Friday, 29 July 2011

American Extremism

Next year I'll be the big 50. When I was growing up WW2 still loomed large in the general consciousness and most men that I came across as a kid that were my age now had been involved in the armed forces.

Also fresh in people's minds was that the British Empire wasn't able to protect us when the Japanese entered the war to make it a truly global cataclysm and stormed across the Pacific headed in this general direction.

Luckily for us Japan miscalculated and bombed Pearl Harbour which led to America entering the war and to cut a long story short provided the industrial might and manpower to vanquish both foes. From that point on we looked to America for leadership in many respects, maybe not because we really wanted to but because they were the big guys in our backyard.

Since WW2 the US has promoted itself as the leader of the free world and gone into bat for us against the red menace and more latterly against Islamic fundamentalists. But somewhere along the line America has lost it's way, and whatever they do on the world stage seems to more about self interest than anything morally altruistic.

And when I say 'they' I really mean that small extremely wealthy and powerful group of corporations and individuals that are pulling the strings in the background. The kind of people that drive an invasion of an oil rich desert nation to secure future oil supplies but badly miscalculate the impact of their actions that cost more than any potential return. There is a bit more involved in running a country than running a corporation, no matter how large and powerful. Despite what the right wing ideologues would have us believe the playing field is never equal.

From and outsiders point of view, this in a nutshell is what is what is wrong with America, something brought into stark relief as we watch the intense partisan debate about the debt ceiling.

There seems to be no middle ground in this debate, extremists on both sides are driving fringe ideologies that in the long term are unsustainable and are self destructive in the name of short term gain. Think the Taliban, think Southern Koran burning Baptists. These people are not representative of their religions-they are completely deluded. Unfortunately they have the ability to inflict widespread hardship and pain on the innocent.

While Americans might think that the debate over their economy is all about them, the rest of us are left to count the cost of bitter ideological battles by the lunatic fringes of the most powerful single economy on the planet. While the American congress and senate fiddle while Washington burns my mortgage rates go up.

The best thing that could happen is that the US 'defaults' on its obligations and collectively the American people revolt against extremist ideology when they next have a chance and vote for more responsible government. Vote for less costly militarism, everyone paying their fair share of the cost of running the economy-and yes that means business paying their fair share and living with some pain when entitlements are cut.

Pigs might fly but not in my lifetime. But in my lifetime I fully expect America to wane as a world military and economic power. I hope I survive the transition

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