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May 26 2013

Losing civic pride

I like to have pride in the university for which I work. What that means is that I want the institution to look good and so do my best to achieve that by advocating and implementing policies that I believe advance the mission of providing a good education to students, being a good institutional citizen of the city in which it is based, and that treats its employees well. Although the university is by no means perfect, it is clear that enough people who work here share that view and so we are constantly striving to improve it. We are not trying to get the biggest salary in return for the least amount of work..

I also feel proud of the local community I live in. I support taxes and levies that will keep the schools in good shape, provide good services, and make it a pleasant place to live. It is clear that enough citizens share that view that we consistently choose to invest in its efforts to improve. We feel a sense of pride in living here and want to make it even better.

But that sense of civic pride seems to stop there. One of the things that most concerns me about the US is that at the state and national level, people seem to be losing real pride in their country. The pride they do have is the phony kind that consists of loud, repeated, but empty assertions that the US is the greatest country, it has the greatest, bravest, most resilient and moral people, that its soldiers are the best, and so on.

But real pride is of the civic kind, when people are proud of their schools, of the quality of the services their government provides, have concern for the concern for the well-being of their fellow-citizens, and so on, and when they feel enough of a collective obligation to achieve that so as to be willing to contribute to the building of the social and economic infrastructure that makes them feel pride in real accomplishment instead of empty rhetoric.

I simply don’t see that anymore, at least not enough. People, especially those oligarchs who run the country and those who have been suckered into thinking that these people are worth emulating, seem to be quite complacent about the air and the water being trashed, the schools decaying, aid to poor people being cut, declining health services, crumbling infrastructure, etc. Public investment for the common good seems to be an abhorrent idea. All they seem to care about is make as much money as they can and keep as money as they can without feeling any sense of obligation to others.

Mattea Kramer and Jo Comerford look forward at the year 2023, ten years after this year’s sequestration cuts took place, and see America as having become a third world country. But that process began well before the sequestration. The problem is that too many Americans know almost nothing about other countries and hence they have nothing to compare with to see America’s slow decay. They are like frogs in a well, not knowing or caring that the water level is steadily sinking. Like Easter Island and all the earlier cultures that went extinct, they are blind to the effects of slow deterioration and don’t care enough to find out, let alone do something to stop it.

Of course, this is an exaggeration. There are many people who do care about the really important things. But on days that I feel glum, I feel outnumbered by the phony boosters.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin

    Sadly, I agree with you.

    I have said this many times before — I like paying taxes. I like that my money goes to pay for bridges that don’t fall down and an educational system that actually teaches kids the monumentally fascinating stuff that’s all around us. I like that we live in a country that was created with a mind to protecting the rights of the minority while serving the majority interests for the betterment of the entire nation.

    We’ve lost our way. And it’s this anti-tax “I got mine, and I’m too selfish to help others” mindset that’s to blame.

    I think the Tea Party people are traitors. Straight up.

  2. 2
    smrnda

    I think the view on civic responsibility might be best summed up by a beat-up pickup truck I saw. On its rusted bumper was a bumper sticker reading “your fair share is not in my pocket.”

    Most people aren’t wealthy, and when you see people who are likely poor resenting the idea of a welfare state that would actually deliver benefits to them, you realize that people are too out of touch with reality and actual facts and information to have any informed opinions whatsoever. I’m sure when the guy in the pickup hears about ‘taxing the wealthy’ he imagines it’s a bunch of government thugs taking away his cash and giving it to apocryphal welfare queens. People chose myths over reality in areas other than the creation of life.

    Honestly, too many Americans are just stupid. Stupid, not ignorant. Ignorance is just a lack of knowledge which can be remedied with better information. Stupid is a state of immunity to information. You can show people all the facts you want, like how taxes are currently actually pretty low (they were higher under Eisenhower), and they’ll still come away convinced that taxes are ‘too high’ and need to be brought down like in the good old days, even after you show them this.

  3. 3
    garnetstar

    I must agree also. And Mano is absolutely right about the cause, the increasing power of the oligarchy.

    I even have a personal anecdote. In the small Ohio town where I grew up (not far from Cleveland!), the public schools were excellent, because the lower middle-class people living there had never voted down a school levy. Not once, in the sixty years since the town had been founded. Everyone was proud of our National Merit scholars and our Academic Challenge team.

    Then came the era of outsourcing for increased corporate profits, and people lost their jobs and houses, or had to move to distant states to find work. The town has never passed another school levy, not one. The schools are now useless, merely places to cage adolescents without them learning anything, even how to read. And that’s happening all over America.

    How the tea partiers can want to destroy the public education that was the pride of the US since the nation’s beginning (read de Tocqueville on how marvelous he found universal free education) is beyond me. What can the oligarchy gain from that? Why would they favor it?

  4. 4
    ollie

    I don’t think the US is really one country and a city really isn’t a single city. For example, in my city, few feel any kinship with the poor (and largely uneducated) living in the poorer neighborhoods and in the subsidized housing.

    Of course, I don’t think that we ever did; there were always “that part of town”; it was just that segregation was legally sanctioned in those days.

    As far as schools: in my state, schools are mostly paid for by property taxes. Hence those who can afford it leave to live in a nearby community where their taxes support their schools; the poor who can’t do so are the “other”, so to speak.

  5. 5
    left0ver1under

    I’d say one part traitors, and one part spoilt children. They’re too immature to understand the effects of what they are asking for.

    It’s like a five year old whining until he gets all the ice cream he wants, then getting sick and fat from eating too much, then later losing his teeth. But he still keeps eating until he’s malnourished and his entire system (or the economy and society) are in ruins.

  6. 6
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    What can the oligarchy gain from that? Why would they favor it?

    Wow…poor Karl must be in his grave a-spinnin’.

    The oligarchy favour the disinheritance of the middle and working class for simple reasons: the less education people have, the less likely they are to:

    - demand a decent wage
    - know what a decent wage looks like
    - demand reasonable benefits
    - know what reasonable benefits would mean
    - know how to do anything about it
    - have the critical thinking skills to analyze the “American Dream” and realize it’s a bullshit myth meant to keep the masses quiescent while their “betters” rob them blind
    - be able to recognize the damage we’re doing to our only home by allowing unfettered capitalism to place short-term profit over long-term survival

    And that’s just a taste. Honestly, there’s almost no reasons the oligarchy/plutocracy we now live in wouldn’t want an uneducated, uninterested, unengaged populace. It’s actually the precondition for their preferred (gated) world.

    I recommend two 300-page Marx treatises, followed by immediately lying down and pondering. Good luck.

  7. 7
    Donovan

    I agree, as well. Even as a veteran from a long line of veterans, officers and enlisted aplenty, I stopped celebrating the 4th of July years ago. I’m embarrassed to have served; I have no pride in my years wasted scaring the shit out of some poor Persian Gulf fishermen with our haze gray bully boat. It’s not that I don’t have the best wishes for the US, it just causes me physical discomfort to watch so many fake patriots claim to love their country while spewing the most hateful rhetoric on their fellow citizens.

    I hate taxes. I hated serving in the military. I hate my student loan interest rates. But I’d suffer all of it even more if it was helping my fellow Americans. Why I really hate all these is because I feel they only serve 1% of Americans and do injury to the rest. My taxes paid to send thousands of my fellow military members to their deaths killing an exponential amount more people from other nations in needless wars that only enriched the global elite.

  8. 8
    garnetstar

    Thanks, Caitie! But, your summary is so good that I don’t think I need to read the treatises. :)

    Don’t the oligarchs need, though, an at least marginally more educated work force these days? Even for the proletariat?

    But, the 1% doesn”t seem very farsighted, perhaps that has not occured to them. Romney’s praise of the slave labor he saw in his China factory fits right in with your analysis.

  9. 9
    smrnda

    They need some educated people, but they’d prefer that you go deep in the hole to get that education so you’ll be much more desperately in need of money when you enter the workforce. People graduating with lucrative degrees without debt are a threat to their attempt to degrade all types of jobs to the level of working fast food.

    I think the 1% effectively believe they own this planet, and everybody else is simply living by their indulgence. Note the vocabulary they use for themselves ‘job creators’ as if when we work, they’re just shoveling out free money and not that the work we do is what creates their wealth. It’s considered unacceptable to even suggest that rich people pursuing their own self-interest can be detrimental to others, or that it’s their right to do so regardless of the social consequences.

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