Americans Do Not Want Change

Published on, by James Rothenberg, 25 June, 2008.

People simultaneously desire and fear change. This is not a contradiction. The human personality is complex enough to exhibit many complementary tendencies. Public opinion polls seem to reveal that change is desired over a broad range of domestic and foreign policies. That this is the case gives hint to an asymmetry in our political system.

There is an adversarial relationship between the general public and the politicians who represent it. The public thinks of itself, legitimately and rightly, as number one. For politicians number one is re-election. This is an inescapable conclusion in an electoral system that permits of greater than a single term. (Multiple and indefinite-term judges contribute to asymmetries in the judicial system. We don’t allow professional jurors)

… If we invaded to establish a permanent military presence to gain control over Iraq’s, and by extension the region’s, enormous oil resources, then the answer should be in the “well” spectrum. The war planners knew the takeover would be easy, but not without some aggravation. They underestimated the aggravation (total lives lost, Abu Ghraib torture images, Walter Reed ‘Home of Warrior Care’ flak, etc.), but it hasn’t jeopardized their mission.

But do we really want change? Change in the real America, not the America of myth and hymn. Are we ready to see ourselves as an aggressor nation (roughly 200 US military and clandestine operations in foreign countries in the past two centuries, excluding WW1 and WW2 – Global Policy Forum), a nation that sides with the rich against the poor, that slights the weak in favor of the strong. For over a quarter century, since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households (CIA World Factbook).

To see real change we must begin to think critically of our government, our institutions, our social policy, our foreign policy, and our economic policy. It’s not all bad and much of it is very good, but we must acknowledge the difference. Above all, “tell the children the truth” (Bob Marley, Babylon System). That all governments lie and that all advertisers lie and that governments and advertisers are in the same business and the name of that business is control. And that the greatest tool a child can have for understanding the world is skeptical thought.

Great change relies on questioning some of our fundamental assumptions. It’s a look in the mirror, always tough. There’s a handy way to glimpse the odds on dramatic change occurring in our current electoral system. Percentage wise it is at the low end of the “unsure” figure given above, probably best thought of as “greater than zero”.

Which of these two “greater than zero” chances for dramatic change has the higher probability of success? Electing a Ralph Nader? Or convincing a critical number of Americans to return blank ballots as a signal that they are living under a government that has made voting meaningless? (full text).

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