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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/13/12

It's The Culture Stupid: Why We Are in the Mess We Are In

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People today are so obsessively tuned into all the electromagnetic waves permeating the atmosphere through their television sets, cell phones, blackberries, internets and video games that they have lost touch with reality.   Nature and social justice have vanished into a puff of apathy, indifference and distraction as we trash the earth and each other.

Torture, drones, wars of aggression, denial of basic civil and legal rights and environmental devastation have not evoked a proportional response of moral outrage or paroxysm of dissent in reaction to grievous violations of human rights which formed the basic principles on which the United States was founded.

At some point in the past, Americans could point their fingers at other countries that were guilty of torturing prisoners and support their government's actions to eradicate practices that violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Constitution.   But now, Americans are inured to "enhanced interrogation" by the many years of torture at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Prison, Abu Ghraib Prison and black sites all over the world.   Just consider the treatment of Bradley Manning and the indifference with which the public has regarded his abusive treatment at a military prison and the violation of his fundamental rights.

Targeted assassinations are a violation of international law and hold the potential to expand the use of force without actually defining such application of lethal tactics as an act of war.   Even more alarming are the signature targets in which the behaviour of an individual conforms to some preconceived pattern of behaviour of a terrorist according to civilians who were trained to operate predator drones and to select targets.   As if that weren't frightening enough, development of drones which decide according to a computer program whether or not an individual matches the behaviour patterns of terrorists is around the corner.   Drone warfare renders obsolete the concept of due process and the rule of law.

  Libya was a war of aggression as the U.S. and NATO blatantly and flagrantly exceeded the mandate of resolution 1973 by training the military leaders of the rebellion and the political leaders who sit on the NTC at the pleasure of their masters thousands of miles away.    Clearly, the overthrow of Gadhafi was the main objective.

  Propaganda leading up to a possible attack on Iran is flouting common sense and any notion of rationality as it repeats the same strategy invoked in the past to justify wars of aggression dating back to the early post-World War II period.   Iraq boggles every neuron in a rational person's brain since it took four different pretexts, each replacing a discredited previous one, before Bush could stand on thin ice and declare that a war on Iraq was necessary.

The American system is predicated on the rule of law which includes basic civil and legal rights such as the First and Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.     Nevertheless, protesters, terrorist suspects often secured through the use of payments, or any American whose behaviour seems suspect according to some law enforcement agency can be denied all the rights assumed as a given since the passage of the constitution.   Such wanton disregard of the basic rights of these individuals threatens all Americans but the volume of protest is inaudible.

Then there is the environment.   The all-pervasive desperate search for new reserves of oil and the use of force to secure known reserves reveals the profound lack of understanding of the scale and criticality of the global warming crises.   According to a consensus of scientists, there is a point at which climate change will become self-sustaining and beyond the control of even our brightest scientists.   Deforestation and destruction of the oceans, biodiversity and toxic pollution are leading us to the sixth extinction on the planet.

To explain all these disasters, it is necessary to understand the alterations to the culture in which we live.    People do not spend very much time appreciating the wonders of nature.   Shopping is far more accommodating to the multi-tasking attention deficit people who walk around with blackberries monitoring twitter to discover the latest trivial, mundane and banal daily antics of their favorite celebrities.    Messaging and cell phones occupy a large proportion of people's time as the engage in dehumanizing and depersonalized dialogue with their friends and family.

Today, violence has permeated our culture in a myriad ways.   Ultimate fighting was once banned because it was too violent but is now a very popular "sport".    Sports have degenerated into barbaric rituals of violence and blood lust evoking the most primitive emotions of fans who anticipate that their interest in a sport will be vastly enhanced by a brutal hit.

Vivid and gory scenes of violence in video games or movies are guaranteed to enhance their popularity.

Our culture removes us from each other and nature and empathy, social justice and a sense of our belonging to nature has suffered.    Today's culture seems to bring out the worst in us as human beings.  

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David Model Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I have been a professor of political science at Seneca College in Toronto. I have published five books the last of which "Selling Out: Consuming Ourselves to Death" was released in May/08. As well, I have been featured in CounterPunch, Z (more...)
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