I wonder if other countries are like America. If they embody the same essence, if the same underlying culture oozes from its pores, from the tallest condos and shopping malls to the humblest ghettoes. I hear about some of those countries from people who’ve traveled, and they all say great things about the beauty and economic prosperity and freedom of Germany and Switzerland, and of the natural beauty of Indonesia. When I hear of Korean or Taiwanese people (to use a common example) say how they had dreamed of coming to America, “the land of the free” and the place where opportunity abounds “for all”, I pause and inwardly question why. Why would they want to see America and live in America now, unless all they wanted to do is see the scarlet golden gate bridge, dirty Hollywood, or crowed Times Square for a couple of weeks? I know there is a prodigious classical music scene here. Perhaps that is why. If they are unaware of the problems that we live with, then America is indeed, on the surface, one of the most beautiful and prosperous places on earth.
Now, the problems are many, but I will only shed light on one that plaques my mind, a mainstream problem with many tributaries branching off of this one. I’ll admit I am quite hazy on the goings-on in American politics; I haven’t read a newspaper in weeks, and barely watch any T.V. I’m only peripherally aware of what is happening in Trump’s Oval Office.
What I will discuss in the following paragraphs is on a deeply personally and deeply biased level. It goes deeper into the psyche of America’s collective mind. Most of all, it is biased because perhaps I’ve just been unlucky with people.
There is an unwritten, unspoken agreement, a code by which many of us unwillingly or willingly follow, subconsciously. It is the code marshaled by our culture, driven by our fetishization of the superficial and our fear of the unknown. This code must be destroyed if, collectively, America is to find love at its purest again, if she ever found it at all.
Why must we leave so early? Why are our instincts shoved away so violently?
I want to know this: if someone likes you – let’s give that someone a title: X, and a gender, her) – and they say so multiple times, and then suddenly they permanently stop talking to you, what drove this person to walk away from you? You have certain ideas, but they only confuse you more. You can’t ask, because she won’t talk to you. To your knowledge, you did nothing to hurt her, said nothing that upset her. It could be literally anything. Perhaps your complex demons scared her off? Something benign to you could have offended her? The answer is unknown – cause enough to be afraid of life from then on out. But we can’t be afraid, not if life is to be given its due credit and respect again.
Time is not a funny thing. What could be more serious than the most consistent force of the universe? It waits for no one. What is funny what people do with father time. How people compress or elongate it, how they shape it to their need with their will.
In our globalizing economy, we have in place the flexible model of hiring employees in corporations. Big businesses have the power to hire and fire any of their blue-collar labor employees with no strings attached.Has this fluidity affected our collective psyches too?We think, because our jobs are not guaranteed, that nothing is guaranteed. Consequently, everything we do or say is distracted, fragmented and compressed.
There is power in staying put.
Many people have suffered because of the death of staying power. And altruism has suffered because of this death.
Temporality has enslaved America because we allow ourselves to be governed by the systems of power in place, by our weaknesses and fears, not our love, and we don’t crave knowledge as a society anymore; we only crave information and immediate pleasure. (Information = immediate knowledge)
They say the essence of fear is “not knowing”. we fear the dark because our eyes can’t see. How can you overcome fear if you never stayed put in one place for longer than a hot minute? because if you don’t, you’ll never know what you just missed, and thus, you will grow to fear what you just witnessed. It is like reading a book halfway or watching a movie a quarter of the way. You won’t understand it then. Or, like meeting some person at the cafe, and you get her number. You will never grow to trust this person if you only hang out with her one time.
In order to combat collective fear, I propose slowing down, stopping when the wind blows on a hot summer’s day to feel the coolness of the breeze, and stopping to pet someone’s cute little dog on the sidewalk, then saying hi and how cute that person’s dog is. To look up and around every once in a while. Steve Jobs did a fantastic job in achieving our enslavement. Let us, since he is now dead, bring back our joy and alleviate and prevent our chronic neck pain!
Breath will come back if we do this. I would sure love if I did this. I am guilty of this as well. I am not strong enough, not compassionate enough, to defy an entire nation. I’m not Muhammed Ali, nor am I Malcolm X, or Rosa Parks, or Desmond Tutu. I understand though, that if I care deeply for this, I can do my part. It is a subtle problem, subtler than the overt racism of the civil rights movement or the Apartheid struggle, but nonetheless real, if subjective. I will also not deny the existence of a future hero to emerge. This is a big country and a bigger world. However, as we sink deeper and deeper into our own heads, our enslavement will be hard to shake off, as we slip farther into the quicksand of darkness and fear – and what is darkness and fear? Distrust. We must learn to trust again. From compassion comes trust, comes love, comes civilization.