Beyond Dysfunction Junction

Sam Smith

Lately I’ve been trying this question out on some of my friends: which of our country’s leaders do you truly admire? The answers are dismally short. After a long pause, one asked, “Can you give me some hints?”

Try it out and see what you come up with.

Chances are your results will be a scary reminder of how bad these times are.

Now turn the question around. Which leaders and institutions that we have been taught to respect and admire by the media, politics and academia simply aren’t working out the way that was promised?

The list suddenly gets long, including names involved in¬¬ the mass media and academia, including names we voted for.

In politics, there is, of course, no reason to expect much help from Republicans whose current status is so corrupt, incompetent, and callous that among their sins is that they allow only somewhat less corrupt, incompetent and callous Democrats to seem respectable.

In fact, the White House, the Senate, and various federal agencies now under the control of the Democrats – such as Homeland Security, the SEC, and the Justice Department – are operating at levels drastically below their party’s historic norm.

And consider major programs being pursued that vary from the fully evil to the badly conceived and executed such as the stimulus efforts, the Afghan and Iraq wars, the war on drugs, the war on civil liberties, the health care bill, foreclosure assistance and education reform.

There is hardly anything that has happened under Obama that might lead one to say, “Wow, that was really good.”

Add to this the three decades of failure of neo-capitalistic mythology that has shattered our economy and we have truly arrived at dysfunction junction.

There are extraordinarily few prominent figures in our country in any field – politics, religion, academia, entertainment, journalism or business – worthy of being entrusted to preserve what is left of America and to rebuild what has been destroyed or badly damaged.

This is one reason the occupier movement has been so rapidly successful. It has revealed a vacuum temporarily concealed by the physical power of grossly bedizened, tear gassing, pepper spraying mercencies of a failed elite.

That vacuum can not be protected indefinitely, but neither can we fill it without each in our own way contributing something of substance beyond just resistance.

We need institutions and leaders to replace those who have no further purpose. For example, credit unions, cooperatives and local businesses of all sorts are part of this future. And so are groups that have been fighting for alternatives to things like the corporate control of elections or the destruction of the environment. And so are leaders like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders whom the archaic media would like to ignore but are helping to show the way.

Then there is us. One of the critical virtues of the 1960s was the creation of an alternative culture with alternative institutions and alternative leaders open to mass participation. In recent decades appreciating the potential for such a possibility has been bullied out of us by the false teachings of business schools, television and lobby embedded politicians.

Still, those who have failed us now have nothing more to tell us except “stop” or “you’re under arrest.” And the space they have left sits empty, waiting for someone to come along and fill it again. Someone like us, using whatever skills we possess to erase the lies scrawled like graffiti on the walls of the past and to create dreams for the ones to come. Don’t ask who will save us now. Just look in the mirror, nod, and join a new land.

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