1. The Tragedy of the Commons :  Bush and his corporate cronies are exploiting the fact that only a few underfunded social and environmental groups care enough and know enough to try to block Bush’s all-out assault on the environment and on public property and public institutions. This is at once the most dangerous aspect of Bush’s ideological extremism, the one hardest to undo and the one getting the least attention. Its sheer scale and underhandedness are unprecedented in the history of humanity.
  2. Underemployment: Nothing contributes more to the feeling of uselessness and helplessness of human beings than knowing they’re doing a job far below what they are capable of, qualified for, and interested in doing. It’s soul-destroying.
  3. Poor Education *: The public failure that makes the dumbing-down, alienation, disenfranchisement and consumerization of whole nations of citizens possible. The disgrace of the Western world.
  4. Dishonesty, and Ends Justifying Means : Governments (notably the Bush administration), corporations (like Nike) , and now even pressure groups (from the NRA to PETA) cynically distort and disregard facts, prey on public fears and hatreds, and outright lie to people, to exploit prejudice, ignorance and emotion, to achieve their ends dishonestly. What does all this lying say about our society?
  5. Economic Disparity & Rich/Poor Segregation: The poor in Western society have not participated at all in the economic booms over the past three decades, and have become steadily poorer, especially single-parent families run by women. And even the domestic poor are completely invisible to the rich, who take private transport everywhere, send their children from their exclusive neighbourhood homes to their private schools, and get cared for at private medical facilities. How can we expect the power elite in our society to realize the desperate situation of the poor, and of public institutions, when they never see them?
  6. Our Separation from Nature: And how can we expect people who spend their entire lives in cities and indoors to appreciate the incredible beauty, ecological and spiritual importance and fragility of the natural world, and how much it is threatened with extinction, when they never see it? Nature is something most of us just see on National Geographic.
  7. The Endless Tide of Violence: Buried inside the walls of abusive homes, factory farms, prisons, workplaces, schools, laboratories and institutions, and overtly displayed in inner city streets and throw-away third world countries, an endless litany of violence, physical and psychological, personal and institutional, plays out millions of times per minute as the miserable signature of humanity. Instead of addressing the causes, we chalk it up to the devil’s handiwork and escalate the violence with incarceration, victimization, retribution and pre-emptive aggression. 
  8. The Hardening and Disengagement of Our Hearts: We read fewer newspapers each year, and we change the channel when we see things that show us too clearly just how desperately we need to fix the problems that threaten to overwhelm us all. We turn away. We don’t want to know. We don’t even see the homeless people we step over and drive by, and if we do, we convince ourselves it’s their fault, it someone else’s responsibility, there’s nothing we can do. We become emotionally detached from everyone, everything outside our private circle, and sometimes even from them. Reality has become unbearable.
  9. The Ridiculing of the Disadvantaged: In reality TV, in modern situation comedies, in our coarse jokes, we are increasingly asked to laugh at people because they’re stupid, or ignorant, or uneducated, or untalented or inarticulate. What’s so funny about this? Is it meant to make us feel superior?  It’s mean humour, and it desensitizes us.
  10. The Legacy We Leave Our Children and our World: Regarding the nine things above: How do we dare hope our children will be able to cope with what we’re leaving them, with what we’ve given them to cope with? They have every right to hate us for what we’ve done. What we’ve done is unforgivable.

* Permalink broken — scroll down to May 29 for the article in question.

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  1. Camilo says:

    It seems that this country is in the brink of some seriously needed changes – from environment to education to a fairer representation system.Somehow the democratic voice was lost amid the glitter and fanfare of presidential shows and fake wars.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Yes. And although it’s easy to single out America, most of these issues are global in scope.

  3. mrG says:

    In “City of God”, St. Augustine remarks on how the very depths of the decay of Rome, like the rotten compost that it is, is the fertile bed for positive actions of equal or even superior calibre. Bucky Fuller similarly was fond of illustrating the “precessional” effects of what seems to be evil and foreboding, remarking how, just as the snake moves forward by the push-pull side-to-side and seemingly counterproductive motion, and yet, I’ve tried to catch a snake, and it’s not so easy. For a real world example, Bucky held out how, despite the fiercest draconian efforts of the worst despots in the history of mankind, the 20th century achieved amazing inroads in medicine, in literacy and in global wealth such that, while it is true there are hopelessly poverty stricken illiterate masses in Bombay fighting over bits of pavement, a remarkable number of them have eyeglasses and have received innoculations.Bucky was also fond of pointing out how mankind tends to only make dramatic moves due to catastrophic adversity; this was his excuse for us not altering our course back in 1980 when he felt we had only until 1999 to turn Spaceship Earth around. We didn’t, yet we didn’t all perish either. The precessional effects were enough to sustain us to this point today where no where near enough of us (considering the huge wealth that’s there to share) but a surprising and illogically high percentage of us now do truly enjoy a higher standard of living and a longer life expectancy than almost all of the richest kings of antiquity (measured not in gold, but in “energy slaves” and health).I’m no stranger to depression and sleeplessness, and as one of those who’s been without a significant paycheque for well over a year, I don’t deny this list of 10, but I also know that any such list must of necessity be a tunnelvision, a selective view taking only that data that supports the proposition — teaching my children about media, I hold my hands thumbtip to forefinger-tip like a Hollywood director and say, “that’s cinema” and then stretch my arms out as far as they will take that frame and I say, “That’s television” — if you shift the camera angle only a few degrees, the world can become a completely different place.

  4. Vivion says:

    Dave,I know you live in Canada — and I would be extremely interested to hear how you perceive the cultural differences between Canada and the US with respect to why it seems that Canada has so much more of a communitarian set of shared social values. I grew up in Canada, myself, and — especially after 9/11 — have felt myself more and more like a fish out of water as an American. In Canada, my views on healthcare, education, and taking care of the less fortunate are much more normative. Here, I am considered radical. So, as much as you say these problems are international, the fact remains that some societies are much more open to constructive efforts at social change, and others…are much more reactionary. Any thoughts on this one?

  5. Charly Z says:

    May I suggest instead of the “scroll down to May 29” notice you provide a link to the entry itself? By tomorrow, May 29 will roll out of your front page. And it’ll help find it for anyone who gets to your June 12 archive page.

  6. Dave Pollard says:

    Charly: It’s not my May 29 entry I’m referring to here, it’s the May 29 entry of Skyedreams, whose article on poor education I link to in point 5 (Skyedreams’ permalinks are broken).

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Gary: I’m a Bucky fan, as you know, and sometimes I find his optimism refreshing and uplifting, but I also question whether we’re really all that better off today than in centuries and (especially) millennia past. I believe our yardsticks are badly warped, and by the most important one — suffering — I would argue the world is worse off now than ever before. What value inoculations if they only prolong a life of uninterrupted and extreme misery?

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Vivion: That’s a tough one. To answer it I’d have to understand the mentality of laissez-faire capitalists, which I don’t. The closest I can come is to say that while Americans are proud of wealth and embarrasaed by poverty, Canadians tend to be embarrassed by wealth and enraged by poverty. I think many Americans have the puritan idea that only by pulling himself out of a hole can a man appreciate success, and that a ‘helping hand’ merely perpetuates the ‘helpee’s dependence and helplessness. It’s a conservative, people-are-inherently-lazy negative worldview of human nature. By contrast, I think many Canadians believe that wealth is a privilege, often due to an accident of birth or good fortune, and that we owe it to the less ‘fortunate’ (in the true sense of that word) to help them out. It’s a liberal, people-are-inherently-good positive worldview of human nature. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but having just come back from a trip to the US during which I debated this with my US colleagues at length, I think it has some validity. That’s the best explanation I can offer.

  9. Wow. OK, this time you’ve succeeded in depressing ME. I comfort myself with the knowledge that it all seemed this bad back when Reagan was President, with the added bonus of the (then very real) possibility of nuclear annihilation added into the mix. We survived that (and prospered). We may well survive this.My real regret, and the thing that keeps me up at night, is the death of the cherished illusion of progress. All the problems you list have easy solutions if only there were the commitment to fix them. Instead, we wallow in ignorance and fear at the possibility of actually saving ourselves.

  10. Rob Paterson says:

    I have been increasingly depressd recently. My basic world view is optimism. But I am seeing the decay that Dave has spoken about all around me. We all are BUT What is depressing me more , is that I see most people hanging on even harder to this world.There is a moment in Man’s Search for Meaning when the guards of the camp have left and the gates are open and the people are afriad to,leave. The Camp is all they know and with no home to return to and no family or landmark, they fear to leave the camp more than to find freedom.I feel that I am living on the edge of some cataclysm like a Chekov character who cannot foretell the agony of the upcoming revolution but talks about a better life to come

  11. mrG says:

    re: innoculations, I don’t know, you’d have to ask the mothers who line up in droves at the WHO booths to give this chance to their children.It is said that in one incarnation, Buddha, during a vicious and prolonged drought, gave himself as a meal to a tigress so his body nutrients could nourish her cubs. Clearly the body of one small man would last these cubs only a few days, but that’s a few more days than they had.There is one constant in human history: Times change. The first one now will later be last. The thing is, change does not just happen, it happens when we change and carry the times with us.As a fan of Bucky, you probably know the story of the Club of Rome conference where Bucky was told to speak for only 15 minutes, and Bucky agreed. The CoR gave their doom and gloom synopsis, Bucky took the stand and spoke of the future of mankind; after 90 minutes, his road manager asked the conference chair if he should stop him. “No,” the chair replied, “He’s wonderful.”St.Augustine, Bucky, Nostradamus, Bob Marley, all of them carry a common message: The horrors are a portent of good news because they show the world unfolding as predicted, and their same predictions, whether spiritual (ie cultural knowledge the author cannot or will not explain) or reasoned (simulations and trend projections) tell us we’re getting very close to a much better world.The thing is to look at where we stand. If you stood for Rome in St.Augustine’s time, yes, you were headed for misery and humiliation; the years ahead would bring plague and suffering that claimed 2/3rds the population of Europe, but as we know now, the lineage of the modern world traces from the peoples of anti-Rome, from their non-violent successors.Faith as just that works, but scientifically, Faith means, “Going according to the laws of the Universe” and that sort of faith let us hit Neptune with a space probe from earth. Whether faith is based on Judeo-christianisms,on Astrology or Synergetics, it’s still a good indicator of what side of the road to stand on.Augustine and the Kaballists (Augustine was a Manichean prior to conversion) both illustrate how the “City” is not real-estate, but a place in the mind, or more exactly, the nation comprised of those people who’s mind is in that same place. Thus could Zion co-exist with the Phillistines, thus could the New Jerusulem co-exist with Rome and thus now does the Synergetic world co-exist with Enron/Bush; just as David Isenberg said of the telcos who have paralized my own industry with their death-throes greed, “Let them burn themselfs out” — in Revelations, the Lamb does not defeat Babylon, Babylon defeats itself like a confused scorpion. Sure it’s ugly to watch, like the wasp larvae that burrow into the live catepiller and challenged Darwin’s faith, but it’s the world unfolding as it should, it’s the way it’s supposed to go, and it happens all the time, from when we mammals had to watch the dinosaurs writhe and decay, right up to the impeachment of presidents.

  12. Charly Z says:

    Gotcha, Dave. Maybe you should have put that note beside the link to Skyedreams; moving it to a footnote made the relation not obvious to me.

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Rob S: Exactly right. In the late 60s, even with Nixon, we had this feeling that we could change the world.Charly: You’re right, point taken, if I ever have to do thia again that’s how I’ll do it. So what did you think of Skyedreams’ post on education?Rob P: Your moment when the gates are open and the prisoners are afraid to leave is really chilling, and exactly on point. We believe our culture is the only one, after a mere 30,000 years, and it will take something as overwhelming as imminent global famine to move us out.Gary: I’ve been reading a ‘predictive’ book about where our species is headed. It’s called Extinctions and it is highly scientific. Not only does it say we’re heading to inevitable extinction as a species (taking with us just about everything except the insects and the birds), it says that even if we move dramatically to deal with the problems, we’ll only delay the extinction by a few thousand years, and make life somewhat less miserable until then. Not the kind of thing that makes for inspiring speeches from the pulpit or dias.

  14. Charly Z says:

    Uh… I’ll have to get back to you on that one when I read it, Dave.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Will you marry me? (I hope you’re not already.) My method of dealing with the world, once I got beyond my idealistic energetic college-years, has been to do the best I can on a scale I can manage – acknowledge the homeless person asking me for change, smile at the tired woman across the aisle on the subway, grow vegetables and flowers and be conscious of what I take from the world (resource consumption). I’m never going to be a prominent person in history making large changes, but I’d like to be like the butterfly flapping it’s wings – the soft ruffle is imperceptible but still has an impact.

  16. Muneeb Ahmed says:

    Very true but there are far more worse things than criticizing a good active system. Atleast there is a system and a forum where people can express themselves. Or atleast cry their hearts out. I on the other hand is sitting on the otherside of the picture.

  17. Muneeb Ahmed says:

    In addition to my previous comment, i do understand that we are better than many which is the case with almost everybody, but i am not frustrated only at the resources but the regulators of this system. You are criticizing BUSH which he is ‘probably’ going to read and try to improve but here, our rulers have their own say and do whatever they want to do. I pray & wish that we will give out our Government on lease to some good managment company who atleast will regulate some very basic functions like Social Security and Judicial System. We have bigger threats(our police) than robbers and Looters. Cause those guys hide as they know that they are going to get caught but Police harass us everyday. Yet not all people are bad. But that 1% does not make any difference.

  18. yogin says:

    I still believe we evolved to primarily be an agrarian society – and all this material development that has especially accelerated in the last 120 years is going nowhere. Personally, I chuckle as people “think” they have more luxury & comfort, when the reality is that both the physical as well as the mental/emotional self are under attack & are violated due to lifestyles far removed from the natural ground (so I think the term “lifestyle diseases” is well served :-)I liked some of your points – while I would swap others like employment, crime, dishonesty —for “overpopulation”. That is the root cause, I believe.I am in the midst of heading out – back to where I belong – organic farming.

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