One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense involves the notion of societal blessings weighed against the necessary evil of government to deliver those ends. Yet what happens when government becomes antithetical, or in our case inimical, to the common good and common prosperity? Paine suggests our situation is made that much worse because we are responsible for the means by which we suffer.
Irony continues to be lost on most Americans.
As we near the end Obama’s first year, very little appears to have changed. America’s incidental vendetta against its own people and the rest of the world proceeds at break-neck pace. The same special interests wave the same magic wands and whatever “solution” that emerges from Congress leaves us more in debt while our tax dollars continue to fill corporate coffers with no strings attached and no long-term results for the public’s largesse.
Are we chronically stupid or is it something even more dangerous?
We have resigned ourselves to working more hours for less money to maintain a fragile status quo that is far from minimally adequate. Resources disappear faster than ever before into metastasizing corporate and government budgets that deliver very little value to We The People who pay the bills. America consistently fails to deliver on its glossy ads and slick promises for most of its citizens, yet we absolve this political party or that private company for deprivations we wouldn’t put up with from anyone else.
What happened to personal accountability, let alone responsible stewardship of the lives and resources entrusted to your care?
While we remain neck-deep in partisan politics at the grassroots, our personal dysfunction continues to be reflected in the actions of both our public institutions and private corporations. We are the chubby, red-faced clowns of our national circus who perform on demand for Styrofoam peanuts in place of our daily bread. We respond with jiggling giggles of maniacal glee to the sycophantic prods of our corporate media ringmasters in support of the self-serving goals of our political elite.
Orwell had the right idea but was constrained by his times. He imagined nothing less than total domination would lead to the subjugation of a free society. Little did he know that all it would take was cable television, SUVs and Big Macs.
I also doubt he could have foreseen our own Two Minutes of Hate would stretch into forty years of political trench warfare with barely a twitch of effort by The Powers That Be, whoever they are at any given moment, to sustain the burn. Pavlov would have registered very little surprise, I suspect, at our vicious lizard brains still running things ten years into a new century, replacing one that was remarkable in many ways but mostly for its terrible brutality and utter disregard for human life.
I expected better of our new president, to tell the truth, and continue to be disappointed in innumerable ways by both him and his administration. I also expected better from my fellow citizens, but we have long abdicated our responsibility under our Constitutional compact. The men and women we send to elected office, either through the power of our vote or the fait accompli of our apathy, have been running this shell-game on us for years.
This is not a new refrain but the long soliloquy of the Republic. Thomas Paine said it best in January of 1776 as our nascent revolution was on the verge of collapse before it ever fired a single shot:
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
We The People created a government over the last 230 years – at the local, state and federal level – that operates at great expense with very little benefit to the obvious detriment of all. Not the end goal imagined by our founding documents, but a potential reality that was quite familiar to the men who penned the words.