The news according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month "put an exclamation point on Americans’ lost optimism" in the words of WaPo columnist Dana Milbank
When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” fully 76 percent said they do not have such confidence. Only 21 percent did. That was the worst ever recorded in the poll; in 2001, 49 percent were confident and 43 percent not.
But the question in many social critics' minds is why the numbers aren't even lower. Given the aggravation of two misbegotten invasions launched for little gain, and in fact lots of debt, plus the financial meltdown of 2008 (and many people still trying to catch up) the confident percentage ought to really be no higher than 15 percent.
According to Milbank:
" I called Fred Yang, the Democratic pollster who conducted the survey along with Republican Bill McInturff, and he told me the pessimism was universal. The wealthy were as down as the poor (75 percent and 73 percent, respectively) and even those who felt that they were doing well personally didn’t think their children would do as well (61 percent). Women are as grim as men, and there’s little difference according to race (whites are slightly more pessimistic and Hispanics slightly less) or by region (Westerners are slightly less gloomy than the others).
The young are relatively less pessimistic than the old (64 percent to 86 percent) but still plenty discouraged in absolute terms. Republicans (88 percent) were more dour than Democrats (61 percent), "
So he concludes that "the gloom goes beyond wealth, gender, race, region, age and ideology." In other words, it's systemic and pervasive. But the question remains: Why? According to Milbank:
Americans are reacting, in part, to the breakdown of the political system, which leaves people quite rationally worried about American decline and the nation’s diminishing ability to weather crises.
But I fail to process this one at all. The "breakdown of the political system" is a suspect reason and here's why: In a recent similar poll 71 percent blame gridlock in D.C. as the main reason for the nation's political paralysis. Yet - get this - 46 percent of those polled want the chief culprits - the Repukes - to remain in power in the House and almost as many want them to take the Senate. If the same pukes have only a 16 percent approval rating, why would anyone want them dominating even one house of congress? It makes no sense and shows Americans to be the biggest idiots ever, or suffering from some psychosis manifesting as intense and inexplicable cognitive dissonance,
It's as if Americans know what ails them but prefer not to deal with it. Or, to quote one guest that appeared on Melissa Harris Perry last Sunday: "Americans want the Democrats in to be able to get things, but they want the Republicans to ensure they don't have to pay for them."
Which again discloses stupidity or perhaps more a childishness borne of consumer culture that keeps most Americans at the level of infants. (As demonstrated yesterday morning when a WIRED magazine cover image of Edward Snowden was shown cradling the American flag, and nitwit Bimbo Nora O'Donnell spouted: "Do we get to toss tomatoes at newsstands?" Uh no, missy, you suck it up and then stop editorializing when reporting news items. Hint: Follow the professionalism and lead of Charlie Rose, your co-anchor!)
In any case, any realist would be able to inform the pundits as well as Milbank that the "lost optimism" would have to go far beyond our fucked up political system - at least for those paying any attention. The reasons include:
1- Rampant climate change catastrophes already beginning to ravage most of the planet and even our own nation as we see massive floods in the east and south, and we know one predicted outcome of more CO2 in the atmosphere is greater long term precipitation. (As well as drought in other regions, such as the West).
Thus, as climate change forcing increases, Americans will suffer ever more in property losses, and indeed I predicted such a hellacious year months ago, e.g.
2- 1/2 percent of the global populace controls nearly 87% of its wealth, including access to key resources. Four fifths of the world population remains malnourished and this will worsen as the Green Revolution collapses from loss of topsoil etc.
3- Most Americans sense they've been played on the much ballyhooed "energy independence" theme pushed by their reps - by way of oil and gas fracking.. Those with eyes to see (and noses to smell) observe the devastation to the natural environment and realize their properties and health, as well as water, may be next.
4- Sensible and intelligent Americans observe and see their country is in massive decline, and all the soft soaping and PR by politicos that endorses refuting one's "lying eyes" won't change that. Any dummy can see the latest massive water main breaks, and bridge collapses and knows that his or her burg is next. See e.g.
Milbank is correct that:
"For much of
But in fact, optimism for American realists dived after the assassination of John F, Kennedy in November, 1963. Most of us from that date understood more powerful forces were in charge of the government (a 'shadow' government comprised of the national security state and its minions) and thus the outward political promises and displays were all a sham. A Potemkin portrayal of truth. A lie. And in the ensuing years we beheld the lie played on fellow citizens, even as they were engulfed by consumer culture - and devolved to "consumers".
By the time of May-June, 2013 and Edward Snowden's revelations of the excesses and overreach of the NSA, with so many calling for his head- we knew too many had fallen prey to the propaganda and were even willing to forego their own civil liberties if they could retain their nappies and feel "safe", thanks to the all-seeing "Pappy state". (Never mind the Pappy state has eviscerated all their 4th amendment rights.)
That a few more now are somewhat pessimistic simply means that political reality may be beginning to enter their thick, impermeable craniums, or maybe not. We will have to see. That means seeing the pessimism numbers increase and grow in proportion to how we are all being mind-fucked by the PR manipulators and media. If instead, another clown politico like Ronnie Reagan enters the scene with his 'Morning in America' BS, and the happy numbers go back up - we will realize Americans still haven't digested or ingested reality. One cannot, at the same time, be a happy -go lucky buffoon and have assimilated the existing reality.
And reality is always a bitch! In that sense, Chris Hedges' words are perhaps most trenchant (p. 143):
“Cultures that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion die."