Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It’s Getting Hot In Here

I’ve been a bit worried lately that I’ve fallen victim to the Rovian plan of inspiring apathy in progressive voters. I’ve been angry and attentive for so long to every ill-advised policy decision, every illegal action, every incompetent incident, every attempt to usurp power not granted to the Executive branch as well as the reverberations that have spread throughout our social and political structure as a result, but the Bush administration has wore me down. Sustaining outrage is difficult when they continue to top themselves at every turn. I feel like the good German, realizing what’s happening around me yet feeling powerless to stop it. The erosion of our freedoms has been steady, but it has also been incremental, leaving far too many of my countrymen acting like frogs in a slowly heating pot of water. Content until it’s too late. I’m feeling pretty drowsy myself.

The scope of the damage this administration has inflicted is sometimes hard to comprehend. We are given bits and pieces but rarely are we able to step back and view it all as a whole. The Republican disdain for government at a time when they have controlled it completely, has made us less safe in so many ways, but while we tend to hear a lot about the instability created in the Middle East, the rise of terrorism, radicalism and violence that can be directly linked to Bush administration foreign policy, less attention is given to the direct dangers that this administration’s domestic policies have had on our personal well being.

Take for example our food supply. The FDA is tasked with protecting our health by making sure that the drugs we are prescribed are safe and effective and that the food we eat is safe for consumption. While the FDA has been a less than ideal and continually under-funded agency throughout it’s history, during the Bush administration it has been decimated and it’s mandate completely changed. No longer is the FDA’s prime responsibility to protect citizens from unscrupulous agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies looking to make a buck at the expense of public health, but rather the FDA currently acts as an agent for those unscrupulous businesses, turning a blind eye and helping them get around regulations thereby increasing their profits, public health be damned.

Our pets being poisoned by purposefully tainted food has been a big story, but the buried one (check out David Goldstein’s great post on the topic) is that human food is being purposefully tainted too, and not by some whackjob secretly adding poison for the sick thrill of it, but rather by food manufacturers adding melamine to their products in an effort to game the system and make more money on their “high protein” products. If we eat animals, what those animals eat matters to our health. Our pets are dying from eating this food. How long before our children (one small step up on the food chain) start dying too?

And how about public education? Have you heard anyone with a child in public school say, “Wow, that No Child Left Behind program has really improved our school! My child is getting the best education possible thanks to George W. Bush”? No, me neither.

One of the most basic functions of government is to educate the country’s children and we are failing at that in the most dramatic fashion. An education, let alone a good education, is fast becoming a privilege only the wealthy can enjoy. This is not because public education is inherently inferior to a private education, in fact studies have shown just the opposite, but it is because this Republican administration and the former Republican Congress, have such disdain for public institutions and have made it their goal to destroy any and all public programs that serve all the people, regardless of income or class. Government programs that serve the least amongst us are the first target of Republican ire, but a close second are those that serve the entire population, namely Public Education, Social Security and Medicare. They’ve made a dent (hell they’ve banged them up) in two of the three over the last six years and that last one is still on the short hit list for the next two years. The only thing saving us at this point is that the Republican Party is led by a bumbling, scandal mired, failing war president with a 30% approval rating. Thank goodness for small mercies eh?


Anonymous david said...

Well, Scott Adams describes the Bush administration in his book The Way of the Weasel. They're into systems and the semblence of efficiency. They don't care about service, or quality, or tradition; they only care about the 'appearance' of service, qualiyt and tradition.

Food should always be about quality. Is it nutritious? Does it taste good? There's a story about Japanese agriculture workers developing a small melon that was uniformly sweet flesh from the thin rind to the center. An American R & D team was more concerned with finding how to grow something quickly, cheaply, that had a thick enough rind to resist damage in shipping and was dense enough to weigh in at a hefty price. Taste? Who cares? Nutrition? Tell them to take their daily vitamins.

Junk food --heavily laced with fat, salt, and sugar-- has ruined the health of America. It's a diet with a strong Nordic bias, but America isn't as dark or as cold as Oslo or Edinburgh. The American diet should be heavily vegetable, fruit, and grain based. Not unlike the First Nations diet.

But part of this is cultural. We need to be more French. Food is not merely fuel. Food is life. Food is social. Food is art. We eat like poor Chalie Chaplin does in Modern Times when he's strapped into that feeding machine. How often to you see people scarfing down cheeseburgers alone in 10 minutes.

And this is part of the problem with education too. If we've turned food into fuel, we've turned education into programming. Teachers have been degraded into the role of data entry clerks. Find an empty vessel and fill it with Nawlij. GACK!

Learning is about exploring the world. It's about asking questions and observing. It's not about being programmed. Learning is about living, it's about wonder, it's about doubting. And children are being left behind if they're are told there's nothing new to discover and that wisdom is learning a set of Republican talking points.

Okay, I know the Republicans will freak at the thought of turning good American kids into French loving gourmets. But check out this: Slow Food Youth Take Over the World. One can combine good food and good education.

12:31 PM  
Blogger events said...

My significant other works in an education related field and she can attest to the drop in standards in schools since he started "no white child left behind." They focus on passing the tests that help the school get monies, not teaching the kids. It's disgraceful. Excellent post all the way around.

6:31 AM  
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