02 February 2013

Dummyville, USA

There is sub-culture in the US who value ignorance as a badge American authenticity.

Demon of ignorance, Apasmara,
under Shiva's right foot.
Many US high schools no longer teach civics.

If I was a political historian, I would explore the notion that the dumming-down of Americans began in earnest during the Reagan presidency.
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." Isaac Asimov
Asimov's cult of ignorance seems to have metastasized from the anti-government sentiment ushered in by the Reagan presidency.

Foxes in the Henhouse

Reagan Administration appointees were intended to cripple government. This was accomplished by appointing people who were opposed to the purpose of the job.

Reagan chose money-driven lobbyists and ethically-challenged corporate lawyers and executives to fill key roles:
  • John Van de Water, who led a consulting firm specializing in union busting, was chosen to lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
  • C.W. McMillian, a VP for the National Cattleman's Association, was chosen to head the Department of Agriculture's Marketing and Inspection Division.
  • Richard Lyng, an American Meat Institute lobbyist, was chosen to be Secretary of Agriculture.
  • Joseph Tribble, from the Georgia Pulp and Paper Company, a corporation charged with dumping toxic waste into rivers, was chosen Assistant Secretary of Energy for Conservation and Renewable Energy.
  • James Watt, a lawyer who represented the nation's largest mining and timber corporations, was chosen to be Secretary of the Interior,
  • Anne Gorsuch (Burford), who built her reputation fighting environmental regulation in the Colorado state legislature, was chosen to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Ray Donovan, a construction company executive, was chosen to be Secretary of Labor. As Secretary of Labor, which oversees the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Donovan championed voluntary compliance with health and safety laws.
Part in parcel with weakening the US government was weakening its most venerable public-serving institutions like public education.

American Corporatism

The Reagan Administration ushered in the growth American Corporatism.
"In classical capitalism, what has been called the 'night-watchman' state, government's role in the economy is simply to prevent force or fraud from disrupting the autonomous operation of the free market. The market is trusted to provide. Under corporatism, it is not, instead being systematically manipulated to deliver goods to political constituencies." Robert Locke
Now we find the interests of the many (i.e., We are the 99%) are systematically ignored in favor of the interests of the few (e.g., majority shareholders and executives).

American Corporatism relies on an uniformed electorate voting against their interests. American Corporatism appeals to and manipulates the basest of fears.

Ignorance is often applauded and celebrated in the US. Unfettered streams of misinformation from right wing media (cf. Fox News) have bestowed upon the ignorant, the uninformed, and the misinformed, the mantle of real Americans.

American Education

Some 30 years following the Reagan presidency and its implicit American Corporatism, our public schools are strapped for resources and our students are bombarded by standardized tests. The tests are mandated under the two-fanged mantra of measurement and accountability. Sadly our students rarely learn civics. Moreover, there is a frustrating anti-science sentiment infiltrating public education.

Perhaps it is not in the best Corporatist interest to have an informed electorate. And perhaps it is not in the best Corporatist interest to have students publicly educated about the nuances and historical context of the US government. If so, it is because
the holy grail for American Corporatism is to dismantle American-style democracy in favor of some sort of Utopian, free market bullshit. 
The means to move toward the dystopian free market delusion is to cultivate ignorance, to misinform, and to shield the electorate from the facts.

The cult of ignorance is killing us.


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