�It seems to me that the nature of the
ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are
in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the
controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist
to get people to love their servitude.� --Aldous Huxley in a 1962 speech
ROME -- It�s undeniable that the American social model is a
paradox in the world. All you have to do is look around at other nations and
the difference is clear as the Rome sky in July. Even though today at the nadir
of its profound social crisis because of its flagrant, outright failure,
America continues unabashedly to hammer away at its people how fortunate they
are, while simultaneously proposing itself to the world as the paradigm, the
quintessence, the very epitome of western civilization.
There is the image of our leaders exuding goodness and,
above all, good feelings. Sentimental feelings for the oppressed handed down to
the good people of the Republic. I have read that sentimentality implies a lack
of real feelings. That might be true. But I don�t want it to be true. I mean how
often are we sentimental about some touching scene or memory that we want to
hold. Yet, are we all lacking in genuine feelings? Because feelings often do
escape us, fleeing, hiding, vanishing, then reappearing, stepping forward and
backward into . . . into what? Into unreality? Into nothingness? I don�t want
to believe so. But is our history not carrying us there, straight back into the
faded American Dream?
Ah, the American Dream! To the degree the model appears to
the rest of the world as honeycombed and as full of holes as Swiss cheese, the
more America�s ideological operation morphs into a contest between good (the US
model) and evil (the rest). America�s private struggle between good and evil
becomes in turn the ideological platform and the inspiration-justification of
puritanical, individualistic and greedy America�s age-old universal crusade
against the rest of the world. Moreover, lest one forgets or believes the crap,
the American social system is all the more insidious for human society today because
it has become the social model for the world of capitalist globalization.
How did it come about that the ballyhooed �American Dream�
is based on nothing less than social injustice? And cheapness and tackiness, to
boot. Like the banal dialogue of an unreal, real-life sitcom. The
self-righteous social trajectory described in the glowing terms of �freedoms�
in the Bill of Rights (e.g. the right to have arms) is undermined by a social
philosophy of niggardly, tight-fisted individualism implying the right to
individualistically shoot down fellow students or foreigners called terrorists
who resist. Thus the poisonous combination of that individualism (personal
avarice and fuck-the-rest) and the glaring absence of an incisive workers�
movement (I have in mind a genuine popular political opposition) is the
original sin that has led the nation and the world at large under its sway into
the blind alley of entire unprotected social classes, irrational environmental
hostility and pre-emptive, perpetual war.
The great paradox is that the list of declared, claimed and
proclaimed -- but not guaranteed -- fictitious rights for Americans have
deflated and become non-rights for others.
What do I have mind, specifically? We see it all around us.
In places the world shrinks. In others, it expands. Things change and shift
around. But America Land of the Free, part of the shrunken world, tries not to
see its shattered dream. Dazzle their minds with impossible dreams. Implant in
their mindsets visions of triumph. Then, mask the inevitable loss of hope by
the masses. Feebly old dreams try to resurface and again vanish. The glamorous
glitter of once-upon-a-time has been reduced to a tacky faint flicker of the
lonely used car lot or the mottled colors of empty Burger Kings blinking in the
night. Begrudgingly, struggling for former space and bickering and resisting,
cars get smaller. Houses peel and run down. Legions of Walmarts experience a
new sense of abandonment while new sets of beautiful celebrities look out of TV
screens soothingly and travel around the world and buy villas on Lake Como.
So what is happening elsewhere in the world?
Well, though Europe�s 100-year-old social state based on a
spirit of solidarity is weakening and ceding ground to the brash, selfish
American capitalist-individualistic-everyman-for-himself society and its
neo-liberal allies of the European Union, the European Idea of the social state
hangs on and resists. There is still a veritable abyss between on one hand the
American market model based on individualism (that is the hosanna-ed American
Dream), with a high rate of mobility at the cost of a low level of protection
of its people, and on the other the European system based on the social state,
which is the European Idea.
The absence of a solid and stable workers movement in the
USA (let�s just list it as the number one truant) -- which should be this
nation�s third party -- is responsible for America�s anti-social answer to what
is in essence a social issue. Once-upon-a-time workers movements and trade
unions in America chalked up some important achievements, once. That was a long
time ago. On the east side of the ocean the diverse histories of workers
movements had a close relationship and connection with the rise of the nation
states and the effects of the industrial revolution and the eventual emergence
of the social state.
America�s dissonant voice is instead the anti-social
divergence of the model projected by the USA. Therefore the pernicious halo
surrounding propagandistic Americanism. Therefore, the transformation of the
American Dream into nightmare. That impossible dream, that at the very most
dream-gone-wrong, that incubus, has in turn provided the foundations for an
enduring Corporatism-Fascism, in America stubbornly referred to as individualism.
The same individualism, the nightmare, the Americanism that
has transformed our �duly elected� leaders into terrorists.
It should be clear that at the root of America�s social evil
lies the truancy of an organized workingman�s movement, a stable and permanent
nationwide movement that would provide the framework and structure for a
workingman�s political party and an accompanying representative trade union to
serve as a genuine balance of power in our one-sided, non-representative
criminal political system. Who for example represents working people today?
Who? Our millionaire congressmen? Our billionaire presidents? Or perhaps our
political parties, the fundraisers necessary to elect our non-representatives?
The sad reality is that the workers� movement in the USA
never matured. It was never powerful enough to mark a permanent direction of
the social organization of civil society. It never succeeded in creating
permanent low cost cooperatives and mutualities, social clubs and educational
societies and other forms of political-social expression to confront the
Corporatist system of a nation that today hardly �makes� anything yet exports .
. . it exports what? Democracy? Or terrorism?
In fact, the word �social� in the title of this essay is
misleading, illusory. It is a travesty to use the word �social� in reference to
the form of American society under a government that as Gore Vidal once said
does nothing for its people. And it gets away with it! People don�t revolt. We
should label this individualistic, lift-yourself-up-by- your-bootstraps society
�anti-social� and rebel against it.
Universal health care
-- one aspect of a just society
In recent days I went to my local Universal Health Plan
doctor in Rome for a health problem. I called the nearby office for an
appointment, fixed for the next afternoon. When I arrived there was one patient
ahead of me already in the doctor�s office. I was admitted after a five-minute
wait. My wife and I had chosen this doctor rather than another as our primary
doctor because she is young, dynamic and scrupulous and besides will also make
home visits. I keep home visits by doctors in mind because when my father in
North Carolina was paralyzed for years after a stroke, each time he had some
new problem such as influenza he had to hire an ambulance to carry him the few
blocks of the one-half mile to the office of this �good Christian man� who had
been his doctor for many years. The Rome universal health care doctor examined
me, asked the right questions about my medical history and sent me to a nearby
radiological center for x-rays. Two days later I picked up the analysis, made
another appointment with my primary doctor who after looking over the x-rays,
prescribed the appropriate medication which I immediately picked up at the
pharmacy. Within a period of four days, including two medical visits, the
x-rays and analysis and medicine, my problem was resolved: Total costs to me:
That is Italy�s universal health care at work, which despite
cuts by today�s extreme rightwing, neo-liberal government still offers its
people (both citizens and residents) universal health care. The Italian social
state -- by far not the best in Europe -- guarantees most workers one-month
vacations, retirement at between 57 and 60 years, months-long maternity leave
for both mother and father, unemployment pay, national category contracts,
pensions, housing, food and other �social� benefits. That is a social system!
In Italy, in all of Europe, no political party, no candidate
for public office, no politician at any level, would even dare run on an
anti-social program. Budgetary cuts, savings, reforms, yes, but never the adoption
of the American anti-social system. The American system is not even imaginable
to most other peoples. Not in Europe. Not in Latin America or Canada or Iran or
in any industrialized nation of the world. ONLY in the United States of
America. That lack is enough reason for revolution. That is just reason to
refuse one�s vote for anyone less than a defender of social justice.
I don�t know what a universal health service for the USA
would cost. Certainly only a minimal part of conducting perpetual wars or
building a space shield or financing vassal states around the world or a
fraction of the advertising costs for junk foods and products that make us
obese and ignorant. In any case the point is not the cost. It is not an
economic problem of the nation. We have to keep that in mind. The problem is
the power of the greedy vested interests of medical associations, the
pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and related medical care organizations. The
problem is the power of money!
However, foremost and above all it is a problem of the a
priori negation of anything smacking of a social state (as present in much of
the world) in opposition to the concept of the capitalistic market economy of
America which does less for its people than do Canada in the north or Mexico to
the south, or France or Italy or Russia or Bulgaria, in fact less than every
European country. The creation of a receptive atmosphere for the �social idea�
should/would be the major role of a nationwide, organized workers movement.
That lack, that default, that truancy, is methodically destroying the health of
The USA with its individualistic everyman-for-himself
society today ranks poorly to other industrialized countries in health care, 23rd
in infant mortality, 20th and 21st in life expectancy for
women and men respectively. Yet the USA spends more per capita for health care
than other countries. Where does that money go? We all know the answer: it goes
to a greedy health care system of doctors, hospitals, private health insurance
and pharmaceutical giants and to their related inflated and inefficient
bureaucracies, to their powerful respective lobbyists and into the hands of our
�democratically� elected representatives.
So deeply engrained is the anti-social nature in the
�American republic� that the brainwashed people themselves have been
conditioned to believe that universal health care is contrary to their best
interests. It just doesn�t make sense. The reality is vastly different than in
the popular imagery.
America is a walk in and out of a world of shadows. Images
and contrasts are strong, overpowering, and confused and bizarre. Drinking beer
from bottles and cans but martinis from elegant crystal, parks with manicured
paths patrolled by policemen on horseback but streets without sidewalks walked
at the risk of loitering fines in hopes of finding a bus shelter rest station.
How quickly in America you pass from light to shadow. And you wonder if you
will get the chance to try again and do better next time.
No. It doesn�t make sense to continue whacking our way
through this jungle of the world�s most bizarre and costly medical care system.
Some twenty years ago I covered the American presidential elections for a
European newspaper in the state of North Carolina where I grew up. The first
question I posed to a cross-section of the population of that one state
concerned universal health care. Not one single person at the time came out
strong in favor of it. The most favorable response was �well, if they want to
give it to me.� Most did not even know what universal health care meant. After
my explanation, the knee jerk reaction of the great brainwashed citizenry was
�We couldn�t choose our doctors!� or �The Canadian system doesn�t work.� As if
they knew! It does work!
Health costs continue to soar, care is compromised and
quality is in free fall as obese Americans die of coronary disease. The health
care world lies in the shadows. Health care for profit does not work. It cannot
work. It is not a solution now and can never be a solution. Profit and greed
stand in the way. No matter what the industry explains, health care will always
be a right and a necessity, not merchandise like a Blackberry or an i-phone. It
is estimated that a single payer (the state) universal health care system would
save 100-200 billion dollars a year, it would cover everyone and it would
guarantee more medical visits and hospital days to all. Now a recent
encouraging poll shows that some 75% of Americans favor universal health care.
Many of our representatives say health care is not the
domain of the state. That�s right! You heard me. HEALTH CARE IS NOT THE DOMAIN
OF THE STATE! Bullshit! What can they mean? If health care is not the domain of
the state, in what domain should health fall? Or was health care always intended
for the world of shadows? It makes you wonder? Why can�t the USA treat its
citizens at least as well as other countries do?
Part of the answer: a nation led by terrorists is not likely
to care for its people, either.
Health care is one of the great mysteries. But what about
the other social issues our government holds prisoner in the shadows? What
about month-long paid vacations? What about more job security and a tiny bit
less mobility? What about more taxes for the super rich? What about a little
less individualism and much more social solidarity? What about a third and a
fourth political party? What about a workingman�s movement?
Gaither Stewart, Senior Contributing Editor for
Cyrano�s Journal/tantmieux, is a novelist and journalist based in Italy. A
longtime student of Russian culture he maintains particular interest in
developments affecting Russia after the overthrow of Communism. His
essays and dispatches are read widely on many leading Internet venues. His
collections of fiction, Icy Current
Compulsive Course, To Be A
Stranger and Once In Berlin
are published by Wind River Press. His recent novel, Asheville,
is published by Wastelandrunes.