Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Open Letter to Politics Etc.

Dear World--or, I guess, more specifically, the US government and other political systems like it--please explain something to me. Explain to me why it is in humanity's best interest to support our most unhealthy habits at the expense of peace, intellectualism, and empathy. Explain to me why professions such as teaching and information services make astronomically less than professions such as professional athletics, corporate law, and I-banking. I fully admit to being ignorant of most things related to economics, capitalism, politics, and finance, but please explain to me why these three professions--one of mentally or physically abusing another human being for the sake of entertainment, one of helping rich people spend large amounts of money fighting one another, and one of playing with fake money--make so much in terms of salary when one in seven American households are not getting enough to eat.

I used to think that, much like what Jefferson said, there are some certain "truths" about being a human being that everyone can agree on, regardless of your upbringing or college major or career. The right to be happy through means that do not cause others pain or unhappiness. Shelter. Food. Good health. Not screwing other people over. Choice. But the more I see of the world, and the more people I interact with it, the more I fear that these basic truths and rights of humanity must, instead, be taught, and learned, and can all too easily be cast aside for other values.

With the recent U.S. debt talk, I'm already cringing in dread at the budget cuts that will be implemented. Want a bet that educational, reading, and library programs will continue to take hits to their budgets? And meanwhile the rich just keep getting richer. Professional athletes are still getting paid eight figures a year. Apple has more money than the US.

Please explain to me how decreasing funding for intellectual endeavors serves to benefit the world in the long term.

Sure, I'm a reader, and thus my opinion is biased. But I honestly do think that the world needs readers. Literacy is not just about opening a book and understanding characters and plots. It's about searching for answers within a vast array of data. It's about making new connections between old material. It's about reading between the lines. It's about critical thinking.

And somehow, despite all the propositions that the government has made, support for intellectualism--and thus support for progress (I know, I know, I go on about this all the time)--continues to fall by the wayside in favor of supporting mindless consumerism and short-term satisfaction. I don't intend for this to be a "back in the good ole days" rant, but in light of the boundless advances we have made in technology and the like, I admit to being quite surprised and disappointed by the simultaneous lack of progress that society and humankind have undergone.

I have long since believed that influence should be based on merit and not merely on ambition. I just don't know how to implement this change in the world. Who knows what the world could have been like--could still could be like--if we artsy, intellectual, bleeding-heart types call the shots?

I feel a little guilty that most artsy, intellectual, bleeding-heart types would so rather not play the stupid political games that occur in the government or corporate world. We're the ones with the good ideas and (necessarily) dramatic suggestions for improvement, but there's a reason, I guess, that politicians and CEOs are at the top of our societal hegemony food chain. However, despite the power of societal influences, maybe if we remember that we, as individuals, are the ones who shaped society in the first place, and if we all rose up and really demanded societal reform with every fiber of our will and resources, then maybe society can change for the betterment of all. Maybe leaders, then, would be chosen by the example they provide and not merely by their title.

So then what can and should we artsy, intellectual, bleeding-heart types do? The self- and socially-appointed bigwigs won't take us seriously. Our resources are being cut by the day. Our souls are being consumed by the corporation demon. One day we'll go to bed and realize that our daily routine has been reduced to working a white- or blue-collar 9-to-5, coming home, eating a silent dinner with the family, and zoning out in front of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila until our minds have been zapped enough for us to be okay with falling asleep having accomplished exactly the same things that we have done for the past 20 years of our lives. How will we ever escape this downward spiral?

Guess we'll just continue to write earth-shattering, heart-wringing, life-changing books.


  1. Without getting into a huge debate, these are my thoughts.

    The United States is on the brink of a very significant crisis that is directly related to its inability to live within its means. It is absolutely unsustainable to bring in roughly 2 trillion dollars per year and spend over 3 trillion. The looming downgrade of our AAA bond rating is not related to the raising of the debt ceiling, but rather to the fact that Washington is out of control.

    Unless the United States can agree on an immediate, structured plan to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, this problem will not go away. This can not be obtained by raising taxes alone. Even if we taxed the richest Americans at 100% of their income, we would not come close to balancing this budget.

    I personally believe that spending cuts need to be the first thing on the table. We need to take a hard look at redundant programs and wasteful spending. Next on the table should be serious reform of entitlement programs. We should end our presence in Afghanistan, Libya, and withdraw troops from South Korea, Germany, and Japan and everywhere else that they still are throughout the world.

    So, that's my two cents. Once those things have happened, and the economy is on a real path to recovery, then let's talk about increasing revenue. Until then, I don't trust that any additional money that is brought in will be spent wisely.

  2. Dear Steph,


    That is all.

  3. This is why I find politics so baffling and depressing. Thanks for this post though as it expresses many of my own frustrations with the way things are now.

    And thank you for this gorgeous, wonderful line: Guess we'll just continue to write earth-shattering, heart-wringing, life-changing books.

  4. become a teacher! Then you can make life challenging, intellectual, and artsy for you and a bunch of little readers all day long!

  5. I think these exact thoughts all the time. Seriously, cutting education is a terrible thing.
    And I agree that it is the intellectual, artsy types that truly shape the world. It is because of their imagination and dreams that we are where we are now.

    I've considered becoming a teacher because I am appalled by the local school system. The stuff these kids fail to learn is depressing.

    Also, the No Child Left Behind Act may have been the worst idea ever. Sure, it sounded great at the time, but dumbing down the educational system just so everyone can pass is not a good way to teach or, learn for that matter. Instead of giving everyone a chance, you end up with all these kids who aren't being challenged enough. They end up dropping out because they've failed to be challenged or have failed to actually learn anything.


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