Most of us who remain in the upscale retirement community where I live, congratulate ourselves on being isolated from the crime and mischief that occurs outside our boundaries. We are indeed fortunate to be able to pursue our pickle-ball, golf, tennis, bridge, and mahjong activities without fear of drug pushers accosting us on the street corner or a junkie shooting us while we ride our golf carts. In addition to staying physically isolated, we can also stay mentally secluded if we follow the advice of the well-known Doctor Andrew Weil, who recommends we get healthy and stay that way by not following the News. Altogether then, we can inhabit our starter castles and applaud an existence envied by ninety-five percent of the U.S. population, to say nothing of the rest of the world.
Some among us — a relative handful in our 9,000 population — recognize our good fortune in being able to live here. We strive to give back to those surrounding communities who fared less well in life’s game of chance. Others, however, consider they have earned their place in this small heaven-on-earth via a life of hard work and thrift, while believing that those outside the gates of our small sanctuary, who struggle for their daily bread, have gotten what they deserve. A resident recently remarked that the rising cost of living was a good thing in that it would drive out of our neighborhood those in a lower income bracket. He probably considered that those forced to leave lowered the tone of the neighborhood.
It is saddening to reflect on the multiple conditions that have slowly, but surely, divided the rich and poor more clearly in recent decades, while destroying the middle class and robbing so many of a chance to attain what used to be known as The American Dream. The humanist and philosopher, Clive James, once observed that class now divides America more than in European countries. America is closer to a South American nation such as Brazil in accommodating extremely wealthy citizens together with abjectly poor ones. The forces driving this unhappy evolution include a gigantic military-industrial complex that drains resources in a self-fulfilling scenario of perceived global threats; the consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people; globalization of national economies; and the sad abdication of the ordinary person from resisting an autonomous system.
Can anyone really believe that an electoral system that relies on prospective government officials collecting money from donors who are mostly in the top one percent of the power-wealth segment of the nation, and who effectively buy future influence, is a healthy one?
Elected politicians no longer control our national society; they just fit right into the system. For the 2016 presidential campaign, more than a billion dollars of influence peddling again changed hands, and the vast majority of the American people had no qualms about the situation — to the sheer amazement of onlookers in other democratic nations. True change and control is in the hands of the ordinary person if they really see what is, and has been, happening around them. From the recent election, one has to ask, “Are so many people blind? Don’t they care? Do glib phrases and slogans so easily sway them? Are they more interested in TV soaps than in their own futures or those of their offspring?”
We have major problems looming. The collective internal debt incurred by successive U.S. governments for Medicare, Social Security, and The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (the federal insurance program) now totals in excess of $50 trillion. Lifetimes of severely reduced economic prosperity face our children and grandchildren. Which political party is going to have the guts to break the bad news to the nation? While this situation remains hidden from the majority of citizens, we tolerate a political party that would like to continue spending vast sums on wars we don’t need. At the same time, we have tens of thousands of bridges and other key infrastructural services needing repairs whose estimated costs run to trillions of dollars. In addition to our financial problems we are facing a global warming disaster so dire that our government is paralyzed with fear in case the man in the street realizes how badly our planet is threatened, and wants immediate action to return things to normal, so he can resume wondering how The Cubs will do next season or who will be the next star of American Idol.
Yes, it would be comforting to concentrate on our golf game and not listen to the gloom and doom of the news, but the really bad stuff is yet to come! We remain connected to the rest of the human race, undeserving as we might think them to be. There is a world around us that is crumbling. It needs us to rise up with our collective voices to bring sanity and decent instincts for justice to the way we govern ourselves and spend our collective capital.