With the U.S. economy still stumbling along in its worst crisis since the Great Depression, it is long past time to use the current conditions as an opportunity to rethink some core values that have driven the national psyche for at least the last three decades.
In fact, it can be argued that engineering a new “paradigm shift” in that psyche is the most fundamental precondition for the nation’s full recovery, and its ability to hold its own in an increasingly-economically competitive world.
Some assign the nation’s recent woes to the reprobate behaviors of the self-indulgent “Baby Boomer” generation. It’s close, but not quite so simple.
While shorthand and sound bites are contributors to our current problems, the issue can be summed up as the recent decades’ unfortunate shift from “We” to “Me” generations.
The “We” generation defining moment came in the delivery by Dr. Martin Luther King in August 1963 of his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial before 300,000 assembled on the National Mall to advance the struggle for civil rights.
The “Me” generation defined itself, only 25 years later, in terms of the “Greed is Good” speech by the Gordon Gecko character in the 1989 film, “Wall Street.”
I have researched and written about what happened in that 25 year interval, how the shift occurred in the first place. It was engineered, and its seeds can be traced way back. But at its core was a full-court offensive launched in the post-World War II period with the benefit of newly-formed covert intelligence, counter-intelligence and psy-ops (psychological operations) capabilities developed during the war.
Aided by technological advances to enhance their covert capabilities, many of the same powerful interests in the U.S. who supported Hitler prior to the war adopted these new resources from their friends in the U.S. military, and in conjunction with a new political offensive in the form of the McCarthy witch hunts of the early 1950s.
An enormous cache of documentation was placed into the public record in the mid-1970s Rockefeller Commission Report and the Church Committee hearings of the U.S. Senate indicating the massive extent of covert operations run against the domestic population of the U.S.
Its target was the morally-charged American population that emerged from World War II believing in the principles of Roosevelt’s New Deal, in the United Nations and in a national “generosity of spirit” that animated its Marshall Plan and Japanese reconstruction efforts, and into the 1960s historic gains in domestic civil rights and anti-poverty efforts.
A number of important components of this were intertwined and interrelated, although seldom seen for those connections.
They included the rise of Madison Avenue and the commoditazation of the American public, on the one hand, and the orchestrated rise of a anarcho-hedonist so-called “counterculture,” on the other.
Women seen as commodities in the eyes of white male supremacists was key to this. The advances of women in the U.S. through the suffrage movement, peaking with the central role that Eleanor Roosevelt played in the founding of the U.N. and promoting its “International Declaration of the Rights of Man,” was met with a counteroffensive that began with the rise of Playboy magazine and the relaxing of obscenity laws.
Women were relegated by Madison Avenue to the role of playthings to help sell cars, on the one hand, and to putter around the kitchen with household products, on the other.
Modern sports, especially football, constituted another offensive, transformed from earlier forms that were on the margins of society. Football games were marketed as great spectacles, metaphors for barbaric warfare, with the macho fighting men the center of attention, encircled by scantily-clad pretty women hopping up and down to provide adulation. This spectacle remains one of the most humanly degrading, especially as massive data comes forth about the life-crippling impacts of the kind of concussions that the players are routinely subjected to.
Disentangling American culture from these and other unsavory products of social engineering must accompany economic reform if it is to succeed, and if America is to avoid a second Great Depression to become a major player again in today’s world.