Wednesday, January 26, 2011

American Trash

Yeah, I kinda had a feeling the news media’s infatuation with “golden voiced homeless man” Ted Williams wouldn’t end well. Thank God Jon Stewart provides the proper mocking of this truly crass performance by an Indianapolis Fox affiliate (it starts after the James Franco bit, sorry I don't know how to edit Comedy Central clips):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indianapolis Homeless Talent Show
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What we have here is the inevitable, predictable outcome of an American culture which no longer values people. That is it in a nutshell. That is what ails America.

We do not value people. Not in our policies, not in our attitudes, not in our discourse.

Maybe it’s our increasing isolation from one another. Maybe it’s our wealth which breeds this contempt, our consumer culture which views people as bank accounts and credit scores, not human beings. Maybe its our national narcissism, our national sense of entitlement. Maybe it’s the overall breakdown of American society which has been underway for the past 50 years. Maybe it’s biochemical, a product of the crap in our food and water supply. I honestly don’t know where this disdain for our fellow citizens comes from, but it's the root of all our troubles as a nation.

I wrote about this last April, when I was reading Natural Capitalism: Creating The Next Industrial Revolution. The part which resonated with me then:
People are often spoken of as being a resource -- every large business has a “human resource” department -- but apparently they are not a valuable one.


In a world where a billion workers cannot find a decent job or any employment at all, it bears stating the obvious: We cannot by any means -- monetarily, governmentally or charitably -- create a sense of value and dignity in people’s lives when we are simultaneously creating a society that clearly has no need for them.

Every day, in a hundred ways, we are telling people we have no need for them. From the outsourcing of jobs to the foreclosure crisis to, yes, even the Citizens United case, Americans are being told they don't matter. We are trash, we will eat trash and we will buy trash and we will live in trash heaps because we don't deserve any better. That is the message the culture sends every day.

And this pathetic Indianapolis news station trolling the alleys for homeless people with a talent -- any talent! Can you sing? Dance? Play the cello? Anything? -- is just another example of the general devaluing of humanity. You don’t have a talent? Oh well, back on the streets for you with your sign and tin cup along with the rest of the trash! Simply being a human, a brother or sister, a neighbor, a fellow traveler: that is not enough! You must prove your worth in modern America or we don't have time for you and we certainly don't have the money or energy to help you out.

What next, “sing for your healthcare” fairs? Need that heart surgery? Well, are you deserving? Do you have some kind of value to the nation? Can you at least sing? Dance? No? Pfft. Fuhgeddaboudit.

Death panels, indeed. Modern American culture is one giant death panel, shunting off people we've decided are superfluous or drains or "mooches" on society because they aren't sufficiently "productive." Off into the trash heap of humanity with you, leech!


Along the same lines, please, please PLEASE go over to Gin And Tacos and read Ed's post today. He hits on the same idea, in a slightly different way. To wit:

[...] Everything "engineers" and scientists can do can and will be done more cheaply there. And we did this to ourselves when we decided that having cheaper consumer goods for the top 10% of income earners was more important than having a middle class making decent money and driving the economy with (non debt-supported) purchasing.

When the upper- and middle classes decided 30 years ago that it would be a good idea to phase out the working class in favor of cheap foreign labor it appears obvious in hindsight that they were opening floodgates that would eventually result in white collar and highly skilled jobs going overseas as well. But something – subconscious racism, American exceptionalism, or perhaps good ol' fashioned cockiness – convinced everyone in the suburbs and penthouses that this could never happen. Chinamen using computers? An Indian getting an MBA? Be serious! The unwashed masses of the Third World will never be able to do our jobs, said the comfortable elite. They will be useful for helping us break unions, but their skills are and ever shall be limited to menial physical labor.

First they came for the autoworkers, and I did not speak up. Then they came for the steel mills, and I did not speak up. Then they came for the white collars, and there was no one left to speak up for them.

Yes, yes and more yes. We hit on this path a long time ago. The top 10% decided the bottom 90% was trash and packaged their vision of dehumanization and cheap Chinese crap from WalMart and this is the inevitable result.