Friday, June 16, 2006

Damn You Joe!

Every time I start feeling good about the small steps I’m taking to become a better world citizen, consume less, trade in my car for one that runs on biodiesel, educate myself about both the history of this country’s exploits as well as the one’s that are ongoing, silly little things like that, I go and read Joe Bageant (one of my favorite American writers alive and at it today) and I have to face the fact that I’m still a bigger part of the problem than I can ever rectify with “lifestyle changes” and knowledge of the facts. I would hate him for it, if I didn’t know in my heart that he’s right.

Certainly we should do all we can as individuals to reduce our consumption, pay attention to what happens outside our borders and fight to make sure that we have representatives in D.C. that don’t make matters worse by raping the rest of the world in the name of American supremacy, but that is literally just the tip of the iceberg, the real problems extend miles beneath the surface.

The core of who we are, as a country and as individuals that have grown up with the advantages we have, is what must be challenged, and that is simply too painful a process for most of us to take on in the serious and sustained way necessary to really solve our global problems. Make them better, yes, but solve them outright, not so much.

So I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read “Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven: Democracy rots from the inside out” by Joe Bageant. He’s great at giving it to us straight with no chaser, but the burn of the truth is soothed by the colorfulness of his words.


Blogger Howard Martin said...

Coincidentally (perhaps I was reminded of Joe recently by some drinking companions), I also came up this particular post of his and I highly recommend it, if only for its depiction of being in a 7-11 parking lot and hearing Bob Marley blasting from a car nearby.

11:46 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...


Yes, you should be aware that you are better off in the US than anyplace else in the world but you should not feel guilt ridden over it.

The rules of the game are to leave the world better than when you found it. And in America you get to choose what that means.

You do not need to apologize to anyone if the chance and circumstances to be born in America are a benefit. You do not need to obsess that your belly is full while another is empty. You do not need to feel guilty if another suffers while you succeed.

You should be mindful that your personal behavior does not leave others worse off after you have met them. You should have compassion for those who do not have your advantages. And you should take some positive action to help others.

But feeling guilty is not one of them. You are not "a bigger problem part of the problem than (you)can ever rectify..."

"...that have grown up with the advantages we have, is what must be challenged,.."

Poppycock again.

"Put your own mask on first so that you may help others.." is what you learn when you fly on on an airplane. It applies to real life , too.

Lamenting about your blessings is silly and frivolous. Go help others. Arrange your priorities in you own order of importance:
1. Here is how I will help others survive.
2. Here is how I will fight evil when I find it.
3. Here is how I will support my community.
4. Here is how I will succeed and not be a burden on society.
5. Here is how I will teach others

You can create your life thru actions. Just keep doing something everyday to make the world better. Feel guilty when you are dead.

4:36 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Everyman--I don't feel guilty for my circumstance of birth, but I do think it's important to recognize and understand what it means. And challenging who I am as an American helps me to see that leaving people better off than when they met me is the right way to live my life, but that there are people I will never meet that are affected by my choices (choices that I only have because I was born in the U.S.) and perhaps going deeper and learning that the binary choices I am consistently presented with by this advertising crazy society, are not the only choices available.

I try not to waste time feeling guilty, but seeking to understand what simply exercising my privilege costs others is not "poppycock".

11:30 AM  
Blogger Godlessfriend said...


Surely you're not serious with that 'fresh out of the self help book bullshit' that you were professing about. First, I'd like to debate the fact that you are better off in the U.S. than any other place in the world. However, your laundry list of self help motivations make it clear that you are not open to debating. You have apparently reached the point in your life where you have discovered all truths. I do beleive you fall into the category that LG described; " too painful a process for most of us to take on in the serious and sustained way necessary to really solve our global problems." Sorry for the harsh words but I do disagree with your attitude and position on this one. Thanks for the post.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Ditch digger said...

America is an illusion that can not support itself and will fall one day from the weight of it's arrogance.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

Quite serious.
Except for children of the wealthy, we all come out of high school with about the same amount of money, knowledge, contacts, and opportunity. (We can find other exceptions if we look.)
Yet even though we begin with the same raw material, we end up in different places. Drugs, prostitution, behind bars, politicians, do-gooders, ministers, activists, terrorists...

You may deride this as "self help" however, it's our actions and our behaviors that are important factors in life.

Feeling guilty about the benefits we enjoy due to 'chance and circumstance' should not be encouraged.

Joe Bageant managed to find every negative image of America (except belief in alien kidnappings) and creat 'toilet soup' in his article. His view of America is thru a lens of 'it all sucks' paradigms and 'nothing is pure or simple or true' balderdash.
At the end, he says,
"Grin along with some Haitian dude and watch a white trash mama in ridiculously tight shorts step around you, inches from your face on that curb by the 7-Eleven door, an ankle tattooed, cheap perfumed angel of god sent to remind us that, "Politics ain't everything Buster, and the world ain't all bad. Not by a long shot! Now finish that chowing down dog, get off your ass and go do the right thing."

While Joe and I end up saying the same thing (go do the right thing) , Joe sees eating hot dogs with other people and listening to Bob Marley as "something utterly mundane and completely oblivious to break free of the hysterical grimness of it all." Perhaps Joe was slaying dragons earlier that day and is feeling let down now as he is sharing a common meal with others. I see this as normal life.

LG wrote that she is "still a bigger part of the problem than I can ever rectify...". What problem is that anyway? That others have less? That she has more? That actions have consequences?
LG appears to think that re-shaping America ("...raping the rest of the world for American supremacy...") would solve the world's problems. This is false. It only makes it worse. (Think not? Which other country with men, materials, and moxie would do it better in your opinion?) And she is feeling guilty that her living has been and may well be insufficient to matter. Foofaraw!

The feeling guilty part is what I object to. The world has been a mess for tens of thousands of years and 'prophets' appear in every generation to tell us "the one thing" that must be done to change the world. Hucksters, I say.
Don't feel guilty that your carbon footprint is greater than your doppelganger in Niger. Go do something.
Exploring our feelings is good. Feeling guilty about chance and circumstance is not.

Thanks for letting me say my piece.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Godlessfriend said...


Wonderful rebuttal...Almost had me for a minute. I'm most glad you made me stop and think.

We are simply different right now. Your sermons about the 'big picture' enables those currently in control of this democracy to continue to operate. It is laissez-faire. Your call to arms is muted by your peacefully innocent renunciation of one of the few hopes we have left to appeal to the masses...Guilt. It is exactly this guilt that should give us the fuel to be introspective. Guilt is one motivation behind decency. It is a cornerstone of the American judicial system. It is not a bad thing. It can be the right ingredient to get some to 'do the right thing.'
Joe Bageant is guilty of appealing to this powerful emotion. I forgive him and thank should you. One day, you might change your mind and call upon your brothers and sisters as Mr. Bageant has. We'll welcome you to the party with a warm, guilty glass of Guiness in my neighborhood.

I believe the 'huckster' Joe Bageant said this..."I have an awful suspicion they will never be brave again in their lives, assuming they ever were." Thanks for the post.

1:35 AM  
Anonymous everyman said...

The use of guilt to move a person to action pre-supposes that the person has the will and inclination to change. More guilt will not cause more action though.
In today's America, I fear the response will be to seek a diversion,like X-box games.

One must become engaged.

There is a saying that "we are all self-made men, but only the rich admit it". While it describes material success, it's point is that unsuccessful adults have reasons why they failed that do not include themselves.

Guilt cripples people. It paralyzes action in anyone who is not pre-disposed to control or influence his/her own future. (One reason for Christ's coming was to get rid of this paralyzing emotion, according to some)

Shame, on the other hand, is useful; ask any mother. Shaming the public to action is very acceptable by pointing out their bad behavior and then telling them how to make amends.

I'll have that glass of Guiness with you one day but let's leave the guilt in the bar well.

Thanks for a good reply.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Godlessfriend said...

I'm not buying it...this isn't hellfire and damnation we're talking about. A reformation of the character is not required. One can simply feel a little more obliged, for whatever reason, to get off his *ss and go vote or any other non spectator activity associated with a democracy.

I'm reasonably certain that Bageant's political diatribe won't be inspiring the next Gandhi, but people do gain motivation or inspiration from a variety of emotional experiences and 'guilt' is on the menu. I'm not even going to touch the shame thing....

Thanks for a great post.

2:23 AM  

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