Americans and the World

A sociologist was invited to Washington for a dialogue there about regional issues in poor countries. He warned those in attendance that one of the principal problems they face is the United States’ inconsistency, between the official ethic of the United States and the actual experience of U.S. ethics in other places. Our regional oligarchies and middle classes know the difference between American theory and practice through our day-to-day political interaction with Americans. Whereas the official American values of democracy are beautiful concepts in the abstract, what happens in real life tends to be quite different.

Local elites aren’t always able to play the Americans’ game. And often the Americans don’t even know how to play their own game.

Becoming a world leader is much easier than doing a good job in that role. Americans preach progress, evolution, and global development, but often without understanding the implications of these concepts. So the United States has a limited chance of promoting good leadership among other nations of influence. And the remainder of the planet’s nations are suspicious both of Americans and of the other powerful nations.

The worst reality we are all facing is that nobody really knows why we want to move forward. Presumably, everyone wants material well-being, peace, and security, like developed countries have. So, unfortunately, it comes down to the production and consumption of goods.

In the countries that have overcome poverty, consumerism has become the new religion to be exported to the world, such that even religion and spirituality have become just one more product to consume. In an interesting and important contrast, traditional religiosity is preserved in poorer countries, and often in a way that is disconnected from political and economic rationalism.

Here, we are governed by politicians whose politics are not based in a legitimizing a social ethic, nor in a resulting theoretical and political practicality. Clinging to power for power’s sake, they prefer to stay in the political spotlight much longer than they should. They don’t fulfill their commitments, and they waste opportunities to serve their countrymen and women.

In general, we are living a large, absurd planetary game. The whole world is living a nightmare of globalized stupidity. Primitive and Machiavellian structures are grubbily taken advantage of in a nonethical and vulgar pragmatism. We must not only wake up and shake this off, but also come up with a new moral and social ideal.

We all must assume responsibility for whatever comes next. For some, the Green March* is just a collective mea culpa for our accumulated foolishness for having sponsored – candidly or covertly – such deeply-rooted corruption. But for many others, it is a forward-looking commitment to a better home; it’s our calling to be responsible to the future.

Marches against corruption and impunity aren’t enough. We cannot expect Trump to do this for us, nor the Americans, nor anyone else for that matter. We urgently need something bigger, more fundamental, and broader. We need to give a heartbeat, rhythm and meaning to our civilizations.

*Translator’s Note: The Green March is a march against corruption, demanding that all politicians and businesspeople involved in high levels of corruption be taken to court.

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