Speaking with someone the other day about Orwell's quest to understand England through living like a proletariat make me realize that cultures can only be acutely seen from the ground up. What this means is that one can only truly see the raw machinery of a culture when they don't accept entitlements, succumb to the addiction of prestige, or engulf themselves in distracting materials, because all these things come wrapped in shiny politics that hide the true nature of the culture's values and identity. Thus, why Orwell put himself in depraved places like Spikes. (You can search this site for the post on what Spikes are).
Orwell says if England were to thrive it needed to fall somewhere between Russian authoritarianism and American materialism. Has much has changed about America since then? I'd say that due to our technological advancements and the more prolific ways our personal technology separates us from true human interaction, we're becoming more narcissistic, materialistic/comfort-driven, and entitled. Our domestic technology isn't designed aid our survival, but to serve our personal wants and perceived needs. Because let's be honest, how we've come to define need is merely one step removed from both social prestige and entertainment.
America claims a number of things: "The melting pot," a "free-market economy/capitalism," "democracy," and "free speech/ freedom of religion."
Let's start with the melting pot ideal. How is this artificial? Because the ingredients within the melting pot are different nationalities and races, whom each apparently have different heritages and inclinations. This is materialistic because it prioritizes physical reality over principled reality. I know the intentions behind the melting pot theory were innocent, however starting a flawed task innocently doesn't automatically make the product real or even beneficial for humans or non-humans. (Another argument against religion, possibly?...) We still put race-origin on the census despite the human population being too vast for races to have been maintained as pure. So there's a little black, white, european, african, etc. in pretty much everybody, just in varying proportions based on ancestral habitation. In a nutshell, race was created with power in mind, not equality, or even practicality.
The free-market economy has been encroached upon more and more by federal intervention. Speaking with a government financial analyst awhile ago, he informed me that somewhere on Wednesday do you actually start reaping the benefit of your workweek, and that the previous 2 or so days go toward taxes. I didn't believe him, until he broke it down: there's much more than just the taxes on your paycheck, there's tax on fuel, tax on your groceries, tax on your clothing, and more. Even the beer I served him had tax added to it. He challenged me to think of some money-exchange activity that didn't levy a tax, then asked me how many money-exchanging activities I did throughout the week and month. I stood silent for a few moments. Ever heard of the lemonade stand controversy over whether children's earnings should be taxed? There is a balance between charging a tax so the larger system can build and maintain structures that benefit everyone (traffic lights, roads, etc.), and not charging a tax to allow the market to operate freely. Even Obamacare is a tax no matter what way you look at it, because it defers the cost of the under-producers onto the actual producers. The fluidity of the market is perpetuated by experimentation, risk, and hard work, not by federal government intervention. I am not surprised that workaholics make more money than couchaholics.
Democracy? We're not that, either. Plutocracy, or a government by the wealthy, fits our bill. Since we're Capitalistic--despite our progressing Socialism--we indeed encourage and reward wealth. Sadly, we're starting to reward and therefore encourage (via enabling) poverty as well with systems like Obamacare. Still, wealth controls education through "gifts", the media through advertising, the entertainment industry through sensory overload, sports through huge contracts and endorsements, and even affects our sexual prospects.
Free speech and religion are figurehead values because they only exist as unobtainable "noble" ideals. You can't run into a theater and yell "Fire," right? No one's removing all references to "God" in public policy, right? So these things are inherently flawed, but also ultimately flawed in modern civilization because neither of them could exist without chucking this civilization as a whole.
Looking at these factors may make America look mortally wounded, capable of passing nothing but narcissistic disease onto he next generation. However, people like Orwell show us that looking at our current state of affairs from a gritty, in-the-gutter, ground up approach will help put the power back in our hands. We can debate all the different places that now have it, but that's not as important. What is important is to get back to understanding how we have the power to choose our values and not just respond to them, and have the power to observe what's going on around us and not just fall for whatever distractions we're presented with. Orwell predicted the future of England because he saw her ugly machinery, and only then could he suggest certain solves. We can do the same.
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