Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Rise of the American Coward- The Sunday Collage

I have been researching all week. My subject is a fantastic whodunit that I think can be solved. Somewhere, someone knows the truth. I just have to find them. Perseverance, never my strong suit, will be needed. This is a murder case. The cowardly actions of a lot of people are on display in this case. That's not to say that retaliation wasn't possible. It was. The biggest cowards in this case- the people who knew the truth- all had a lot to lose.

So today I want to talk a little about the rise of American cowardice. I am going to use a unique perspective. I am not going to debate the existence of national cowardice- that is clearly evident. Rather, what I am going to attempt to do is try and explain how cowardly individuals react to circumstances and then form a herd or collective response and how that damages us. Why do people behave so cowardly?

Can you imagine the courageous individuals that stood up for the Japanese Americans about to be interred into camps in early 1942? No as a matter of fact, you can't. Because those people don't exist. They became part of the coward class. Rather than speak up against something that was quite obviously wrong- they were overwhelmed by the vast majority of cowards who wanted to lock Japanese Americans up and deny them due process. So courageous folks, or at least moralistically free thinkers, simply chose to shut up and in so doing- became part of the coward class.

Very often, history, does not remember cowards.

Human fear is actually quite normal. In many instances- it is what has allowed us to survive. Those real fears or survival instincts are called rational fears. Irrational fears encompass just about everything else we do. It is our irrational fears- that inner need we have to avoid punishment, embarrassment, and isolation that allows people like Hank Paulson to hijack and steal 1 trillion dollars from us. We are afraid to confront people like Paulson. Because of their perceived power, credibility, and inaccessibility- we cower. If we examine our actions- that we allowed Congress and Paulson to steal from us- we have to confront the fact that we acted like cowards. In fact, that's our role in all of this.

Some things worth considering.

We are blessed. We all have something to lose. We don't want to lose credibility, jobs, money. We think very often- that we should shut up rather than voice our opinions. Because we all know what happens. Some asshole is going to make us pay for our opinions. In some cases- that can be career ending. So often when we should speak up- we don't. Undoubtedly, all of us can think of those lost opportunities. If we had nothing to lose-we'd be scary to deal with. So material wealth and comfort it seems- actually breed cowardice. Once we have something to lose and somebody is able to threaten us with that- we find our mute buttons.

All great men of faith have courage. When you are centered on a life beyond this one- you no longer fear the constraints of a single mortality. As faith in the form of religion in this country has waned- so has our courage. In fact- we rely less and less on faith. There has been a corresponding rise in cowardice.

We also practice apathy. We are convinced there is nothing wrong with this. We believe that one person in 310 million cannot make a difference. Unfortunately, 310 million other people also believe this. The herd mentality becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. It is true. If suddenly, 310 million people believed they could make a difference, we'd move mountains. Courage would flourish.

We are plagued with a lack of honesty. The ability to practice individual and rigorous honesty. To consciously admit we practice contempt prior to investigation, that we are some of the most vain and self centered people on the planet, and that many of us don't have an ounce of gratitude or humility in us. We have giant egos with voracious appetites that never seem to be satiated. We are entitled to the good life for no other reason than we lucked out and were born here- rather than the African continent.

Ok, so let's summarize. Fear is largely irrational. Our decisions are directed by our fears. We fear punishment, embarrassment, isolation. We fear the loss of material wealth. We all have something to lose because we all have some level of material wealth. Many of us have no faith in any life beyond this one. We have no faith, so we are scared that this life is all there is. We practice apathy because to show interest means we are vastly outnumbered and we may be ostracized. We have adopted the herd mentality not because it is right but because it looks safe. We lack rigorous and individual honesty. We don't want to examine ourselves. We attack others instead. We lack humility, gratitude.

Generally speaking, I think that is mostly true. I don't think the averages are skewed by the company I keep.

Nothing truly remarkable happens without courage. It takes personal courage to lock up thousands of criminal bankers. It takes courage to invoke and stand behind the rule of law. To give our country confidence that the right thing will be done. It takes courage to tell American corporations that they are done doing business here while still selling out American workers or that it's time they started paying taxes. It takes guts to shut down the whole government until the budget is balanced. Denial is not a river in Egypt. That has been our "leadership" for far too long. Unfortunately, nobody seems to give a shit. Individual courage begins with individuals- then it spreads to the herd.

History gets written by the winners. Mostly, the cowards tend to be forgotten.


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