Leon Panetta said recently that he doesn’t want the military cut more than the minor cuts already proposed, since it would “endanger American lives.” Such a statement is meant to pacify Army, Navy, and Air Force generals who don’t want any cuts into their pensions (your pensions don’t count.) It is also directed at the mass public, who fear anything they don’t understand, and who foot the bill through taxes (well, except for the super rich, who pay few taxes.) This mass public, weaned on ESPN and NASCAR (plus military-oriented movies and violent video games) reads few books, and instead get their opinions from TV news soundbites. In reality, Panetta and his generals are like the military portrayed in AVATAR, who see force as the only way of projecting the American Way on the world, like Rome once projected its empire through battles and protection rackets. However, Rome FELL (despite its national ego, extravagance and decadence) by waste, overreaching and overspending. We are on the same course, according to many analysts such as former Col. Andrew Bacevich, who wrote Washington Rules. (To hear his reasoning, click HERE.) Instead of producing products to compete in the world, we send in our military, maintain bases, make demands that others “play fair,” and mainly sell them bullets, bombs, and Coca-Cola. (Without those inferior but cheaper grains corn and wheat, we’d already be a third world country.) Did you know that South Korea has the largest shipbuilding plant in the world, and also the largest car manufacturing plant, and also the largest oil drilling platform plant, and that they supply Boeing with their wings, and that they do this without any need for outside help (unlike us)? We like to imagine our government knows what it’s doing, but they do not. Gross ineptitude has been demonstrated again and again in the past decade, in both wars and in finance. If we don’t demand change, we won’t get it. It’s as simple as that. Career politicians (who oppose term limits) are not the solution, they are the problem. The world has changed, and Washington refuses to change with it. So we must change Washington somehow. If that means going back to the natural world, as in AVATAR, and rejecting the pop culture message of more, bigger, faster, so be it. What I propose is NATIONAL SLOW DOWN DAY. Make it Feb. 26, which is Oscar Day. Even if you do watch the Academy Awards, turn off the boob tube for the rest of the day and slow down a bit to think things over. Do we really need all the junk they advertise on TV, or Botox? Do we really need more caffeine to tailgate the Joneses to some ball game that promises to massage our egos with the lie that we’ve reached the apex of our evolution, and that, as in AVATAR, anyone who is not exactly like us should be firebombed out of their Hometree (or Home stadium)? Einstein once said that, “Nationalism is the measles of humanity.” He also said that any fool can make things more complex and more violent, but it takes a lot of courage and genius to move in the opposite direction. The Beatles too were pacifists, protesting the Vietnam war. We’re now on our third Vietnam, with no end in sight, and with gangster rap and bling in vogue.
You know, Hollywood loves to slow down the action, when it’s very costly and violent, in order to prolong the effect of spending all that money (which would otherwise go up in smoke if it didn’t impact you as the audience.) “Bullet time” was used in The Matrix and copied endlessly afterward, along with slo-mo explosions, where the hero or heroine unrealistically tries to outrun the billowing flames. That’s what we’re trying to do now, actually. The economy blew up in 2008, only days after Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson assured us that the banks were worthy of their AAA rating. Come to find out, though, that old Hank used to work for Goldman Sachs, who were betting (and hoping) most banks would fail. After bailout, they then awarded themselves billions in bonuses, after paying off both the politicians and the ratings agencies. (Check THIS out.) Free fall is peaceful, comforting even. Which is why we need to slow down and think about how to stop the inevitable. Unless you prefer to let the evening news think for you, with Washington’s race to the bottom brought to you by Red Bull.