The Us Living On Borrowed Time Politics
The Founding Fathers of The United States, in a single act of defiance, proclaimed, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", and with the signing of that document, The United States was born. It is doubtful that these men envisioned that happiness would become defined as a high definition television, a hummer, and an unlimited wireless plan. Unfortunately in American Culture happiness and success is too commonly measured in material success. People gauge the worth of themselves and others by what they have instead of who they are. In his essay, "Materialistic Values: Causes and Consequences", Tim Kasser describes the various aspects of materialism in American Society and suggests reasons why and how people develop such values, the cultural influences that cause and maintain materialistic attitudes, and the consequences individuals suffer from holding these beliefs. However one thing Kasser neglects to do in his essay is describe the connection between the material disease which most Americans live with, and the current state of the world. It is clear that many of the world's troubles can be traced to materialism and more importantly to America, and as unrest in the Middle East escalates The United States grows closer to collapse.
In order to see how materialism and world affairs are related one must understand that there are, "multiple ways in which governmental structures maintain and support the power and interest of businesses to earn money through the sale of goods and services, and how these same structures encourage consumption on the part of citizens" (Kasser 373). This means that the government allows institutions and practices which contribute to materialism to exist in our country, even though such values "undermine the personal well-being and need satisfaction of those who accept its values, [and] also leads people to engage in behaviors and hold attitudes damaging to our communities and the world's ecological health" (Kasser 379). Given this statement it is logical that if the government engages in practices that encourage materialism, despite its negative consequences, they have something to gain from doing so. Unfortunately the reality is that U.S. politicians and CEO's of businesses like Enron and Andersen have mutual economic and political goals which causes politicians to act in the interest of these companies rather than that of its people. In his book The Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins outlines the role he played, and the "any means necessary" tactics he used, in furthering the shared interests these respective parties. Some may argue that The U.S. Government and U.S. Corporations don't share any mutual goals; sadly those who feel this way are mistaken; Perkins explains that the projects he worked on abroad "were intended to create large profits for the contractors, and to make a handful of wealthy and influential families in the receiving countries very happy, while assuring the long-term financial dependence and therefore the political loyalty of governments around the world." (Perkins 18).
Perkins goes on to explain that the reason this system works is because American Society subscribes to the belief that "all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits," And that "those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation." (Perkins XV). It is also explained that a key factor in the drive to advance the global empire that our country has become, is the need for the American People to support the concept of economic growth. Accordingly, our culture is constantly subjected to various influences from media and popular culture that perpetuate materialistic attitudes, which in turn increases consumption. Therefore, unknowingly, Americans, driven by materialism, are engaging in practices that have created "a monstrous machine that requires exponentially increasing amounts of fuel and maintenance, so much so that in the end it will have consumed everything in sight and will be left with no choice but to devour itself." (Perkins XV). Many argue that economic growth is good and while this belief does have validity it is important to realize that such growth is only good when it benefits the welfare of the world rather than exploiting many so that a few may have material products.
Unfortunately the fallout from allowing our government to be driven by the greed of the rich instead of the needs of the global community will eventually result in the demise of America; however this collateral damage is nothing compared to what third world nations are, and have been suffering for many years. Perkins states that the result of governments, media, corporations, and banks, collectively known as the corporatacracy, acting for profit is that "executives at our most respected companies hire people at near slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions in Asian sweatshops. Oil companies wantonly pump toxins into rain forest Rivers, consciously killing people, animals, and plants, and committing genocide among ancient cultures. The pharmaceutical industry denies lifesaving medicines to millions of HIV-infected Africanâ€¦ The united States spends over 87 billion dollars conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half of that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet." (Perkins XIV).
In short, all of this cumulates into a dire situation where Americans are driven by their need for material gains while U.S. politicians and CEO's get rich through the exploitation of third world countries. However The American people are not innocent; although they may be misinformed and perhaps even blind to the viscous underbelly of the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is the materialistic values and selfishness engrained in Americans which allows the greedy and imperialistic system to continue working. Furthermore the consequences of these systems are starting to take their toll. On September 11th 2001 Muslim Extremists posed a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a monument to the financial success that our country has received from exploiting less developed countries. Many would say that such a brash act of violence towards innocent lives is not justified regardless of circumstance, and while they are correct that judgment is a double edged sword; just as 9/11 was not justified neither was the mass amounts of Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Iraqi War. Perkins explains that Muslims hold the belief that "developed countries have no right to subjugate and exploit the rest of the world. Like colonial minutemen, Muslims were threatening to fight for their rights, and like the British in the 1770's, we classified such actions as terrorism" (Perkins 57). It would seem that America has become the very government that our Fore Fathers sought to be rid of. The American Revolution was fought, and American blood shed, so that future generations of Americans may live free of imperialistic rule and free of the demands of a ruling country such as Britain who sought only to exploit and profit from its people. Today unrest in the Middle East is ever increasing; with the Egyptian coup and fires of revolution sparking in other countries such as Libya and Syria it is clear that the masses of the third world are not going to be taken advantage of anymore. The U.S. government see's these uprisings as threats but it is in our own Declaration of Independence that " whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." (Perkins 277). Sadly it seems that our society has passed the point of no return. Even if Americans rose up and abolished the systems in place which cause the resentments that Third World countries hold against our society, it is unlikely that America as a whole would be pardoned.
It is obvious that the materialistic values that Americans have been taught to hold, and the exercising of these values through mass material consumption has created a ripple effect throughout the world. Materialism in America has given power to Corporations that corrupt our government and result in the exploitation of millions of people in impoverished countries abroad. The consequences of this exploitation are likely to result in the downfall of America. However if the people of the United States truly unite and decide to live in ways that support ecological health and fair trade, perhaps the fate of our nation will not be so grim. Perkins hopes "that when enough of us become aware of how we are being exploited by the economic machine that creates an insatiable appetite for the world's resources, and results in systems that foster slavery, we will no longer tolerate it. We will reassess our role in a world where a few swim in riches and the majority drown in poverty, pollution and violence. We will commit ourselves to navigating a course toward compassion, democracy, and justice for all." (Perkins XVI). The first step in a solution to the problem is for individuals to recognize their own materialism and to meet the challenge of changing it. If our society is able to do this then we will create a brighter future for the children of America and the children of the world.
Article name: The Us Living On Borrowed Time Politics essay, research paper, dissertation