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Chapter One: The Unsettling Big Picture

 

In the course of the past five or six thousand years, humanity has passed through four historical epochs on the way to the present time. The first was an age of political empire when monarchs developed the arts of state craft and made war upon one another. Then came an age of world religion when prophets and philosophers created ethical systems to guide society. A third age of world history came about as post-religious society pursued wealth and secular knowledge. A fourth began in the 20th century as attention shifted to popular entertainment. The development of computer technology suggests that a fifth age may now be on the horizon.

Within this historical context, institutions of power have arisen. Powerful men have exerted control over human society in, first, creative and, then, destructive ways. Each sees himself as embodying the most advanced form of civilization as if what he has become will last forever. But the lesson of history is that nothing which lives develops in a straight line. All is subject to processes of growth and decay.

Right now, there is an organization called the United States of America which is rightly called the most powerful institution on earth. The academic priesthood that surrounds it proclaims that the American nation is exempt from serious problems of this world by virtue of a destiny which it calls “American exceptionalism”. We have the world’s largest economy. We are its only military superpower. People from every nation on earth are living in our midst and we treat women humanely. History itself may have come to an end, some say.

All this is, of course, nonsense. Contemporary Americans are no more immune to historical processes of decay than any other people. In fact, it is happening before our eyes. Economic and social decay is proceeding today at a rate unparalleled in our history. Ronald Reagan may have proclaimed that it was “morning in America” but he was cheerleading for a nation in denial of the facts. Morning comes to a nation in its infancy, not to one which has ascended to empire. The future of an empire is that it must fall. Yet, Americans want so much to believe.

Look around us. The U.S. economy has turned away from being a creative force for the betterment of people’s lives and has instead become a slave master, strapping people into inhumanely long hours at work, stagnant wages, failing health-care arrangements, and increasing personal debt. Today’s premier growth industries center around gambling, corrections, and medications to treat anxiety and depression. We owe other nations huge sums of money from the chronic trade deficits that our national economy has sustained while practically every federal trust fund runs a large actuarial deficit. We cannot protect our territorial borders from illegal immigration. And now the United States is bogged down in Iraq because of a war which we thought was liberating but which most other peoples thought was waged to get our hands on Iraq’s oil. With the earth’s petroleum supply nearing depletion, the federal government continues to give tax breaks to businesses that purchase SUVs. You’ve heard the litany before.

This shall not stand. I join the deliverers of a “gloom and doom” message who say that the American empire must reform itself and shape up if it is to avoid the ignominious fate of many others like it in the past. Our “enemy” is not an external one but wrong ideas which we ourselves have accepted. America is its own worst enemy. It lacks moral leadership. It lacks an appreciation of its own people.

The dominant political forces in our country today are ones which either exploit the mass of people economically for the benefit of a few or which, being a group apart, see the majority population as an evil oppressor of themselves. Ours is a false patriotism if it consists only of hoopla and does not have the courage to face the enemy within. If the American people allow themselves to be squeezed by doctors and lawyers, if we have a system of “deep-pockets justice” which goes after the one with money while a criminal underclass ravishes our cities, if our people are only customers to be sold, or if we despise the types of persons who are like ourselves and begrudge them a comfortable living, then we have a problem with national pride and self-esteem. This type of community cannot stand. It will fall to the tellers of lies. It will crumble from within.

Even so, there is in America a residual democracy which says that our nation is ruled by its people. There is a legacy of political openness which says that anyone who meets a rather broad set of qualifications can be elected President and govern this vast, rich country of 300 million people. I decided to put that theory to the test. In the spring of 2004, I ran for President of the United States. By the time you read this book you will know that my bid for the Presidency was unsuccessful; but perhaps you will be interested in the attempt.

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