From Here & Back Again

By Jim Coufal

(Cazenovia, NY – Sept. 2012) I read a fair amount of what my wife calls “bubble gum for the mind” (adventure, mystery, crime thrillers, lawyer genre and science fiction). Pure escapism. Yet, I’m not surprised when I find jewels of insight reading such works; I’m simply appreciative.

Reading a book by Robert Ludlum recently, the Third World terrorist said to the James Bond-like American protagonist that “you Americans are oblivious.” He was referring to the anti-American sentiment common around the world, but I suggest we are oblivious to so much more.

The dictionary says that to be oblivious, one is “lacking in remembrance, memory, or mindful attention.” One forgets, maybe even never knew, he judges the issue is not important enough to worry about, pays little attention to it, ignores it.

There are many reasons for this obliviousness. Perhaps the greatest is that we have a comfort zone with which we are satisfied and don’t want to rock – or have rocked – the boat. It’s the old saw, “let well enough alone.”

It is a fear that we will lose something, like in the well-known NIMBY syndrome or one I have named R’IGM (Regulate; I’ve got mine).

It becomes easier to blame African Americans for their poverty, lack of education, homelessness, drug use and other things rather than seriously looking at the history white America imposed on them. It becomes easier to rail against immigrants rather than understand our roots are basically all in immigrants and that immigrants usually provided the hard labor that built America and still work at many jobs (stoop labor) that other Americans won’t take even in an area of unemployment.

It becomes easier to rationalize why women, especially “feminists,” who press for greater equality – equality equal to that of men – are being selfish instead of reading the history of how the church and state and corporations have stifled women’s opportunities while taking advantage of their skills. It is just easier to be oblivious.

As he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the public of subservience to the “military-industrial complex.” It was a very late warning because such a complex has dominated America since its inception.

I believe the American public’s greatest obliviousness is to the military-industrial-religious complex. It is creating a class society greater than we have ever had, such as that caused by the huge disparity in wealth between the so-called 1 percent and the 99 percent.

And if you wonder why I include “religious” in this complex, one example is the estimated $71 billion dollars lost annually to tax exemptions.

Our military budgets have been and are over-bloated. Many high-positioned government and corporate officials over the years have called for a war to bail out our economy. They rarely send their children to fight these wars; they depend on media-induced patriotism that inclines the “low class” (the 99 percent) people to send their children.

We are oblivious to this because we let it happen.

They send enormous amounts of military aid to foreign countries and have even stated our enormous amount of weaponry is unnecessary from a military point of view but needed to convey a certain image here and abroad. Once weapons are had, weapons are used.

What a high cost for image.

And when we kill civilians as collateral damage, we say, “Sorry about that.”

Many corporate giants are aghast at the thought of higher taxes for the rich; at the same time they rake in huge salaries, take bonuses even from government bail-out money and want to cut social benefits that flow to the poor and disenfranchised.

Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world, and when the prisons are privatized, the corporations who own and run them do not seek to have programs that will decrease the prison population.

In all these and other cases, who is it that lines the pocket of government officials so that favorable legislation is passed on their behalf? And now the Supreme Court said corporations are to be given the same rights as individuals, so they are hard at work attempting to buy the upcoming election.

We act oblivious to this.

Over the years, there have been many attempts by a minority of aware and concerned citizens to bring this forcefully to the attention of “the people.” In 1999, there was a street demonstration in Seattle, Wash., against the World Trade Organization. The occupy movement is the latest of these. Such demonstrations have often been broken by government use of police and military force on behalf of these corporations.

We act oblivious to this.

A few years back, Republican commentator Kevin Phillips wrote of the Reagan years, saying “Less and less wealth was going to the people who produced something … disproportionate rewards to society’s economic, legal and cultural manipulators – from lawyers to financial advisors.”

These latter are the same kind of manipulators who destroyed our economy, reaped great benefits, took government bailouts and were appointed to high-level government jobs.

And we remain oblivious to it.

How the 1 percent look at the 99 percent is captured by well-known economist/philosopher Ludwig von Mises praising the work of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged.” And remember, Ayn Rand is Paul Ryan’s favorite and model.

von Mises said, “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”

So, put that in your pipe and remain oblivious.

Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

By martha

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