Letter to the Editor

Submitted today to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

 

Conservative ideologues who blindly oppose raising taxes for government services are encouraging a culture of irresponsibility and free loading among all those who can afford to pay their fair share. Responsible citizens pay their fair share and enjoy the roads that they are allowed to drive on as a result of our free culture. But freedom isn’t free. Asphalt isn’t cheap. Cheap, political hacks want simple-minded short-term fixes that encourage the shirkers among us who don’t believe in building sustainable communities. Honest, wise stewards of the public dime recognize the need for long-term solutions that give everyone a chance to contribute their resources and talents for the greater good.

 

Revolt From Quadrant 2

Our society teaches us to be passive and rely on experts for our decision making.  Even when we are being entertained, laugh tracks tell us when to be happy and creepy music tells us when to be scared.  More often than not, fear and confusion are the tools by which people are turned into sheep with a checkbook.  This learned helplessness begins in compulsory systems of education/programming where we are given a question and the answer and then asked the question (how many of those answers have you later found to be lies).  Your thoughts are not required but your complacency is demanded.  You must conform to your place in the social order.  Children learn early where they fit in – and where they don’t.

 

The motive behind this learned helplessness is to homogenize us into targetable markets.  We are softened for the sales pitch offering what we have just been told we need in order to bring happiness to our unhappy and tame lifestyles of servitude to others.  The media feeds us images of happy celebrities leading lives of fame, fortune, and eternal splendor.  We are told us what is attractive, what is just and what the ‘good life’ is.  Meanwhile, the church tells us that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.  Thus the market widens for remedies to life’s frustration of having our thoughts dictated by external profit seekers.

 

Yet we still have minds.  Issues of the day are framed in such a way that we debate only a list of sanctioned and approved alternatives.  Dissent is swallowed up in a sea of media-created personalities who represent every political flavor of the rainbow.  The Michael Moore’s and the Howard Stern’s and the Rush Limbaugh’s and the Dr. Laura’s of the world soak up the dissent like a sponge.  We all feel better because we feel our voices have been heard.

 

Once we were told what to think, now we are simply told not to. The news comes complete with analysis of how it will impact our lives so all we need do is sit back and offer our faith to the mega-corporations that bring us the 6-o’clock news and the Seven Habits of Highly Deceptive People.

Tell me I have problems.  Tell me what they are.  Tell me how to fix them and I will pretend I believe you care about me more than another ivory back-scratcher you can spend my three easy payments on.

 

The painful truth is that the expert doesn’t care about you or your unsatisfying life.  The expert wants you to feel perpetually bad about yourself so that he can continue to make money off of your unhappiness.  He has no idea how to solve your problems and no motivation to do so, particularly when he has a new self help book coming out next spring and have already added your name to the marketing list.  Maybe this one will be the one that works for you.


If it is self-help you seek, than you must help yourself.   You are not helpless, and you have everything you need to do it already.  If your life needs change, you need to make the change yourself.  Everyone has an agenda and most of them need your credit card number. It can be dangerous to believe that this rhetoric will bring you more than the temporary illusion that you have taken control of your life when all you have done is tightened the shackles that bind you to the source of dissatisfaction from which you seek to free yourself.

 

As we watch, the talk show host brings in the `specialist’, we remove ourselves from real problems that cause us real stress and focus on masters of rhetoric peddling easy answers to indirect questions.  Do we need to follow the ‘correct map’, or do we need to involve ourselves in direct action and reaction to events and circumstances of our life as is best judged by our own undiluted thoughts?

 

As any good marketing class will teach you, repetition creates truth. The incessant references to ambiguous entities of inner power and paradigm maps along with blurred calls to action involving centering one’s self and shifting paradigms offer little certainty when action is called for in our lives.

Eventually a person gets tired of hearing how to cope and that only by following this series of prescribed philosophies can real change happen. It does not require shifting a paradigm map but it might require unleashing the harness you are bound by and going down to city hall. It may require you to develop distrust of the mainstream mass media and question the motives behind those trying to influence you. You might need to make tangible changes to your lifestyle and remove yourself from situations where you are powerless.  You might need to question your involvement in systems of exploitation, and you may need to be much less tame.

The most important thing is to believe change in your life will come from yourself and not the expert.   The only thing the expert is an actual expert on is how to take money away from unhappy people.

 

Life is difficult and there are no easy answers.  But if you take charge you can simply live.  Life is about the process, not about outcomes.  By focusing only on what you want your life to be like in some future time without focusing on the work to get there, you’ll never get there.  Then, once you get there, will you really be satisfied?