I’m pretty certain that most Americans will find what I am about to propose unpalatable in the extreme, but things have grown so bad I no longer care, and as nothing I am about to suggest will ever happen anyway, the only purpose being served here is to make me feel I have spoken my mind about a matter of great, perhaps vital, importance.
If ever there was a nation in need of a drastic cultural revolution it has to be the United States of America. Somehow over the years our culture has degenerated to such an extent that our future depends upon massive cultural change. I am not suggesting anything like the terribly forced destructive Cultural Revolution that occurred in China between approximately 1966 to 1976 that resulted in mass persecutions, the destruction of antiquities, forced re-education, and the social disruption that wrought. I confess I have not thought this through very well as yet, but I suggest there is a gentler, more responsible and probably much more productive means of bringing about such a cultural revolution.
Why would we need such a drastic revolution and what might it involve? Let us begin with a warning that in the not too distant future some 42% of the population will be obese. Even if this were not to become true we already know that huge numbers of our young people are ineligible for military service because of their weight or other health problems. I should think most everyone should find this unacceptable. Also consider that our young people are falling farther and farther behind every year in science, math, engineering, and other such vital pursuits. This also includes what might be considered “softer” studies such as geography, history, social studies and even the humanities. Education, if it is valued at all, is valued only in so far as it helps to find a job. Huge numbers of citizens do not vote, and, indeed, many have no idea there are three branches of government, what the Constitution is about, who previous Presidents were or what they accomplished, what a democracy is supposed to be, who their representatives are, or even what government is supposed to do, and so on. Many more apparently do not believe in evolution, think the bible is literally true, deny global warming, and tend to believe that “he who has the most toys wins.” Most Americans have little or no knowledge of other cultures, other religions, other ways of life, they tend not to speak or understand foreign languages and believe, in general, unquestionably, that the U.S. is in fact the greatest force for good in the world and never does wrong. They have no knowledge or understanding of foreign policy, little or no knowledge of how other people live, and do not understand that our priviledged position in the world is the result of the massive exploitation of other countries for centuries. If they are aware that with 4% or so of the earth’s population we consume 25% of its resources this has no immediate meaning for them, and they most probably believe in large numbers that global warming is still a controversial subject. I know that at least some of our people recognize these problems and our ignorance and are attempting to change the ostentatious and unhealthy ways we live, but I suspect the majority are both unaware and unconcerned that our culture is rapidly disintegrating. I also believe they are mostly unaware that our economic and political systems are diametrically opposed to the interests and well-being of the general populace.
If the above description is roughly true, and I believe it is, should we do anything about it, and if so, what? The answer for me is clearly “yes,” we must do something about it, but we need to avoid a bloody, destructive, and terrible revolution as occurred in China. I suggest something that has often been talked about but never accomplished, a massive change in our educational system and an accompanying period of national service for all young people. We should insist that everyone should complete at least 12 years of basic schooling, including courses in history, social problems, government and politics, and the basics of math and science. Upon graduation there would be a mandatory two year period of national service, the first year devoted to the responsibilities and obligations of citizenship, but also more intensive studies of their individual choices, be it mathematics, physics, science, economics, history, geography, communication, business, or even the military. The second year would involve actual community service and experience in whatever fields they choose, health care, agriculture, environment, architecture, science, teaching, energy, construction, military service, or whatever their fields of interest indicate and where they might want to spend their subsequent careers. I would further insist that no one be allowed to vote or seek public office until they have completed their service. Obviously there would be the potential danger here of indoctrinating everyone with some “official” point of view, but that could be avoided with a strong tenure system that encouraged and insisted upon free speech, as well as a carefully protected completely non-discriminatory hiring policy.
Impractical, yes, impossible, no, although there would, of course, be a great deal of resistance at first. Some would argue it would be an infringement of privacy and civil rights, others that it would be too expensive, still others that it probably wouldn’t work or would just be an excuse for political indoctrination, and so on. The greatest resistance would come from the corporate and wealthy interests that prefer to keep us ignorant, inactive, and not voting at all, those who do not want truth to prevail or to give up their obscene wealth and their means of acquiring it.
Yes, this is a drastic proposal, and alarmist, it is meant to be, we are at this very moment wallowing dangerously near the shoals of disaster, lulled onward by the honeyed voices of a capitalistic culture that benefits only the very few and attempts to enslave all the rest.