I was listening to independent journalist and self proclaimed “amateur historian” Dan Carlin’s latest podcast the other day and it got me thinking about the status quo here in the United States. While commenting on his misjudgments concerning the backlash (or lack thereof) from President Obama remarks that the war on terror is is an unattainable idea in 2013, Carlin noted that “everyone yawned…nothing really changed.” Now Carlin says he was mystified by this very nonchalant reaction, but I think that it is an excellent example of the general attitude of a great many citizens in this country.
What exactly do I mean when I talk about the existing state of affairs here in America? There are certainly different ways of approaching the issue, some positive and others negative. If we are talking purely about our physical well-being, then our status quo is among the best in the world. For the most part people have dwellings, jobs, technology, families, and generally good health; there are different attractions to take one away from their daily toils, institutions where highly specialized educations can be obtained, and disposable income to partake in extra-curricular activities. Since well before the revolution and inception of the United States of America, generations of people have worked and toiled to produce something better for their children, who in turn do the same, all the way down the line to modern day. We reap what our forefathers have sowed, and I think that is part of the problematic side of our status quo
Without going into a long, drawn-out analysis of differing societal norms going back throughout our history, I do want to point to a decided shift in trends in America, and that shift happens during the second world war. We went from being an overwhelmingly isolationist society following all the American blood spilled during the first world war, to being a highly mobilized, ultra nationalistic, ultra patriotic force hell bent on ending the tyranny caused by Germany, Japan, and Italy. Surely a great deal of this mindset was fueled by the need for revenge over Pearl Harbor, but it seems to me that by the end of the war the mentality shifted. We went from eradicating evil from the world, to being stuck in a standoff with Stalin for alpha dog rights to be the source of power in the world. Keep in mind, this was not just an idea floating around in the upper echelons of government and the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency; it was an idea that most Americans firmly clung to. Now I am about 50 years too young to have seen this first hand, but I grew up the 80’s and there are numerous examples in the popular culture of the time of American superiority. Anyone who has seen Rambo killing a bunch of Russians to help out the poor, defenseless Afghanis knows what I’m talking about.
But what does the idea of American superiority have to do with the current status quo? In a word, it has made us lazy. My generation, the generation after mine, and two generations before me have had the pleasure of growing up in a world where there are no real enemies to worry about. Sure there are Communists, terrorists, Al Qeada, Iranians, Norigea, et al. out there, but to most of us these are just nothing more than pictures on the television screen. None of this comes home to roost, with the exception of 9/11, and that was an isolated incident to which we responded by invading two countries and having this whole “war on terror” that Obama ultimately claimed was not winnable.
So how do I get to laziness from what has been said? Well, if you look at our society from the end of WWII to the present there seems to be this underlying notion that the government (utilizing the most advanced military on the planet) will always protect us from any possible threats. Besides all those kids who sign up for it, nobody else really has to even concern themselves with any world events if they so choose. And currently it seems like more and more people are choosing to tune out everything happening in the world (or their own country) in favor of pop culture and all other avenues of distraction. That’s why nobody really batted an eye when Obama said what he did; nobody was really concerned by it. As long as the status quo isn’t being screwed with it really isn’t in anyone’s interest to question what the government is up to -and that is the problem. We live in a very well protected bubble and because of it we can afford to lazily avoid everything that happens outside of that bubble. Perhaps the only thing that will break that laziness will be some ambitious group finding a means to popping that bubble. Al Qeada certainly tried but their needle wasn’t sharp enough. Who knows just how sharp that needle will actually have to be.
Check out Dan Carlin’s podcasts on current events and historical phenomenon: