Measured Against Reality

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What's wrong with us?

Yesterday, in response to this link-post, I got the following amazing comment by a man named Robert:

Actually I'm just plain old, but I have lived through some interesting political upheavals.

The Province of Quebec, Canada was in my youth little more than a theocracy, ruled by the Catholic Church. So total was its influence on everyday life that it was not uncommon to have a man's paycheck delivered to the parish priest first. This was only one of the abuses that were in common practice here fifty years ago.

This influence was broken during the so called 'Quiet Revolution' when a group of committed people decided to knock down this rotten edifice that from the outside looked impregnable if only from inertia.

They succeeded. Now Quebec has one of the most lively secular cultures in North America.

The United States has not traveled so far down this road that the majority of you no longer remember what you once were, what you once believed, that a fire cannot be lit that will burn away this tissue of lies that cover you.

It's perhaps not my place to lecture you on how you should run your nation; however in OUR dark time it was the light that was shining from the South that gave us hope and showed us what was possible.

Don't let it go out.

I know few people who think the US is headed in a good direction. Although we might all disagree on certain points, the flagrant disregard for the law (both US and international) the current administration has shown, its reckless spending, its absurd tax cuts, the preposterous war on drugs, the tragic rejection of equality for all our citizens, the suspension of habeas corpus, the ridiculous expansion of executive power, and the general mangling of the constitution (over the past century) all need to be fixed.

None of it ever will be changed with a complacent population. Voting is not enough anymore, and don’t even pretend like online petitions or angry blog entries (like this one) mean anything. I don’t honestly know what will make a difference. But I know that something needs to be done.

I used to read an author named Daniel Quinn. He raised similar concerns in people, although on a larger scale (dealing with human civilization as a whole rather than one particular country). I don’t subscribe to his theories as much now, but he was often asked by concerned people, “You’ve made me aware of these problems, but what can I do to fix them?” His answer was simply, “Raise the consciousnesses of others as yours was raised.” If you agree with me and Robert and everyone else who thinks that the US is headed down a bad path, and you want to help, then raise consciousnesses. Make people aware of the problems. The more people who want change, the easier it will be to enact.

Maybe I’m overreacting. Perhaps the people of every age feel their country falling away from what they consider its principles to be, feel it getting worse. Maybe my concerns and those of the people who think like me are unfounded. But as Robert said, at one point we were a “light shining from the South”, and I’m pretty damn sure that the light is fading, if it’s not already out.

I wish I had a strong conclusion, I wish I had a way to end this. But I don’t, and I can’t. It doesn’t end here.

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  • There is no doubt that this country has lost its way during the last century.Even though there were many signs of progress,(the civil and women's rights movements come to mind)there has continued to be a slow erosion of many of our basic liberties. I would say consciousness raising is indeed our best bet, and in that spirit I encourage everyone to watch this documentary.

    It is truly frightening.

    By Anonymous Jon, at 3:04 PM, February 22, 2007  

  • One of the rallying cries of Quebec's Quiet Revolution of which I wrote was: “Maîtres chez-nous,” which loosely translates to: "Masters in our own house." Although this phrase was later later to be echoed by the subsequent (and doomed) separatist movement, originally it was coined to motivate Les Québécois to take charge of the political process that up to that time had been left to the socio-economic and ideological whims of the Catholic Church and executed by it's political wing the Union Nationale Party.

    This was a regime where deep conservatism and traditionalism in values was associated with lese-fare economic policies, such as reliance on private enterprise, little intervention of the government in the economy, low taxes and debts, and, generally, few constraints on business. In return for these eminently pro-business practices, the government of the Union Nationale received massive support from them at election time, especially in the form of large and secret contributions to the electoral fund.

    An essential aspect of this system was connected to the large-scale system of patronage and corruption that characterized government dealings.

    (Sound familiar?)

    It required a strong measure of courage to oppose this power, as there were inevitably consequences to opposition to the regime. Districts would not get the grants they should have expected to receive; schools, hospitals and roads of communities that did not tow the line would remain in disrepair; individuals could loose their license, for a variety of things, or their job. Contractors that did not pay the kick-backs expected would simply not get the public contracts. This was not hard to do as public tenders were rarely ever called. Consequently, open opposition was difficult and always costly.

    Strong denunciations came from the Rassemblement démocratique, an association that regrouped about 100 prominent intellectual opponents of the regime. One of them, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, future Prime Minister of Canada, was especially active and virulent. His condemnation of the province in his manifesto, Cité Libre was stinging: “the civic and electoral immorality of the French Canadians, their propensity for authoritarianism, the antidemocratic theses that they learn in the colleges, the childish structures within which they debate at university, the small place occupied by the laity within the Quebec church, the low level positions they occupy in the authoritarian structures of capitalism, their fear to use the state, the only instrument capable to pull them from their plight, the lack of concern manifested by most for violations of freedom of speech, of the press or of association, all of these constitute characteristics of a people that has not learned as yet to govern itself, of a people where democracy cannot be taken for granted”.

    (Here again, if the shoe fits...)

    I'm writing this only to show just how close I see the parallels of what the U.S. seems to be slipping into with the situation that we had up here in the 50's. Yes, of course we were a small population isolated by language, and fortunately too we also belonged to a confederacy (Canada) who's laws and eminent domain gave us the tools to carry out this change, but it was not easy.

    However much it may be a small thing in comparison to the task ahead of you, I must tell you the Quiet Revolution was a high point in my life. It was a fantastic time to be young, to have ideas and ideals, to be alive, to wish to do things, to want to improve the world, to be a Québécois.

    You, and most of your readers are young, take History in your hands now while you can, get your hands dirty, and push for the changes you want.

    At least if you fail, you will do so with some measure of élan.

    By Blogger Robert, at 7:16 PM, February 22, 2007  

  • Robert, this is very interesting. I had never heard of the Quiet Revolution before, and it's nice to know that an edifice that corrupt can come tumbling down. I hope we manage to accomplish the same feat.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 8:07 PM, February 22, 2007  

  • I think you're right about the Daniel Quinn analogy. I read Ishmael and was more comfortable with the boiling frog, but still wondering what to do.

    In a time before blogs and the Internet, getting someone to read the Quinn was virtually impossible.

    But now, we blog. You blog and people read it and post. We spread the word. We talk about Habeas Corpus and if our congressman voted for repealing it, we ask him why. We read Senator Bernie Sanders speech on the senate floor about the budget and we tell people. It's not about voting. It's about creating our own pot of boiling discontent so that people can't help but get involved. Or we move.

    By Blogger Matt., at 7:36 AM, February 23, 2007  

  • You have written about Daniel Quinn and civilization in your analysis of modern society. In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the effects of industrialization on our minds and environment.

    The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
    Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
    Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

    Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

    If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

    Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

    When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

    There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

    People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

    Emotion ends.

    Man becomes machine.

    A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

    A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

    Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

    Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

    A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

    A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




    By Blogger sushil yadav, at 4:42 AM, February 26, 2007  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 AM, April 28, 2011  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 AM, April 28, 2011  

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