Losing our Way–America

The Occupy Wall Street Movement could just as well be called the Common Sense Movement or the Movement for Humanity.  This movement is not truly just about Wall Street and the greed of big corporations and their influence on the political process even though these aspects of American society bring out the most anger in these protesters.  Rather these are concrete entities that people are able to focus their anger on, but I want to think a bit more idealistically.  There can be no disputing that our political and economic systems in this country are completely broken and dysfunctional.  Supposedly, America is a democracy, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Now we know that’s not true or else common sense dictates there wouldn’t be any protests.  But one must ask the question, “Why did America develop into a society where an amazingly small minority has all the voice and all the influence in a political system that is supposed to serve the masses.  Now one might say that the government exercises a certain level of power over its citizens and that wealth has become the greatest influence of power.  Therefore since a small minority controls most of the wealth, America, regardless of its claim to democracy, will tend towards oligarchy.  That is a simple answer and it is true but it does not address the inherent problem and leads me to another question, “Why does our society value wealth and power to such an extent that it is blind to the fact that our obsession with these two things has created the unhealthy economic and political system in which we now find ourselves suffering within and protesting against?”  It is not only our obsession with wealth and power but just as well the unreasonable extent to which we make one depend so much on the other.  To wield any sort of authority in this country you, often, need not be an authority on whatever it is you are doing but just generate enough wealth to be able to attain and retain that authority.  Just look at what it takes to become President of the United States or a member of Congress, and I am not talking about the requirements laid out in the Constitution.  Any sort of authority, whether it be the authority of a teacher or the authority of the President is scarcely defined by competence.  Merit, not money, should be the currency of success.

Now when trying to understand logically why humans have created such a flawed and inequitable system in which to live, one must ask a series of question, “As one biological unit, as one species separate from all others in the animal kingdom, what is the one thing we all have in common with one another?  What is it that motivates us and how does that motivation translate to our ultimate goal as members of the human race.  Let me answer these questions by using a somewhat primitive example.  Suppose you are stranded on an island with an unlimited amount of money and one other person.  But for whatever reason you two are unable to communicate and will never be able to communicate in any meaningful way.  Besides money and you two, there is also a fictitious machine that spits out food, water, medicine, and all the other essentials for life in exchange for your money.  But the machine is also programmed in such a way that for your money it will only spit out these items for the other person and vice versa.  So what do you have on this island?  You have a home, two people whose only purpose for each other is to keep the machine functioning properly and therefore keep one another alive, and lastly you have money which is the medium of exchange.  Will you two survive on this island?  The plain and simple answer is NO.  I don’t care if one of you was a greedy CEO in a previous life while the other was a factory worker who just lost his or her job.  I don’t care if one of you is Black and the other is White.  I don’t care if one is a man and the other is a woman.  I don’t care if one is Muslim and one is Jewish.  I don’t care if one is American and one is Pakistani.  Because the fact is that since the beginning of time, these racial, ethnic, cultural, and wealth disparities, are differences we have created among ourselves.  They did not spring out of thin air.  Being able to reason and think logically about the world around us should be a wonderful blessing, but we have made it into a terrible blight onto our society.  The value and undue attention we attach to being of a different race, or a different culture, or a different religion, or a different social status, or a different wealth status has clouded our judgment and made us forget the fact that we are all human.  You think just because he lives in a hut and you live in a mansion he is different?  You think just because he is black and you are white there is a difference?  You think just because he worships one god and you worship another he is different?  You think just because he lives in a hut and you live in a mansion you are different?   You think just because he is a farmer and you are a CEO he is different.  You think just because he is the teacher and you are the student, he is different.  You think just because you have a PhD and he has a B.S. you are different.  You think just because you go to Felician and he goes to Yale you are different.  The fact is, regardless of your insignificant materialistic differences, you are both human and you are both stuck on this island with no one to share one another’s sorrows, joys, ideas, emotions, desires and so you can never make an impact on each other and so you will never grow as individuals and so you will not survive.  You are not cats.  You are not rats.  You are not squirrels.  The promise of food and water and medicine and money does not motivate you to continue living on that island.  As long as a squirrel has nuts and a place to bury them it is able to live on. By contrast, the human instinct is not driven by material things.  No matter how much we try to deny it by continuing to be spectators in a world where financial capital has become more valuable than human capital, the fact is, at our core, we still value each other above anything else in this world.  Back on that island, you will never share the human connection.  The only influence you have on one another is materialistic.  I put my money in the machine so you get your materials, and you put your money in the machine so I get mine.  But in the end that is not enough motivation for either of you.  Eventually, both of you will go crazy and commit suicide, because no matter how many things you have, you will never have that human connection and so you will never be happy.  And that is the ultimate goal of everyone standing here and everyone in this world, to achieve happiness.

I just came to the basic conclusion that the ultimate goal of the individual is to achieve happiness and that in order to achieve this happiness he or she must have others to communicate with and share in the experiences, emotions, and ideas of life.  Now let’s progress from the individual back to a societal point of view.  If a society is comprised of individuals that all share the common goal of happiness and it is agreed that this happiness can only be achieved by that essential exchange of ideas and emotions that mark us as separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, than should not all of us lead our lives in such a way that we are always working and supporting one another?  As a result, society would become more cohesive, interconnected, and ultimately happy.  We would all still be different.  We would all still have our individual personalities and tendencies, but nonetheless we would remember that what makes us human is that we all share the same essence.  And that essence is the human connection.  We cannot live and be happy without each other.  That essence speaks to our exclusive intelligence unlike any other species on this planet.  But sadly our leaders have forgotten about this human essence and it has led to the corrupt system of government we Americans find ourselves protesting against.

“Why have the political and economic systems that govern America evolved in such a way that the procurement of great wealth is considered the ultimate mark of success?  Now I am not talking about the individual.  The individual may not value wealth as much as other things in his or her life, but as a collective people we are governed by a system that makes it the ultimate priority.  The answer is simple.  The people who rule this country and the ones who influence them, namely the big corporations and special interests, even and probably most importantly our educational systemhave lost touch with what it means to be human.


I write to dialogue. So please, let's engage each other in some dialogue.

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