Nowadays, the TV screen fairly shrieks with demands for energy independence, conservation, new sources of energy. Only occasionally does someone whisper off-stage that some of us have been calling for these same changes for almost forty years.
In yet another of my diatribes about the differences between Americans and other citizens of the world, this surely is the most salient: we are told what those in charge want us to know, hence we accept their agenda, their projects.
The primary project, since the end of World War II, has been for Americans to consume: work/consume, work/consume. Interestingly, during the same period, the French coined the expression: metro/boulot/dodo, which translates as subway/ work/sleep. I don’t know if it has been up-dated to include “buy”, (which may not have a slang counterpart - yet), but one thing is certain: The French too love to consume, but the ability to do so came late enough in the twentieth century for them to have firmly anchored ideas and beliefs about life(all different, of course!), that make them put politics above consumerism. These parameters hold just as true for other European countries.
We, however, have been trained to work and consume, not work for the commonweal, but work for individual (if short-lived) satisfactions. And therein lies the crucial difference: American individuals are not expected to contribute to the common well-being, and neither is the government that represents them. That’s why people who cannot afford to see a doctor will tell you that government-run health care is bad: that’s what they’ve been told, and they believe it because for all these years, the media has failed to cover the most significant story going: in countries where government runs basic services, people live longer, healthier lives.
The entire world is hooked on automobiles, the Chinese are as bad as we are. It’s going to take a monumental effort to get everybody to realize they have to go for major life-style changes. When the oil companies and the automobile companies decide that they’ve gotten all the benefits they could out of drilling and paving, and prepare to invest in solar, wind and batteries, out come the advertisements exhorting the rest of us to demand these things. But what major industry will benefit from more fundamental changes in the way we live?
Dennis Kucinich, the least commented upon speaker at the Democratic Convention had it exactly right: “Wake up, America!”