Has America lost its sense of purpose?
John Galt II
It is upsetting to look at my country sometimes. Our political system is broken beyond repair. Our two parties are bought off by the same people and forces, and as the last few Presidential administrations, (especially as the last two) have shown the two parties basically behave as one. There are some, with impressive credentials and insider knowledge, who claim the government doesn't even fully control its policy, that our defense and national security apparatuses basically operate independent of our elected government, without oversight or accountability. Politics is corrupt even at the local level, the Supreme Court continues to sell our political system off to big money and power, and us current youth...the 2nd to 3rd generation of the large, prosperous US middle class, has become lazy, entitled and scared. Scared to express ourselves, to voice a differing opinion or even voice an opinion at all. Scared of emotions and embracing our internal difficulties.
The University, previously a site of rebellion, personal growth and self expression has become stale and oppressive...as one article once stated the previous "bad guys" the "man" that young college kids naturally loathed have become the kids themselves...limiting self expression, freedom of speech, celebrating our differences and embracing the challenges that come in a free society, have now become conservative and unpleasant ideas.
The nation as a whole seems to be increasingly embracing apathy, anti intellectual, anti scientific and anti freedom ideas. We are no longer interested in truth, (especially when it means critical thinking and research). Especially the youth, and I understand the reasons. We have nothing to believe in anymore. The government has failed us, the private sector has failed us. What is there to have hope for in this life? I fully understand how many turn to themselves, as the only thing to believe in, and thus entrench themselves.
I feel the American population is lost and numb, we are without direction or hopes, as a nation. The loss of an interested populace has helped lead to the overrun of politics, and even society itself, mentioned above.
In the Great Depression, Americans turned to a solution that was fairly new to us: the federal government. I am not here to discuss the economic impacts of the New Deal or if it was a technical success or not, but instead want to focus on the New Deal as an exercise in unity building. We had a purpose, to put people to work to build the country. Literally: thousands of miles of roads were built, schools, hospitals, parks, dams, airports, electricity was supplied to rural areas lacking it, and the South, an area still lagging from the Civil War, was integrated economically. The New Deal was a project in national unity. In fact it's ironic to note the South was integrated so well, manufacturing started to move there from the Northeast and Midwest, (the "Rust Belt" as its called now) and the region became a political powerhouse by the 1980s.
NOTE: I don't deny there was waste, corruption and the likes happened with the New Deal, but would like to say this should be accepted if the overall goal is positive enough. Also, as someone who has spent their entire working career in the private sector, I can attest that private companies produce tons of waste, inefficiency, shockingly bad miscommunication, are prone to favoritism/nepotism and petty behavior often stifling meritocracy, and no one can deny they can be corrupt. These are simply elements of human nature, and will always be present regardless of institution.
Then came WWII where the US was truly unified behind a common goal. While this is not a way to permanently live, it again shows national unity as rations and sacrifice for a national goal were accepted: defeating the Axis Powers.
Then came the Cold War, and for decades the US had a national goal yet again: Defeat the communists. Note: Many issues arose with the Cold War: civil liberty violations, US support of dictatorships, dismissal of democratic movements and human rights, global acceptance of the US "policing the world" and of course a justification for perpetual war. That said, there was a sense of national purpose. A dedication to high employment, high wages, and that everything was for a purpose: to defeat the enemy. The government always had a mission, and was usually engaged with the people, we all discussed these issues and politics mattered.
Once the cold war ended, I believe we've lost the sense of national purpose we had for decades, hat national goal. Both political parties have since become increasingly the same, (and bent on selling off our country) Bob Rubin's entrance to government began a true revolving door between banking/finance and government...blurring the lines between the two and no surprise, these sectors have been progressively given the keys to the castle, the land, and a license to do as they please without fear of prosecution or even possibility of failure. A politburo, and ideological clique supporting it, have come to dominate economics, the Rubin politburo re emerged just in time for the recession and grew again under Obama, a leading receiver of finance money during his senate time, and his fight he faced against lifetime finance man Romney, a fight dominated by talks of Super PACS, left me feeling there was going to be one true winner regardless of outcome.
I do not advocate a World War, or another Cold War, and indeed the world seems increasingly hostile to American presence, which I don't fault at all, nor does the threat of terrorism work the way the old threat of communism did. No, we need a new a goal, a new plan to give us some purpose and sense of unity. At least a sense we are doing something! I absolutely do not advocate collectivism, every individual should be free to pursue the life they want, however it must be at least mildly tempered since an overly individualistic minded society with no, at least vague, sense of national unity will be aimless, perhaps confused, and ironically prone to extremism in the search for an answer. Especially when the populace feels no interest from the government, leading to our current vicious cycle of apathy and worse governance.
The solution is beyond the scope of this piece, but hopefully it is debated publicly before it becomes a necessity.