Guest Post: U.S.A. 2012: Is This What We've Become?

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

U.S.A. 2012: Is This What We've Become?

Incentivize victimhood, fraudulent accounting of income/collateral and gaming the system, and guess what you get? A nation of liars and thieves.

Memorial Day is traditionally a day to speak of sacrifices made in combat. Like much of the rest of life in America, it has largely become artificial, a hurried "celebration" of frenzied Memorial Day marketing that is quickly forgotten the next day.

Instead of participating in this rote (and thus insincere) "thank you for your sacrifice" pantomime, perhaps we should ask what else has been sacrificed in America without our acknowledgement. Perhaps we should look at the sacrifices that need to be made but which are cast aside in our mad rush to secure "what we deserve."

The unvarnished reality is that most Americans have no idea what service members experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they don't want to know. When 4,488 white crosses were erected on a hillside to remind us of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, people didn't like it, labeling it "unpatriotic."

That is not the real reason, of course; what is more patriotic than keeping those who served and sacrificed fresh in our awareness? One reason those 4,000 crosses make us uncomfortable is that they remind us of being conned by our civilian leadership into "wars of choice."

Another is that the reality of war and its long aftermath are not sufficiently "uplifting" for a brittle nation that prefers the distractions of "reality" TV to an acknowledgement of our problems and the sacrifices made and yet to be made.

Longtime readers know that one of my embedded concerns is the disconnect between the civilian populace and the U.S. Armed Forces. This disconnect starts with raw numbers: THANK YOU TO THE 0.45% of the population who served in the Global War on Terror (2001 to present).

Personnel are costly, not just in civilian life but in the Armed Forces, too, and so the Pentagon has "downsized" the Armed Forces to a smaller but more professional force. This reflects not just budgetary realities but the evolution of modern warfare.

But it's not just that fewer serve because fewer are needed; the number of civilians who want to know and want to acknowledge the experience of those who serve is dwindling everywhere, from Congress to the media to the living rooms of the nation.

The Pentagon has reinforced this disconnect by controlling media access and coverage of its wars, and the media has complied to "control costs" and "give the public what it wants." Survey the media "consumers" and you find few want more coverage of the war or its consequences. So the five dominant media corporations offer up more of what people say they want: faked circus-like "entertainment" in which carefully selected competititors vie for the highest "prize" in modern America, a moment in the media spotlight. The appetite for "news" that trumps up trivialities and senseless, sensationalist crimes is equally insatiable.

Propaganda and marketing are the dominant forces in America, along with a willingness to suspend reality to avoid whatever is complex, knotty, difficult or painful.

Is this what we've become, a nation so fearful of the truth that we shun it, avoid it, or paper it over at every turn? It would seem so.

To take but one Memorial-Day example, we now "outsource" war just as we outsource manufacturing, and we ignore the sacrifices of those who replaced enlisted Armed Forces--even when many are ex-service members: Contractor Deaths Exceed Military Ones in Iraq and Afghanistan (2010). At the peak of the Iraq War, 150,000 "contractors" were in-theater so our civilian "leadership" could claim to have reduced the "headcount" of military personnnel serving in Iraq.

As with everything else in America, the artifice was swallowed whole because the truth was too ugly and difficult for us to bear. The sacrifices of our contractors in Iraq have been ignored by everyone: the Pentagon, the politicians and the public. Nobody wants to acknowledge the losses of those we hired to replace "official" soldiers, even though many of those contractors were ex-U.S. Armed Forces service members.

In Welfare State America, exaggerating victimhood and negating family, community and integrity are all heavily rewarded: that's how you get the gamed disability and a host of other entitlements.

Since credentials and grades are trumpeted as the foundation of financial security, then cheating on schoolwork and exaggerating accomplishments have become accepted norms.

Incentivize victimhood, fraudulent accounting of income/collateral and gaming the system, and guess what you get? A nation of liars and thieves.

All of whom claim "I had no other choice."

That is a sickness that cannot be cured with a pill.

The excuses are legion and varied. Everybody else is cheating, too. Look at the crooks at the top. If I told the truth, I wouldn't get the job/mortgage/entitlement/degree etc.

Everyone is to blame except ourselves, of course; we are powerless. Yet we continue to elect politicians who tell us what we want to hear, lies that sooth our insecurities and fears, politicians who have doubled the national debt in a few years and indentured future generations so our precious share of the pie remains untouched.

Living within our means is now either "impossible" or a sin re-branded "austerity." So we borrow staggering sums every year to maintain the artifice that the contraption of lies, leverage and debt is sustainable, because we have become so brittle and diminished that we cannot bear the truth or our responsibility for the fetid trash-heap that is the national psyche.

We don't care if the nation spends the lifetime Medicare taxes of ten workers ($30,000 lifetime taxes paid, $300,000-$500,000 spent on each beneficiary) in the last few months or years of each elderly beneficiary's life, because 1) it's profitable for those at the trough and 2) we're powerless to change it.

But that's just another lie, stacked on the immense mountain of lies we have piled up in the past decade: we just want our ten lifetime-taxes paid because "we paid our share."

So never mind that we're borrowing the equivalent of the entire GDP of Germany every two years-- ($3 trillion)--and that's just Federal borrowing. Of course the true extent of Federal borrowing is cloaked and obfuscated with tricks such as "supplemental appropriations," so the "headline number" is just another untruth passed off as fact--just like the unemployment rate and the GDP itself.

Add in private debt and local-government bond issuance (often for projects that were once paid for out of general fund tax revenues) and we're borrowing more like the GDP of Germany and France every two years, with no other future in sight.

The word "sacrifice" has been sacrificed on the altar of expediency. The politicians we elect (those who dare speak the truth of our impoverishment and complicity don't get elected--we abhor and fear the truth) have ground the word "sacrifice" into meaningless with overuse; it now means nothing but yet another clarion-call to swallow lies and artifice to protect our share of the loot.

The government can't be the problem, because the government issues me a nice check every month.

And so we cling to easy falsehoods. If only the 1% paid their fair share, all our problems would be solved.

The 1% should pay their fair share, but that isn't the problem; the top 1% already pay a significant share of income taxes collected; doubling that amount changes nothing about the long-term insolvency of our entitlements and crony-capitalist Empire.

The problem is our consumerist, Central-State dominated society/economy that depends on ever-rising debt and and leverage is unsustainable, and placating ourselves with expedient simplicities that shift the accountability and responsibility from ourselves to someone or something else solves nothing.

This reliance on excuses, denial and expediency is the hallmark of adolescence; in adulthood, these are the hallmarks of failure and pathology.

Is this what we've become, brittle, simulacra "grown-ups" who are incapable of acknowledging the truth of our situation? If we cannot dare acknowledging reality, then how can we solve our problems? If we cannot bear an awareness of our systemic rot and unsustainability, then how can we move past denial and expediency?

If we have lost the ability to live within our means and to acknowledge difficult facts, then we have lost everything: our national integrity, our ability to problem-solve, our vigor and our future.

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