Sunday, November 25, 2007

Complacency, Idealism, Politics, and Change - Entry for November 25, 2007

To the world, Americans are ignorant when it comes to world affairs. I get this impression from conversations with friends from other countries and from news outlets outside this country. World news should not be a ten minute segment that follows talk of another celebrity getting arrested for a DUI. In truth, the news covers pop culture and disaster more than they do social unrest and conflict - abroad and at home. At the core of this disconnect is the American educational system and the political machine. We are not taught in school the current events of other countries, the history behind these events, the country's socioeconomic and political status, and how they impact the global community. At best, we get a cursory instruction on the ancient world, and then if we wish to learn more, we can take courses at the university level.

From where does American complacency and ignorance of the world stem? How can it be changed? The problem with finding out where the this ignorance comes from lies in ignorance itself. People do not question what they think is fine. The old addage (or cliché if you will) applies: "If it's not broke, don't fix it." This ignorance does not only apply to world knowledge but knowledge about the various social and economic problems we have this country. To give an example: AnyCity, USA codifies the removal/arrest of homeless people from public property. The inhabitants of this city stop seeing the homeless people where they once did. What happens then: there is no outrage at their living conditions; there is no sense of shame at seeing them shiver in the cold or begging for food; and the people go about their daily life. If we sweep away the homeless and make them disappear, does this stop homelessness? NO! Analogously, if we do not see what is happening in the world, it does not mean it is not happening and that there will be no impact in our lives. Out of sight should not mean out of mind.

If we are taught about the world when we are children - not in some propogandist nationalistic bent, but in an objective study of how different countries operate and their political, social, linguistic and cultural structures- then we can truly operate as knowledgeable citizens of this country and the world. With this instruction, we will grow up intellectually invested in the world; we will understand outside views of Americans as a people and nation; we will not be so arrogant when we talk about our fledging country because we will understand that many of the countries of this world have been around for millennia; we will learn other languages to be competitive on the global stage; and we will then understand the world's horror at the military campaigns the United States has spearheaded up to this point. More importantly, we will be able to respond to the world's criticisms of our actions with ACTION.

Actions. In the short history of our country, we have been kept in the dark about many of government's actions. In 1966, the Freedom of Information Act was enacted to allow more accecss to government agency information, but I do not think it did anything with regards to transparency - or our country's complete openness about its actions and why they are doing them. We are giving pretty stories about helping our neighbors and liberating countries from oppression, but we are not told the truth as to how we gain from helping. But if Americans do not know how or why they should access this information, they do not do it.

If we do not demand more information, we will not receive it. We are complicit in our country's decisions because of our complacency and ignorance. So this is my idealized solution: knowledge. We need knowledge from the ground up. We need transparency. We need honesty. We need history. We need education. We need to change the very core of our country to ensure its longevity. And once we receive this knowledge and transparency and honesty and history and education, we need to do something about it. We need to demand that our politicians work on what is important to us. We need to vote and keep voting till the majority of this country - the working class man and woman - has their voice heard in a thunderous roar. We are not stupid, America...we are kept in the dark with a blindfold and earplugs. The lights needs to be turned on and the blindfolds lifted. Open those ears to what our world is telling us.

So for a purely selfish reason, I was confronted with the realization that while I have many opinions on what I read about in the news, and I am more informed than most Americans with regards to world events and politics, I have not thought about exactly where I stand in terms of American policy, politics, and the world. The politics of this country are like a choreographed dance, and I haven't the steps. They are mired in money and cronyism.

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