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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/28/13

The Distracted Nation

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Sam Amer
Message Sam Amer

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It is amazing to see how little attention the American people pay to matters of great importance to their immediate lives and future. Issues like the changing economic environment that is making most of them unemployable, the growing income inequality that is eliminating their potential for upward mobility and the wars and foreign policy initiatives that are decimating our nation's international political and economic standing. Polls show that of the developed nations of the world, the American people are the most distracted and the least informed or interested in world affairs. 

Americans are among the most duped and deluded people in the world - by our politicians, our economic system and our mainstream media. This state of distraction allows schemers and manipulators to exert undue influence on our attitudes and severely distort our present and future destiny. This is affecting the very nature of our political system and our basic freedoms. An aware and educated public is the essential ingredient of any real democracy.

Lately, the American public appears to be even more distracted than usual. The communications revolution, the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle have created a qualitatively different atmosphere from just 10-15 years ago. We are constantly bombarded with avalanches of information about peripheral issues that distract us from the art of living itself. Smartphones have removed any hope of respite from this information overload. Now, we can talk on the phone, watch movies and keep updated on our friends even while driving a car for example. 

Most of these distractions are not new, but have acquired increased vigor and intensity and ubiquity. It is eroding our ability to pay much attention to the problems that we must address as a nation. We have no time to think about more important matters like income inequality, greater investments in our infrastructure, a more balanced foreign policy and a more true representation in our government. Most Americans today care less about our national purpose, our commitment to equality and our basic democratic systems than they do about their Facebook updates. 

We are so distracted that we as society are ill prepared to address the problems we are facing in any serious or effective way. It is just like living permanently in a circus while your house is on fire.

We are living in a world dominated by fiction novels, outlandish movies and the unreal. The onslaught is so dominant that there is no room left for us to pay attention to real events affecting our lives. The Media is in effect supplanting religion as the opiate of the people. Of, course this may be adding to our cultural enrichment and widening our perspectives but to such an excessive extent as to be counterproductive. The relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf of corporations and the rich is everywhere. Compliant politicians, clueless entertainers and our vapid, celebrity-obsessed, corporate-funded popular culture, holds up the rich as leaders to emulate and assures us that through diligence and hard work we can join them. This keeps us from seeing the truth.

In America, the news is managed; not delivered. News organizations in the United States manipulate how the news is delivered, to serve their own purposes. First, they mean to keep your attention since that is how they make their money through advertising and similar venues. Second, and perhaps most important, they provide a platform to rich and powerful people for getting their issues on the political agenda and defining those issues in ways likely to influence their outcome. 

This is easily seen today: The same news item is seen dramatically differently if viewed through Fox News or through NBC news for example. Rather than reporting the news objectively, each news organization is serving up a particular point of view. This becomes clearer when the news item in question deals with a controversial issue. In dealing with The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for example, it is a complete failure if you listen to Fox News and it is a great success if you listen to NBC news. What is going on here? Is this democracy or manipulation? On some specific news items you see unanimity. When it comes to Israel, for example, it is always portrayed as a rare democracy in the Middle East that is constantly under attack. That is because the majority of owners and those in control of the major news organizations are Jewish and their interest in the welfare and security of Israel is supreme.

The average American has no idea how we are viewed around the world. He no concept of the size of our military, defense, and security spending--or its potential for tyranny. The truth is that we have been, and are, terrorizing the world. Most Americans do not realize the degree to which we have weapons in space, the extent of cyberwarfare, and the ongoing drone war. We are capable of destroying potential enemies several times over. The planet itself could be in jeopardy. We are in fact an empire. Most Americans deny it and cannot accept it because the concept of empire is foreign and negative to many distracted Americans.

On the economic front, we are encouraged to believe that socialism is bad. Unfettered capitalism is the only way. The reality is, we live in a world of capitalist-imperialism. It is an economic system and social order organized solely around profit. A tiny handful, the ruling capitalist-imperialist class, controls the vast wealth and means of producing wealth, not only in the United States, but also on the entire planet. We, the everyday Americans, have no say whatsoever in the matter.

On the foreign policy front, we are indoctrinated that we are being targeted and should be in constant fear and must go to war to protect our interests and ourselves. Washington has become more of a bully . A US bully says: Iran's out to get us. China is a big giant and would supplant us. North Korea is dangerous and can hit the west coast with nuclear weapons. Venezuela is a bunch of socialists and they're trying to destroy us. Al Qaida is everywhere and intent on doing us harm. Don't trust the Arabs and Moslems; they hate our way of life. We all saw Vietnam depicted as a monster in league with the Communist Chinese to take over the world. We were also told us that Iraq was going to get us using nuclear weapons. We heard of "yellow cake powder," mushroom clouds and the rest. Now, we are being indoctrinated with a similar view about Iran.

The truth is that most of these are lies and exaggerations perpetuated against us. It is brainwashing under a banner of freedom. The real purpose is to keep us distracted and afraid so that we may not address the real problems that we face. Never mind that as a result of these actions however, America is now being viewed as a lawless warmonger and a nuisance by most of the world. Our imminent world position is being degraded both economically and diplomatically.

This country is in dire need of a revolution. We need to dismantle the controlling upper income stratum of heartless and despicable men. The rich must have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, not more, and not less. They should not be able to corrupt our democracy by using their money to buy elections and create a congress that represents them and not the American people.

These changes are not going to happen by themselves. We, as Americans, need to revolt and reject the insidious effects of money on our political system. Our constant distraction is keeping us complacent.  We need to wake up and establish a new system of equality and freedom that every American, no matter what his level of income, can enjoy. We need to put down our cell phones and pick up our pursuit of the American dream: freedom from want and untreated disease -- for everyone, not just the rich.

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Retired Pharmacologist with two masters and a Ph.D.
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