Sacrificing all on the altar of Self
To the editor:
As we look at what has happened to us - and what is happening to us - as a people, we have to be willing to face some very grueling truths.
The first hard fact we have to face is that our competitive society now prevents the people who have the most to give from rising to positions of leadership and effective service. In politics, education, the military, business, industry, the arts and entertainment - to name a few - we see that the agenda, the game, is about maintaining control and one's position.
Those less equipped for service spend much of their time suppressing those who are more equipped to provide leadership, solutions to problems and the improvement of already-existing institutions.
In short, most of the people we hear talking on TV are fools working terribly hard to say something meaningful on a day-to-day basis in order to keep their jobs. We as a people are more interested in "succeeding" as individuals than in creating a livable society for ourselves.
Self is God for most Americans; "getting ahead" of the next guy is the real game and the very real problems of our national life go unaddressed.
The second fact we have to face is that our entire educational system, from the Ph.D.s on down, is a self-perpetuating racket. Colleges and universities are suffused with the same "get ahead at any price" mentality that keeps the smallest minds in our society firmly in the driver's seat. What for most of the history of Western Civilization has been considered a "classical" education - an education designed to create rigorous, unselfish thinkers - no longer exists on any kind of influential level.
An education in classical languages, philosophy, history, theology, literature, economics and political science - the kind of education that diminishes rather than exacerbates the arrogance of the "bright and talented" - is virtually impossible to acquire within the walls of academia - though I have encountered many who are following the path on their own, outside the ivory tower.
We have become a nation guided by weak-minded, ambitious "barbarians with Ph.D.s," as a former colleague of mine once put it - and we have reached a point at which it is virtually impossible to declare that "the emperor has no clothes" and not be smothered by a hundred flacks and spin-masters working hard to keep their jobs.
The third fact that we have to face is that we are all mortal, fallible beings, and that the happiness of one individual, one race, one creed, one political persuasion is insignificant when compared to the survival of the entire human race. It is not important that I survive; it is important that we as a people survive, and that America's ideals survive.
What frightens me most about a possible bird-flu epidemic is not the disease itself, but what my fellow citizens might do in order to save their own necks.
The rich and the powerful will quietly use their means to ensure their own survival while the poor die by the thousands. The moral atmosphere of our nation will be obscene and self-rationalizing.
Though it is easy to debunk America's myths, I often think about how George Washington and a few other notable people of means and education threw in their lot with a mob of poorly educated and almost destitute rabble to form, in Abraham Lincoln's later words, "a new nation conceived in liberty."
It used to be a widespread ethic in America that those who had been given much were obligated to work in selfless service of their fellow humans.
Nowadays, however, everywhere we turn we are confronted by opportunists - and even those who so often claim to bring solutions to our ills are actually finding a means to feather their own nests.
Until we put truth and principle above Self, we as a nation will continue to sink further and further into the morass of empty, aching ego.
Proud night for friends of Mike Callas at North
To the editor: