It is useful to strive to find a reason for things beyond the obvious incidents to which we bear witness. It is consistent with the technique of Japanese problem-solving that is so successful: "Ask why five times" . Probe. Probe. Probe some more.
If the Philippines struggles, I want to know what is the heritage that has produced the culture that allows the struggle to persist without solution. The answer is feudal thinking and abandonment of individual initiative to authority, where authority is extraordinarily self-serving. From that derives the need to raise one's self esteem by tearing down those who are successful. From that derives a whole nation that opposes success.
If Filipinos seem rude, I want to know if it is my own preconceived idea of how people are supposed to relate that is wrong. Or if rude is rude. If we get to that deeper point, we can argue what is a better social model, one based on ego or one based on consideration.
But enough about the Philippines. Cement is cement and will always be cement.
This morning I was struck with the vision that America is essentially a rudderless ship. The nation has advanced so far so fast that it has all of a sudden emerged over the hill top and found a great empty expanse before it, with no path forward, no guiding light, no end in sight. No goal, no place to go.
Since its formation in 1776, America has been building, expanding, innovating, exploring and fighting.
But the country is too big and the planet too small for that now.
"Argh, Matey. The Rudder's busted and
the crew abandoned ship!"
The armies can no longer set out across the plains to subdue the natives. The troops cannot drive the Spanish from Texas (but get them damn Mexicans out of here!). Wars are a drudge, for we get to meet the dead personally through our modern media; they are not just a meaningless statistic. And more nations are starting to see the futility and self-damage that wars engender.
America's scientific discoveries are profound but too often meaningless. Who cares if expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing, or if there is water on Mars. Ten people out of billions will go there 50 years from now. Relevance: zippo. People are bored with the International Space Station.
Who cares if Apple makes computers the size of a watch dial if we can't even use the power of the one on our desktop. So what if new medicines extend our lives by .0325 years. We're all gonna die.
There are no lands to conquer. We could go to war with China to settle all the rub developing there. But who wants all that blood flowing into the ocean spoiling the pretty blue?
The US has roared through the industrial age like a nuclear powered locomotive and blasted through the technology age like a Cray computer on steroids. Americans have proved they can fight and die to win. They have plumbed themselves dry with introspection and self-awareness (10 ways to make your man feel sexy!). Kant and Decartes would stand agape.
If America turns left, the world complains. If she turns right, the world gripes. If she plows forward, people start shooting. The world is tired of the bigness of the American presence. They want to awaken to a quiet bowl of rice, not have Joe Smith walk through the door and tell them how to live their lives.
Anger is the mood of the day. The Tea Party is angry. The Wall Street protestors are angry. Boehner and Pelosi are angry. The President is fuming. A bunch of Muslims are pissing poison.
We have piranha in the bath tub snapping at our private parts.
Who can settle this down? Who can articulate a direction for America that would satisfy two requirements: (1) motivate highly driven Americans, and (2) let other people live for themselves.
Well, sure, we need economic growth. But where does it come from when the world's resources are imposing limits, and China is horning in and getting to markets before we do? Besides, if you dig for oil in the Gulf, you pollute the waters and spew gases into the air and the ozone layer gets thinner and more cancers eat people. It's no longer like we have just arrived on the Mayflower and have this gorgeous expanse of empty space before us, there for the taking, free of social penalty unless you happen to be a native.
The world is a water bed. You push here, it rolls there. To every action there is an adverse reaction.
How about some free minded brainstorming? Let's list ways we can establish direction for our rudderless ship America in a bathtub roiling with piranha.
- Start culling people, purposefully, to give us more space and use less resources. Bring Dr. Kavorkian back from the next world to work full time.
- Embark on a Mars resettlement program. Hurry it up. We don't need to land on no stinkin' asteroid. If water is on Mars, air is there for the making.
- Build grand cities underwater. Harvest the oxygen in the water and develop a lot of kelp recipes for the dining room.
- Get the Philippines and Mexico to stop overbirthing and sending their excess mouths to Los Angeles where they use up other people's resources. Stop polluting the planet with babies that are commodities.
- Build gigantic vertical cities with gardens in the sky, solar panels high in the thin air where they can collect energy efficiently above the clouds, and wind turbines the size of Dallas.
- Get imperialistic. Conquer the world and make them states. Start with that pest China, which is rather like a giant snaketooth fish with legs, ala Godzilla. The Philippines can be states number 51, 52 and 53 (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao). China can be states 54 through 206.
- Nationalize the Peace Corps and require that every high school graduate spend two years working abroad to improve the lives of others. Build the discipline of helping the planet to survive rather than the skills to tear it apart.
I dunno. Do you have ideas? What is a good reason for being if your country is rich but stagnant, like the US? What is America here for, other than slopping along in a boring subsistence irritating other people?