned gradually, “by the steps.” And I’ll tell you, even the slowest kid in the class learned a lot. You were tested regularly and you had to have a respectable knowledge of the material to get to the next grade. This was all during the 40’s and 50’s. What has happened since then boggles my mind. Education, they said, needed to be more “entertaining.” New gimmicky methods of teaching subjects were devised; fundamental subjects were eliminated; and the idea of “social promotion” came into being. In other words even if a kid didn’t know his rear end from his elbow he went to the next grade so that his feelings weren’t hurt, even though his life might thereby be ruined. Because of this wiseacring with education today we’re producing more and more virtual illiterates and know-nothings. And we’re paying the price in terms of the US’s standing in the world. And of course on the college level the profit motive more and more rules. The object of a college education too often is not to produce a well-educated, well-rounded individual but to manufacture as quickly as possible a prematurely specialized money maker. It’s the American way. We have to recover our common sense and get back to basics or we’re going to fare very poorly in an increasingly competitive and sophisticated world.

Apathy- The sad truth is that we get the kind of government we deserve. I still find it incredible that George Bush was elected not once but twice-- re-elected after it had been made clear that he had started the Iraq war on the basis of fabricated lies to the American people; re-elected after it had been made more than clear that he was engaging in a systematic program of looting the country for the benefit of about 10% of the population and to the grievous detriment of vast majority of Americans. What do you have to do to the American people, how much do you have to abuse, oppress and degrade them before they finally wake up and react? Someone has called this period of American history the Age of Surrender. I have written previously about de Toqueville’s views on the American obsession with equality. Americans , in other words , appear to be so devoted to equality that it is much more important to them than freedom or rights. So long as everyone is suffering in the same way, then that’s okay. That seems to be the current attitude. Americans’ real income is declining; prices are rising higher and higher; banks and credit-card companies are exacting outrageously usurious interest from Americans; 60% of corporations are paying no income taxes; employers can cancel pensions with no penalties; federal bankruptcy rights have been infringed by politicians who are in the pockets of the banks; eminent domain rights have been nullified for the benefit of wealthy developers; Americans can save hardly any money due to the thievery and usury of banks and merchants. I could go on and on. The government actively supports and implements these outrages against the American people. And what do the majority of Americans do? They work and slave longer and longer hours and for longer and longer years to meet the insidious demands of the wealthy aristocracy and their crooked politician-handmaidens. Most Americans are losing their economic security, their family life, their human dignity and their basic rights and privileges as citizens. And they don’t seem to care. They seem to have given up. Millions of them don’t even vote or they vote to re-elect the same scoundrels who put them in a hole in the first place. I have lived in this country for over six decades and I have never- never- seen anything even approaching the kind of abysmal apathy that exists today. If this keeps up we might just as well hand over the Republic to the money-lenders, the corporate robber-barons and the crooked politicians on a silver platter. And in fact that’s what we’ve done. Americans have to become more conscious, more active and more determined to recover their country. We have to know the issues, see the lies and then start writing and telephoning our congress-persons and other influential persons in order to convince them that failure to change their ways will result in their ouster from their positions. There are scores of internet sites devoted to contacting politicians and others in order to protest current policies and practices. We no longer have the option to remain silent. The stakes are too high. The stakes involve the survival of our country as a viable democratic republic. Recent international polls indicate most strongly that people in other countries feel that Americans have taken leave of their senses. They can’t understand how we are letting our nation be destroyed by the unscrupulous political faction that has taken control. We have to first recognize and admit that we are in serious peril. Then we have to take constructive action. We can do it. We have to.

“The Better Business Bureau”- Better for whom? This outfit sums up all that is wrong with this country. It’s the epitome of the “business ethic” that is destroying all that - on paper- the United States represents. The Better Business Bureau is corrupt and it prospers solely because it is corrupt to the core. Several years ago a newspaper in my area carried an article- I think on the twelfth page- about a contemplated investigation of the BBB based on evidence that the agency was suppressing negative information about its “members;” that is, businesses which paid it a yearly membership fee. A consumer inquiring about a particular business would not, if the business were a BBB member, get a detailed account of complaints filed against the business but merely a general statement to the effect that the business “has handled disputes in due course.” I confirmed this for myself when I made an inquiry about a business that I suspected was engaged in fraudulent practices. All I got back from BBB was a “due course” note- with no number of complaints or nature of complaints etc. mentioned. The business was, it turned out, a BBB paying member. I further confirmed the truth of allegations against BBB when I was working in a health-related facility and took a telephone call from BBB, which was soliciting memberships. The BBB representative made it more than clear over the ‘phone that the “advantage” my employer would have in becoming a member would be the minimization of complaints reported to inquiring consumers. I declined the offer. Oh, the article in the paper? There was never any follow- up article. And I never heard any negative reporting about BBB again-- not in the newspapers, not on the networks, not on cable TV-- nowhere. They’re still taking fees from consumers and white- washing their members to their hearts’ content. I guess they were found “not guilty” by unanimous decree of the Chamber of Commerce and their political servants. And the reporter who had the courage to write that one article? I wonder where he or she is working now. People trying to get information about merchants they are thinking of doing business with or people who register complaints with BBB about businesses they are dissatisfied with have to hope that the business in question is not a “ member” of the Better Business Bureau. But if anyone should want really good advice on how to quash any investigations against him, then the Better Business Bureau would be an excellent source of information.

( To be Continued )