TIME FOR AN ANTI-AMERICAN DREAM?
Abstract: For millennia, tyrants and plutocrats have hidden behind Aristotle. The US Constitution is mostly Aristotle, the philosopher of self happiness, and thus, slavery, as the lonely foundation of it all. We elaborate.
Overview: What went wrong with the USA? Why the extreme popularity of Bush while he was destroying Iraq? Why the massive heist of the financial crisis? Americans love to say that they have a young country, with no history, so there is nothing to analyze, please move on. But, in truth, the USA has the world’s oldest Constitution. And, surprisingly, the sickness of the USA may all boil down to the antique Aristotle’s paramount obsession with happiness as “the end and aim of human existence”.
Thus Aristotle took himself for such an accomplished accomplished human ethologist that he could draw political and metaphysical consequences from it. But, and it is an ominous fate, he was deeply wrong, as wrong as wrong can be. Happiness does not a human being make.
Ethology is a science, and that means that it is subtle, and Aristotle overlooked this (that is ironical, since his contribution in biology was to found it as a science, namely by finding out what was really going on; it just did not come to him to found ethology as a science too). So Aristotle was not observant enough, and too arrogant, to realize how wrong he was: human ethology is not just about happiness, very far from it, and that mistake he did, him, the servant of the monster Alexander, the USA has been doing, too, following him closely. OK, it was not a mistake for everybody, and thus not really an accident. Good things came out of it: the plutocracy profited handsomely, and, as we will see, that was the prime motivator.
So the US Constitution, following Aristotle, views “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as fundamental rights, forgetting not only breathing, and the pursuit of a big belly, but, more seriously, some fundamental, non trivial rights (equality, altruism). Aristotle’s obsession with his own happiness as the ultimate good for everything made him (and the US Constitution), extremely friendly to slavery.
Basically, the USA did not graduate from Aristotle’s animalistic, pleasure seeking, self centered idiosyncratic emotional arena (European thinkers left Aristotle behind during the Middle Ages, starting with Abelard, in the 12th century). Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander, who went on, applying his master’s creed, not to say greed, of personal happiness as the ultimate yardstick of all humanity, mass murdering Greeks yearning for freedom. -Hey, the freedom loving Greeks were in the way of Alexander sacred personal happiness. As a result of this troubling origin, English America allowed the rise of a tremendous plutocracy, and countless institutions to go with it, hand in hand (example: hyper elite for profit universities, the sort Socrates would have hated, and ranted about; another example, nowadays rather notorious: the entire financial system). The plutocracy and its servant institutions, in turn, redefined the sense of happiness of their subjects, to make it into an attendant to further aggrandizement of its own ever blossoming happiness as a class (since in Aristotle’s view, the “end and aim” being happiness of the individual or his group, not larger moral principles that most other philosophers believe hold humankind together).
This allowed, for example, the rise of the CEO class, constituting of individuals giving astoundingly gigantic rewards to each other by sitting on each other’s board, while workers, engineers, lower management and common folk below them suffered and faltered, and serious planning and investment they were nominally in charge with, was not allowed to get in the way of their personal pursuit of happiness. No morality got in the way: happy go lucky, especially with no worry. But mostly the plutocracy redefined the entire society as something tightly drawn around monetary transactions, hoping to take a cut each time one its subjects did whatever (hence the collapse of American medicine).
Thus, in modern American materialism, things have value if, and only if, they have financial, or monetary value. This produces human beings with restricted logical and emotional knowledge, and even restricted psychology, and an economic system with restricted capability.
All ail the USA, and the entire planet, which is on the receiving end. The planet does not know if the materialistic success of the USA should be emulated, and, or, the ways to get there, rejected. Confusion reigns.
So let’s be clear. This decerebration we now observe in the USA, by this kind of coinage centered materialism is how the Roman empire went down the drain of history. So it is not new. It is old, powerful magic of great evil power. Thus it is crucial to steer the rest of the planet away from it. Apparently, Barack Obama’s semantics (“Yes We Can!”) seems to be trying to do just that. As we said, American minds are shrunk, so Barack is trying to re-empower American minds, by telling them they could do much more (“Yes, We Can!”). It is a civilizational call, and a tough one.
When Rome was far enough down the psychological drain of history, it was unable to reinvent itself, and it kept on plunging, each attempted remedy making the situation worse. In the end, the reopening of the Roman minds did not come from inside, but from conquest by the Franks (the Franks built Western civilization in the West (~ 496 CE), before finally lashing out and annihilating Romanitas by sacking, capturing and dismembering Constantinople in the Orient (1204 CE)).
HAPPINESS IS NOT ENOUGH, OR WHY THE DREAM TURNED INTO A NIGHTMARE:
What was the “American dream” all about? “Life. liberty, the pursuit of happiness”? That is how the US Constitution’s Preamble has it, repeating, word for word, the antique, not to say obsolete, philosopher, Aristotle. And that is the problem, right here: Aristotle’s simplistic dream of ethics grounded on hedonistic self aggrandizement was tried many times, by different civilizations, and each time, it failed (and as we will see below, for some very explicit reasons). In recent years, the American dream drifted, and shredded, as American happiness got increasingly defined by a mix of whatever led to, and justified, corporate profit seeking and plutocracy, towards ever baser materialism.
Let’s make this more precise: the particular US brand of materialism that came to reign is about whatever can be sold. That is what makes it different from loudly proclaimed materialism, Soviet or Mao style, where selling was not a criterion (those materialisms already failed, nota bene, although they have not been replaced by full democracies a process that is very long, since it involves the creation of special supportive institutions, and a change of in the national character).
US style materialism has become firmly tied to the US plutocracy. Materialism about whatever can’t be sold and cannot generate profit for the rich is not interesting, according to the modern US credo. Thus Disneyland came to define nature, and a ride there what defines excitement. It is the same with the fixation in watching corporate sponsored sports on TV, for hours on end, weekend after weekend. No need for the glorious spectacle of nature: US corporations have all you need, and king dollar will open their doors always. So be good, work, and pay, and the universe shall be revealed to you, inside a corporation somewhere.
When one pursues happiness for oneself, as the basic and ultimate motivator, as Aristotle claimed we should be doing, one helps the plutocracy to the maximum, as an individual, because that is where maximum happiness springs from (money can’t buy everything, true, and this is one point of this essay, but modern double blind studies show it helps; this is compounded by the fact that, according to the US materialistic credo, currency value is the only criterion for serious absolute worth). That superficiality in one’s global motivation is also why Aristotle attached himself to the plutocratic Alexander (the mass murderer of Thebes), while one of his more moral colleagues insisted to live in a barrel (and that Alexander get out of his sun). Thus, in the USA, the plutocracy grew and grew, and grew. From Washington’s immense fortune (a man who inherited 10 slaves when he was 11 years old, and left behind 316 slaves by the time of his death), to the modern heist of a few trillion dollars (as much, about, as the US government yearly budget, or maybe much more) with the contemporary “banksters” (to use Roosevelt’s drastic terminology).
There are myriad consequences of this predetermination that life is for the self centered pursuit of happiness. Thus, for example, the US power grid was let go: tremendous profit cannot be found in power lines as much as in other pursuits, so power lines are less important. Entire states (New York in the past) or islands, can go dark (O’ahu in December 2008). Better: California used to go dark, so that the late Enron, a corporation, could profit some more. With Enron gone, the power came back to California, sort of.
That coinage oriented materialism is not so much about what is intrinsically worthy, defined as an animal would understand it, rather than about the idea that what can be exchanged for a profit is the definition of what is worthy.
The same story happened with trains in the USA as with power lines: they can’t generate as much profits as suddenly and as effortlessly as other activities, for the ever greedier plutocrats (because trains can’t hide, whereas financial plots can be hidden, and with tremendous leverage), so they were let go (very little subsidies for trains to be had, differently from cars and planes’ massive subsidies). Although trains transport most goods in the USA, they are a pathetic sight, sometimes straight out of the nineteenth century. The USA has turned into a Jurassic Park of obsolete technology. Watching the single track train line coming out of California on its flat bed, one does not know whether to cry or laugh. Trains puff up the mountain in great belches of diesel smoke, one by one, desperately slowly, some in one direction, and, later, another, in the opposite direction. OK, the train line out of California makes a fine trail on which to hike. There is plenty of time to get out of the way, should one of the crawling behemoths come around a bend. It’s amazing to remember that all the produce goes to New York that way.
In recent years, the state schools were let go down the drain, too, all over the USA. For obvious reasons in the present conceptual set up we are developing here. First, state schools are not profit centers (whereas private elite universities are profit centers, so they are good, says the American dream).
Secondly, the word “State” has become dirty in the USA. Why is the “State” so bad now? Because the concept of “State” is alien to making a profit for the plutocrats. OK, the State is profitable for everybody, that is why it was invented. But it is not particularly profitable to the few, the better, the plutocrats, so the “State” is not worthy (that was one of Reagan’s great ideas, except when it needed the State for a big military built up).
Another problem with the concept of “State” is that “State” is about what is standing there, in the real world, not what is standing “above”, in the Great Beyond (the Latin status meant “manner of standing, position, condition”, coming from “stare” which means to stand). “State” is about what really, is. Instead most Americans prefer to justify everything, not by what is standing there in plain sight, but instead, by referring to “God”, an imaginary entity standing-above (super-stare, super-stition). Nobody has seen or talked to God, except a few rich and influential professionals, who are tight with the plutocracy (the usual arrangement observed in all primitive civilizations, before the invention of secular law as the new and real God). Thus, the American people feel. They scoff: “So what if what is standing there in plain sight is crooks leading the country, stealing trillions?”. In a country like France, or Greece, the youth would be in the street, demonstrating their unhappiness, requiring change.
But not so in the USA. Americans have learned to explain that absence of demonstration of behavior on their part by saying that it is because they are so “cool”, and they know how to stand-above (super-stare). The truth, though, is more prosaic: US plutocracy has taught the US mob to love the riches of the rich, and to get distracted by mass sports.
Those familiar with the Roman empire, “Pars Orientalis”, will immediately recognize the syndrome: by the sixth century, Constantinople was all about chariot races, and who was supporting which “color” (there were even huge, murderous riots about sports). That came in lieu of the demonstrations of the demos in antique Greece. The old, free Greeks would have not tolerated for a moment to be treated as decerebrated idiots, for the good and simple reason that they were not decerebrated idiots. The old, free Greeks, when they got together, like modern Europeans, talked politics. And if that was not enough, they took to the streets. Like modern Europeans (and present day Greek youth). In the USA, even the best educated people are obsessed by their American football teams, so they are not serious about politics, they are not in the streets, and the plutocracy is satisfied. Obama, once again, may change this. At least that was the hope, and it is very audacious, considering the psychological translation American minds have operated from the political to the superficial. As Aristotle himself famously wrote, “man is a political animal”. In the USA, man is in danger of becoming a corporation and plutocratic leveraging device, feebly feeding what is left of his animal instincts by watching steroid monsters bang into each other on wide screen TV. In the USA, man has become a superficial animal.
Thus one guy named Warren, a so called “Reverend”, is now becoming the spiritual leader, the super-stitious leader, of the USA. Warren is of course invited to be the big man at the next Presidential inauguration (hence assuming and confirming his leadership role). This is to insist that the USA is below God, and thus, beyond reason. God is apparently Warren’s concierge, as they talk everyday (according to him). Both Warren and his “God” just defeated adults who want to get married although Warren does not approve of their sexual activities. Warren says he “loves” them. Just, no sex, please. I love you, but only me can love, I do not recognize the love you have for each other. Just as in a wolf pack the alpha male forbids sex, so does Warren. In case you do not know of his superior social status, just admire the next presidential inauguration.
Once again, my drift here may surprise everybody: why does he talk metaphysics? Did we not start with what ailed the USA? Why should Jesus ails the USA? Well, I do address metaphysics, but only in the sense that I am describing the essentially metaphysical approach of the American psyche: pushed down to their foundations, most Americans evoke “God”, and their boyfriend, Jesus, as an ultimate justification in love and war. This is the twist: Aristotle’s was about pursuing happiness by pleasing Aristotle, and that was bad enough. But the case of the USA adds the element of Puritanism, which claims that, following Augustine, the real world is not pure enough, and that of “God”, the way of the plutocrat, is the real world (the first enforcer of Christianity, Constantine, was also the top plutocrat).
Whereas the Europeans evoke the good life, as an ultimate justification for all they do (the fundamental French approach, that even the Germans have now come to fully subscribe to). So it ought to be, as Aristotle pointed out, because people are fundamentally apes. But Europeans now have learned that when the listened to those who talked about “God”, they listened to the agents of the plutocracy (monarchs, etc.). And apes do not care if Jesus talk to them or not, because they have not seen his face (they don’t care if he stands-above, beyond the clouds).
But of course, when one is determined to let oneself be exploited, as the Americans have come to be, one can only evoke powers one has never seen, but that will exert great vengeance, in the Great Beyond (thus Americans tend to be resentful and unrealistic, that is why they were so happy to destroy Iraq, out of that resentment coming from their daily life). Whereas when and if one does not tolerate to let oneself be exploited, as the Europeans have come to know how to live their lives, one grabs the good life now. This has practical consequences: not just long vacations, good healthcare, powerful social services and economic stabilizers, but also, when confronted to financial thievery, one puts the thieves in jail now, or, at least, out of management, not trusting “God” to do it later. “In God We Trust” is not European anymore. Instead it’s “In Us We Trust”. “In God We Trust” is the opposite of “In US We Trust”, that is the paradox of the USA.
The obsession with what has become the American version of materialism is, at the bottom, why the USA spends so much energy (25% of the world’s energy with 4% of the world’s population). Spending energy, wasting it, is not something the USA does by accident. Instead, the USA does it by ethical design. Yes, ethical. Ethical, as in what passes for ethics in the American dream, that is. Just talk to Americans, and listen how righteous they become about energy: it’s their pursuit of happiness to waste it, and the world be damned. Ask Americans about energy taxes, and they will first scream, laugh, and look at you as if you were nuts. If you really insist, and they are quick to worry about their physical safety (remember: you are seriously demented because you talked energy tax). To soothe you, they will suggest that that no one will tell them how to live (so go back to Europe, and let us waste the Earth in peace, an oxymoron). Which is deliriously amusing since, in many ways, Americans are told exactly how to live, and why to live, all day long, and down deep in their emotional core, by the profit centers and their financial mentors. And that, to be led by the nose by profit centers and thieves, while not making waves, it seems, they do better than anyone else.
TRADE, FUNDAMENTALLY, IS ABOUT EXCHANGING ENERGY, SO AS TO GLOBALLY MINIMIZE IT. The exchange part is materialized by currency. This is good.
But, when the exchange part is NOT motivated by the global energy minimization, this is VERY bad. In the USA, the exchange part has come to be dominated by the Will to Power and even the Will to Evil. Both are parts of basic human psychobiology.
An aside here: yes, the Will to Evil, is a new Will we introduce, in a spirit of transparency, clarity, and genuine intellectual honesty philosophy is famous for. The WILL TO EVIL goes a long way to explain many behaviors otherwise mysterious in human beings. Tradition, in other places, of older civilization, hold those somewhat demented twin wills, to power and evil, in check. But tradition, in the USA, often boils down to the Bible, and the Bible is all about Power and Evil, so the Bible, far from moderating anything, makes everything worse. The Warren we talked about before, that new messiah of the “modern” USA, believes people are good only because they fear “God”, or at least, so he says. That’s what reading the Bible too much leads to. But it’s also making Evil into a religion. Because, ultimately, what Warren says is that people do not operate out of goodness, but out of fear, and fear is next to Evil.
Hence what has happened in the modern USA is that nature has been replaced by whatever can be purchased. If it cannot be purchased, it is irrelevant as a source of significant value. No money attached, no intellectual, physical, or emotional value, or then very little. Thus hiking is out, and golf is in. The more artificial, the better, because the more financial leverage can be attached to it, hence the more value.
In the end the present version of American materialism, of the American dream, means that, instead of being part of nature, one is accomplice, as a subject to the plutocracy, and busy seizing all pleasures of the hierarchy the plutocracy amuses its servants feebly with, to justify further its existence. Pleasure becomes: “have whatever is outrageous, while, and because, they don’t, and they can’t”. Wow: yes, IF they can’t do it too, we are happy, because they can’t, and it has true value! Everybody can go hiking, because it does not cost money, but not everybody can play golf, because it costs a fortune, so hiking is worthless, and golf is worthy.
Another irritating problem with hiking, is that it puts one in contact with nature (experiments in human ethology show that the contact with nature has measurable de-stressing effects). Thus hiking competes nastily with the artificial world the plutocracy wants to impose on everybody, that fake world the plutocracy thrives from, thus hiking should be forbidden (see P/S).
Not by coincidence, Barack Obama chose the exact opposite motto: “Yes, we can”! In Obama’s proposed alternative vision, pleasure does not come from having what people do not have, but from everybody being able to do what they could not do previously. Because those who support Obama now can, they can’t be exploited anymore, nor can they enjoy the deprivation of others. Instead they are supposed to enjoy doing what they did not do before. At least, that is the audacity of Obama’s hope.
Ultimately, this degenerated American dream brought pleasure so low down the scale of pleasures animals are capable of, that it got defined by spending more energy than anybody else … while deserving it less. It modifies all values into versions so degenerated that they can be traded with currency, evaluated with currency, defined with currency, leading to currency, extolling currency. This degeneracy creates people that define sport as something bringing competition and money, and renown, while other people watch, not nature and its beauty, its balance, and the appreciation for creation and modesty attached to it. It creates people that view intellect with contempt, and the rich with awe, affection, and inspiration. It creates a hubristic man made black hole of mental collapse, admiring those who have it all. This degeneracy defines the world as made by the plutocrats, for the plutocrats. It’s ideal, at the bottom, is the slave owner (and his name was Washington). Happiness is that of the owner, or the coolness of the slave, busy working, not making waves. (Or at least, so it goes, until a tremendous explosion happens: like a volcano that rarely erupts, the violence of America churns inside, just to erupt more fiercely: the American civil war was the worst civil war since the civil war that put an end to the Roman republic, and the mechanism (conflict of the People with the plutocracy) was basically the same.) Right now, the plutocracy has basically pointed a gun at the US, and world. economy, and requested more money. It got it, and got reappointed (see Mr. R. Rubin out of the shadows).
How did we get down there? How come the USA knew slavery, and then that further reign of plutocracy? With the unfolding of some of the threats de Tocqueville already identified, long ago, and that Polybius, two thousands years earlier, feared: the common denominator of the mob, in charge.
Some may have pause here: he is talking about plutocracy, or talking about the mob? Well, they go hand in hand. Having a mob means one has a plutocracy, and reciprocally (except in those rare instants in history, when the mob comes out and, out of unconfined rage, kills the plutocracy during a revolution). The mob, per its definition, is unable to resist the plutocracy, because all the mob possess is little change, relatively speaking, so it obsesses about it, and when it sees real big money, that is the biggest single thing in the world it could ever imagine. Because the paucity of the mob’s mind goes with the paucity of its possessions, so possession, for the mob, means coinage, having little mind of its own to divert towards higher pursuits.
Far from the mob, the contempt of the intellectual for contingency and whatever only small minds can conceive. Thus the mob mentality grows, hand in hand with the plutocracy dominating it. They need each other, they are codependent. Such is the basic history of the late Roman empire, the Christian Roman empire, over the centuries it took, degenerating until the Muslims and the Franks destroyed it all. The more time went by, the stupider and more impotent the Roman mob got, and the greater the wealth of the Roman nobility above it grew (bishops were big slave owners).
So what to do now with these USA that are going down the same path Rome knew? The USA is drifting, since the dream hit the shoals. The dream is all wet, as it sinks. It even stinks, as Mr. Madoff runs away with 50 billions, and Mr. Rubin is back on top, after potentially wasting more than 306 billion of taxpayers’ money (among other things). The world needs to correct the American dream, just as the world needs to correct Islam. It’s time to take a stance, not just on many outrageous statements of the Qur’an (or its fundament, the Bible!), but also to take a stance on many an outrageous deviance that comprises the American dream. Islam is probably an easier case. Islam, or more exactly the Qur’an, is clearly a Middle Age situation, and one can make a case that Muhammad would not have agreed about much that was made in his name (the case of sexism is blatant, as his wife Aicha pointed out). What we discovered here is that the USA is even an earlier case, the case of Aristotle in power, inspiring all.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, OR WHY THE USA IS PRESENTLY PLUNGING:
The financial crisis is unfolding, and, as Paul Krugman pointed out, fifty governors, one in each US state, each acting like Herbert Hoover in 1932, are cutting public spending (California, for example, stopped all public infrastructure works, a sure recipe for transforming a malaise into a depression). All over the USA, State spending is being cut, because local States depend upon local taxes, and taxes from business activity have been plunging, hence so are State budgets, because they are supposed to be balanced by law. It’s a problem that should be extremely easy to fix: just augment local taxes. An energy tax is a no-brainer (so is an Added Value Tax, which makes tax evasion impossible). Both could be compensated for the poor (as they are in the EU). So why is this not it happening? Because of the pursuit of immediate happiness. Taxes, especially indirect taxes, involves the idea of sacrifice, and the idea that people are living, a bit, for others. But Aristotle is not living for others. Socrates did that, to some extent, and, as Aristotle pointed out with glee, it did not work too well. Aristotle is all into himself, and not others. Aristotle, thinks, hopefully, that his happiness will die last, and all others before him. That is naive, and it is in strict contradiction with human ethology, which evolved with group selection, not just individual selection.
The only solution will be for Obama to step in with more Federal revenue (energy tax and AVT). And it cannot be soon enough.
LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, INTELLECTUALITY, DIGNITY:
It’s not all about freedom, and the pursuit of happiness, or tranquility. If you have got all of these, you have not got enough to make a sustainable civilization. Indeed, anybody pursues happiness, sometimes with even greater enthusiasm that they pursue breathing. The French motto of the republic “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is better than these pursuits that Aristotle gave us, because it insures that freedom does not come by denying altruism, and “equality” makes plutocracy impossible. The guard against plutocracy is what is missing in the American dream, allowing it to turn into a nightmare.
And what of Aristotle in all this? Well, as we said, the USA incarnated Aristotle’s dream of a republic. Aristotle reduced all of man to his own pleasure seeking. Thus, naturally, Aristotle was pro-slavery. And what of the founder of theoretical Christianity, Saint Augustine? He was also pro-slavery. Both philosophers were urgently against equality. Equality and fraternity were introduced by the Franks, and that is why they went beyond Antiquity, philosophically speaking. That is also why the USA went down the road of slavery, clinging to Aristotle and Augustine, down the undertow. (In truth, it’s probably the other way around: because the English American plutocracy wanted to use slaves and holocausts, it brandished the Bible to justify these tremendously profit making activities).
Oh, and what is the official American motto? Since 1956, it is the superstitious “In God We Trust”, which basically downgrades the USA to the level of the Aztecs. That nightmare mimicked Hitler’s similar “God With Us”, the motto of the SS. It, too, has got to go.
Another wished-for feature, that is so alien to the American dream, is not found, even in the French republican motto. It is intellectuality. Intellectuality is the essence of humankind. Plenty of social insects are more equal, more fraternal and more free, even, than we are (nobody orders a bee, or a wasp where to fly: they fly where they wish, and discover what they share). No social insect is as intellectual as man, though. Intellectuality is what makes us really different from millions of social insects species. Intellectuality is what humankind does best, and where its nature lays, and its hope, if any, rests. It’s high time to proclaim that INTELLECTUALITY IS HUMANKIND’S PRIME MOTIVATION.
Finally, to order and stabilize it all, dignity, or the closely related decency, are crucial. DIGNITY IS THAT PLACE IN THE MIND WHERE THE WILL TO POWER, AND THE WILL TO EVIL, CANNOT GO, NO MATTER WHAT. Dignity is powerful. The witch hunt of McCarthyism ended when one of the accused, Joseph Welch, uttered the famous words: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”‘ that heralded the end of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s cheap terror.
National mind sets established where opportunism and baseness reign supreme do not have dignity. As national treasures in Iraq were plundered, and the American public applauded, there was no dignity. Just like in McCarthyism before (and it turned out that just one man talking back with dignity was enough to stop it all! Just one man, one dignity!). As the Bush administration wrote extensively about the reintroduction of torture as national policy, there was no dignity. And as long as no prosecution occurs in that matter, there is still no dignity. (The British outlawed torture, officially speaking, since the 17th century; when the European Court determined that the United Kingdom was using torture in Northern Ireland, the UK immediately ceased and desisted; non coincidentally, peace has broken out since.)
The world needs more intellectuality and dignity. But plutocracy hates them both. The USA needs a more modern philosophy to root its entire psychology. And so does the world. The audacity of hope, tomorrow, or the cowardice of despair, as now. One choice, two fates, and just one civilization to lose.
P/S 1: That “all men are created equal” is in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (1776). It was translated from the Italian of a friend (as Congress officially determined!). But equality is NOT in the US Constitution, which explains why Lincoln had to refer back to Jefferson, and not the Constitution, when he attacked slavery. This omission is not accidental. It denotes the desire of the American plutocracy to go on with enslavement (which is obviously incompatible with equality). Martin Luther King mentioned equality in his I have a dream speech: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’.” But it stays a dream to this day: Equality, in the French Constitution and Declaration of the right of Man since 1789, is still NOT in the US Constitution. From here to Guantanamo, or whatever horror is next, that loophole can keep on festering.
P/S 2: It is often forbidden to hike on state lands in the USA: the author, presently on Oahu, Hawai’i, found several valleys of public lands (such as Waimea), entirely closed, and guarded to make sure the People does not penetrate. The procedure of forbidding the public for grotesque reasons is standard in California, even on giant Federal lands. The reasons given are often flourishing with impudence.
P/S 3: Financial profit gathering is where it’s at, in the USA. Why? Americans will tell you, it’s because profits reward the best, it’s the American spirit, that the best be rewarded. And then they go to worship God, the maximal capitalist in the sky, extending the spirit. Indeed, that allows them to worship naturally smaller versions, such as all their billionaires, especially the greatest of them all Warren Buffet. Mr. Buffet reigns, as if he were their grand father to them all (although he made billions in health care insurance, skinning the raw hide of poor devils, selling the hides: but all that matters, all they know, those poor devils, is that Mr. Buffet is rich, hence successful, hence wise, hence everything that matters; by making Warren Buffet grand, they make themselves grand, because his exploitation of themselves have made him grand, and, by accepting this as the grandest thing, to the grandest thing in the universe they have contributed; in the Middle Ages, simple folks venerated monarchs for similar reasons: the lower they got, the prouder the monarch, hence the greater their pride in the monarch: ambition has no vision greater than deception).
P/S 4: Citigroup bailout is above 306 billion dollars. Mr. R. Rubin created Citigroup, and overviews it to this day. His students and various subalterns and their assistants dominate President Obama proposed cabinet. Nobody knows what it means.
P/S 5: Some have noticed that Obama is an intellectual. Well, he was a Constitutional Law professor, at one of the world’s most famous universities. That is hope we can believe in. But let’s also remember that Pericles, the great Athens’ statesman, was also an intellectual. But as his famous Funeral Oration demonstrates, he would have profited from some deeper philosophical analysis. Pericles’ incredible hubris (“Yes we can do whatever we decide to do”) was a major contribution to the war that killed more than half of Athens’ population, and forever removed her role as the torch bearer of civilization. That lesson, the USA should meditate. It’s ironical that the US president has a “Science Advisor”, when science is obvious. Namely put the one hundred top scientists in a room, and let them decide how much to spend on one, relatively speaking. End of the story; the president has just to fix the total scientific spending. The president does not need to be advised whether it would be better to spend more on the Quantum Computer rather than on Proteomics, or Spintronics. But the President needs a PHILOSOPHICAL ADVISER. Someone who can tell him how to think out of the box with the mouse trap in Afghanistan. For example. Or how not to behave like Pericles. A politician cannot spend too long with the issues (that is what a philosopher does, reflecting about the issues). A politician spends most of his time seducing the mob with mental short cuts (as Pericles did). This is very different from spending one’s time hounding the truth. Pericles would have doe much better if his work had been sharply criticized by full philosopher. But, although several philosophers got spectacularly involved in Athenian politics around those times, Pericles was obviously not moderated by any of them. Interactions in Rome between philosophers were many: Pompey the Great, and Caesar had philosophical advisers (too weak an adviser for Pompey, and Cicero’s thaw with Caesar, indicative of good things to come, was unfortunately interrupted by assassination). Seneca probably moderated Nero. Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Julian were philosophers in their own right. One has to wait the kings and emperors of the Franks to see many philosophical advisers, up to the prime minister level, and many times. They were all much more intelligent than Plato (in particular Buridan, the greatest mind you have never heard of, advised two French kings). In consequence of what, the Franks succeeded so far, where Athens failed spectacularly.