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The Ultimate Villain in America's Failed Democracy by Bill Honer

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  The Ultimate Villain in Our Failed Democracy

Bill Honer

 


Bill Honer is the former host of the California Cable television program .Social Issues.
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One may wish to point to the Executive Branch or Congress for what former President Jimmy Carter calls our currently nonfunctioning democracy, but the ultimate villain is the rugged individualism, anti-intellectualism and racism among generations of the American people.

 

Sociological studies, such as the work of Geert Hofstede, reveal that the United States is perhaps the most individualistic nation on earth. The Sociologist Kluegel conducted surveys for years asking the American people the reasons for poverty; the majority responded that poverty was due to the personal and moral deficiencies of the poor. The most casual observer should know that America is not a nation given to mutual support. These attitudes render it difficult for Americans to experience what Todd Gitlin has referred to as "common dreams".  

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Paul Nevins observed that American anti-intellectualism is related to a deep-seated skepticism of "book learning" and education, arguing that the philosophy of John Locke's espousing common sense has played a role in Americans devaluing knowledge.  Conservatives often speak harshly of "elites." This anti-intellectualism results in a reluctance to take seriously the role of being a responsible citizen of American democracy. 

 

Racism, whether overt or hidden, continues to plague American Society.  Whether one looks at income, health, the criminal justice system or almost any aspect of American life, disparities exist. While I could include statistics to support this point, the truth of this should be evident to any honest observer.  Racism is another barrier to unity among the American people.

 

These characteristics of American society increase the level of social and political disengagement and make it difficult to find common ground for solutions to a better quality of life.  The French and Spanish experience of millions of their citizens taking to the streets in peaceful protest over key issues does not occur in the United States. July 20th was promoted as a day to remember the need for justice for Travon Martin. The trial of George Zimmerman captivated the nation with tens of millions of people either supporting or rejecting a "not guilty" verdict. Yet the protests throughout the nation drew only hundreds of persons, despite the fact that the metropolitan areas of our larger cities such as Los Angeles and New York have populations in excess of 15 million.  

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Someone asked me what it would take for the American people to act. My answer was if the government confiscated i Pads or tablets, people might take their protest to the streets.  As liberals, we constitute roughly 17% of the population, according to the Pew Research Center. Our views are clearly in the minority; we have only the knowledge   of being the most educated group. It is not much consolation. Have we seen millions of people taking to the streets to protest a renewal of the government's massive meta-data collection? We have not.

 

I am in agreement with the position of Lewis Lapham and Walter Karp who view the permanent government as a secular oligarchy composed of lobbyists, the military, civil-service, large universities, Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and the media that run the country. The provisional government of Congress and the Presidency is where the morality play unfolds for the nation, but the major decisions are made by the permanent government, including who will be vetted as Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to represent the two wings of our one political party. The social and political disengagement of Americans hardly makes the task of the permanent government more difficult.

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Bill Honer has served as a Consultant to the California State Department of Education and the Office of the Hawaii Attorney General, along with non-profit agencies in Hawaii, California, and Costa Rica. In addition to writing comprehensive business (more...)
 

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