Confronting Our Complicity

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ashvinp's picture
ashvinp
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Confronting Our Complicity

The following link is to an essay I recently finished discussing our individual complicity as Americans in the destructive activities of our large corporations and government (could apply to citizens of other developed countries as well). Some people may not like or agree with the points presented, and I encourage people to form their own opinions and engage in discussion about these issues. Here is an excerpt of the first section:

Quote:

"Everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks about changing himself."   
 - Leo Tolstoy      

     American society, for at least the last few decades, has been immersed in an unbearable tension which is constantly present and hiding just beneath the surface of our daily lives, but is rarely ever featured in mainstream sociopolitical discussions. It is the tension between the decisions we as Americans choose to make every day and the unethical outcomes that result; between our actions and their consequences. Since the end of World War II, America the country has gradually expanded into America the empire through increasing economic and military strength. While the rest of the world lay in ruins, our significant competitive advantage in manufacturing goods allowed us to export our way into economic dominance. Our "Cold War” with the Soviet Union also provided us a great opportunity to intervene in the politics of various countries, either via indirect diplomacy/covert operations or brute military force, and to create a justification for expanding "free-market" capitalism across the globe. It was a systematic endeavor to export our economic and political values to the rest of the world so that, theoretically, everyone could benefit from increased efficiencies and overall wealth. Regardless of what one thinks about the specific policies we implemented during that time, it is undeniable that significant social, political, environmental and economic costs were exacted as a result.      

     Currently, we find ourselves mired in two endless wars with a vaguely defined enemy (the Afghanistan War has recently surpassed Vietnam as the longest war in American history) [1], a global economic depression with no clue how to navigate through it, a myriad of domestic predicaments (rising health care costs, illegal immigration, environmental destruction, etc.) and a bitterly divided populace that can no longer trust its own government or each other. The recognition of these unpleasant developments has emerged within the American population’s consciousness quite recently (primarily within the last decade), while many other parts of the world have been experiencing the real effects of our policies for at least several decades. I could use the rest of this essay to explain the ways in which our political and corporate leaders have abused our trust and pursued atrocious policies in our names (and I will), but it is also time we all acknowledge and own our individual roles in this rapidly unfolding story. As disturbing facts about the activities of American institutions are illustrated in the sections that follow, I would advise my readers to remember their personal contributions to these institutions and embrace any feelings of guilt or remorse. For it is this harbored guilt and a sense of helplessness to effect change that truly drive the constant tension in our society, and the first step to confronting that tension is admitting it exists and understanding why.

http://peakcomplexity.blogspot.com/2010/09/confronting-our-complicity.html

goes211's picture
goes211
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Re: Confronting Our Complicity

Nice article.  I don't know the answers either but I think it is good that we are at least starting to ask the questions.

Jager06's picture
Jager06
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Re: Confronting Our Complicity

Collective guilt?

I think we need to vote out all incumbents, and buy American. No more political class and no more deficit.

THen those that are suffering from global guilt complex can potentially be assuaged.

rhare's picture
rhare
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Re: Confronting Our Complicity

Sorry no guilt here and no collective guilt!  This collective guilt is just a way to place blame away from those who don't understand that big government in any endeavor (war, healthcare, transportation, money,economy) is a receipe for disaster.  Ashvinp, we have had many discussions, and you have clearly sided with larger and larger goverment (particularly on the healthcare front).  Don't you understand it's this push for more and more involvement by government that is the root cause?  I don't see too many individuals out waring with their neighbors, and certainly not at the scale that can be done when you have a government forcing it's citizens to support it.  How about fiat currency?  Without that big government and it's force via gun/jail do you think citizens would support a fiat currency?  Then look at healthcare with the massive interferrence by government removing all price constraints and pricing signals on what is and is not viable... 


ashvinp wrote:

However, the question of why we consistently support these destructive policies still remains.

Because it's much easier to force your will on others via the anonymous government.  As long as you, in regard to any topic, use the government to force your viewpoint on others, you will grow government and get this type of scenario.  Now I realize we will always have some government, but we have chosen to have the government involved in every aspect of our lives. In your article you point out how the government has done many things wrong.  Do you simply believe that it's because our government hasn't been run correctly or do you question that maybe the goverment shouldn't be involved at all?

So if you truly want change, you need to understand more local and smaller government without interferrence in markets that hide and distort the true costs in the only way to find out what is sustainable and most desired by the populace.  At this point, we have gone so far that I don't believe we can actually undo the damage and will collapse first.  Will you be on the lines demanding the government take from others to provide for you or will you be pushing for individual reposibility?  Have you learned your lesson?

 

ashvinp's picture
ashvinp
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Joined: Jan 21 2010
Posts: 412
Re: Confronting Our Complicity

rhare,

I don't think anything you said is neccessarily in conflict with my point in the article. The question of how much central power is required to justly manage a complex economy is a difficult one, and it depends on what your goals are and what standards of living you are willing to put up with. There are most certainly issues that free markets have not dealt with and cannot deal with at this point (peak resources, climate change, environmental destruction, speculative finance, etc.), so I see a role for government in coordinating incentives to help deal with these issues. I am generally turned off by arguments that make blanket statements like "big government is bad, in all circumstances at all times" because it seems like a way of substituting a simple ideology for analyzing the tougher, more complicated realities of the world we live in. But like you said, we've discussed this a few times and we probably won't reach an agreement on the philosophical foundation of what should be done and how the world works.

Anyway, the point of this article is not what the optimal size of government is, but how we have personally helped enable the current government that we have and the large corporations that essentially run it. If you feel that you have never made any decisions that have aided these corrupt institutions, then that's fine, but I don't think a majority of American people feel the same way. The fact that these institutions have become so large and complex is directly a result of our daily choices, and I think it would be inhuman for us not to feel some level of guilt because of that.

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