Lincoln didn’t tell us the whole truth when he said, “…you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” What he didn’t say, perhaps because it didn’t occur to him, was that you can fool a majority of the people all of the time, especially in the age of television and now, the Internet. Unfortunately, a majority is all that matters in a democracy. Democratically speaking, four sane people and six psychotic sickos means rule by the insane. Governments in the United States have been operating on this principle for quite a while now.
Over the last six decades, since the onset of the post World War II economic boom and the beginning of television on a mass scale, we’ve become a nation in which six out of ten of us believes we can find happiness through owning things. We’ve become materialistic on a scale never before seen in human history. All of our inner turmoils are solvable through ownership. Happiness comes from purchasing a new car, a new set of clothes, or the newest most cutting edge technological item.
Never mind the fact than in only a few days, when the newness wears off, we’ll have to go on another shopping spree to find more new items to keep us happy for another couple of days, just as the junkie will soon awaken from his blissful dreams to face his addictive need for yet another expensive fix.
Alas, we’re passing our materialistic values on to our families. Because we value things as much as the Puritans valued God’s mercy, we express our love to our children and grandchildren by showering them with expensive stuff. When our children get their driver’s licenses, we buy them brand spanking new off the showroom floor cars, instead of using the occasion as an opportunity to teach responsibility and the value of money. When our daughters get married, we spend on the wedding an amount in excess of the GDP of some countries, as if an exorbitant wedding will guarantee marital bliss.
If materialism U.S. style is being embraced with the fervor of religious zealotry, the altar is the television screen or computer monitor, two expressions of the same idea. Since the 1950s, we’ve been bombarded with ad after ad telling us if we buy this or that product, happiness will reign in our lives. Insidiously, these ads don’t always come to us when we’re fully conscious, as newspaper advertisements do, but often when we’re drowsy or even asleep, letting the likes of Toyota, McDonald’s, or Tide laundry detergent connect to us on a deep unconscious level. We are hypnotized, brainwashed with the mantra, “Buy this and you will be happy. Buy this and you will be happy. Buy this and you will be happy.”
And so it has come to pass that we now demand our governments to only provide us with those things that will fulfill our materialistic addictions. We want tax cuts, so we’ll have more money to spend on the frivolous. We want rebates, so the government can subsidize our new hybrid cars. We want cheap gasoline, no matter what the environmental cost or how many critters get killed in the process. We want good-for-nothing-but-show diamonds, no matter what the human cost.
These demands are heard by our elected representatives. When the economy is down and it’s time to cut the budget, we cut funds for libraries, schools, public parks, feeding and housing the poor, and Medicaid. These government services have no material worth that we can perceive, and are thereby nothing but wasteful spending.
Our representatives hear us and give us what we want. Our representatives give us the government that six out of ten of us deserve.
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