The United States of America, being the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind, has the most potent military ever seen on the planet. Airpower and firepower are the keynotes of American military supremacy, and if the U.S. military has time to organize its logistics and bring those factors to bear against any other nation or its military, the U.S. will likely prevail in a military confrontation (battle).
However, America has its weaknesses, and at this time it seems appropriate to review a psychological weakness and a moral weakness, both of which contribute to the repeated need for America to resort to its military superiority in dealing with other nations and peoples. These two weaknesses can be labeled as dependence of the operation of the society on “consumer confidence”, and the moral lack of “consumer conscience”.
Let’s take a look back to the fateful day of September 11, 2001. Four aircraft were hijacked by “terrorists”. Three of those planes hit significant buildings in the American landscape, and the fourth crashed in a field, killing those onboard. The total losses in human lives that day approximated 3000 souls. This is a grievous loss of human life, certainly. But far more Americans die each day after a lifetime of smoking cigarettes produced by good old American tobacco farmers and cigarette producers. 3000 souls lost is politically significant, but has little to do with the national security or population security of the American people. More importantly, billions of dollars of wealth were instantly lost from the national portfolio. Many billions of dollars were lost in physical damage, but more importantly, hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth evaporated into thin air as stocks dropped precipitously, consumers instantly became afraid to fly on commercial airlines, millions of people shrank in terror over the now explicit fears that terrorism could affect them right here in the American homeland.
This loss of consumer confidence was ultimately far more of a concern to the American government than the actual physical damage or loss of life caused by the plane crashes. Those terrorists proved that a small operation could strike mortal fear into the heart of consumeristic Americans and impact the very psyche of the American people in a way that would disrupt the entire American economy. America’s governmental leaders know very well how dependent the American economy is on “consumer confidence”. If consumers are confident in their futures and in their own physical security, they tend to spend money. Usually, in America, this means borrowing money or paying with credit to buy consumer products people do not need, often with money they do not have, and often to impress people they do not like. But consumerism is now a vital, integral part of the American way of life. And that is why almost immediately after the Sept. 11 tragedy the President exhorted the American people to “feel safe”, to get out and shop, to not let the terrorists “win” by depriving Americans of the opportunity to spend money. “America: Open for Business” became the theme for placards and signs across the land, and it became viewed as the duty of Americans to respond to terrorism by pulling out their Visa Cards and American Express cards and reviving the economy.
At the same time, in order to boost consumer confidence, the President announced the operation of military “combat air patrols” over all American cities. Of course, the gesture by that point was totally symbolic, as no one with a pair of fingernail clippers was going to be allowed to board any aircraft in America, and the threat of future hijackings was over. (Interestingly, if the President had apparently not thwarted the regular procedures for dealing with hijacked aircraft, it is very likely that the World Trade Center could still be standing as the hijacked jet aircraft might have been forced to alter their flights or even been shot down by the U.S. military before being allowed to crass into those buildings or the Pentagon).
The establishment of a super expensive new bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security was also a government ploy to boost consumer confidence. We know for a fact that the existing bureaucracies did not fail to gather the proper intelligence necessary to have thwarted the September 11 attacks. The failure to prevent the attacks was political in nature, and not an intelligence failure. But that was not the issue. Consumer confidence was shaken, the economy went into freefall, and the best solution was to establish this expensive new bureaucracy to provide a renewed basis in consumer confidence. Thinking consumers would have balked at the lack of necessity of this bureaucracy, but American consumers tend to be of the non-thinking, blind variety. The American government, dominated by corporate welfare issues, just wants Americans to work, shop and spend, and Americans do a good job of it as long as they have some confidence that they will be able to continue to work, shop and spend.
A second weakness of American society is lack of consumer conscience. Of course, American consumers are constantly bombarded by corporate media with sophisticated advertising manipulations designed to create artificial “need” and overrule or overwhelm conscience. As a result, Americans have largely lost many sorts of ethics. A good example is the use of gas-guzzling Sports Utility Vehicles by the American public. Constant bombardment by advertisers has convinced the American public that it is their “right” to own and operate vehicles of little or no practical use because it is the trendy thing to do. The lessons of the 1970’s regarding dependence on foreign oil have been completely forgotten, even though that dependence is now larger than ever. It is said now that the most popular automobile in the upscale market in America today is the Hum-Vee offshoot of the military vehicle used by the American armed forces. Hardly a practical or efficient way for Americans to negotiate their public roadways, but a splendid way to demonstrate American consumeristic patriotism in a time of war and exploitation of foreign resources that seems to the future of American foreign policy.
The loss of consumer conscience extends into the realm of consumer based environmentalism, which is increasingly non-existent. Americans purchase farm-raised salmon, completely oblivious to the cost of salmon farming on the stocks of native fishes and the damage salmon farming does to local environments. Americans tolerate the ubiquitous damage to the American eco-scape by allowing agriculture to poison the homeland, to deplete non-renewable aquifers in order to grow cotton in the desert, and Americans tend to ignore the steadily growing list of endangered species with few recoveries.
The lack of consumer conscience means that “sin” is very popular and profitable in America. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar business. Legal and illegal narcotics and drug sales (including alcohol) are staggering in quantity. Television programming has sunken to new lows in quality and in moral “fiber”, yet remain highly profitable. Popular music is laced with incessant profanity in certain gender, and American teenagers use their personal credit cards and expense accounts from distracted parents to purchase filth by the bushel-full.
This loss of consumer conscience makes it very easy for corporations to exploit American “outrage” over any attempts to modify, alter, or even criticize the American way of life. American soldiers are sent to Saudi Arabia to guard the oil supplies, but are unhappy that the restrictive Saudi society frowns on pornography brought into the country for the pleasure of the fighting men.
The net result of the dependence on consumer confidence, plus the lack of consumer conscience, is that America is subject to manipulation by powerful corporate exploiters. The American government, media, and military are all grossly interconnected with corporate America and operate in synchrony to exploit these American weaknesses for their own benefit.
Foreign policy and domestic policy are guided by the necessity to manipulate consumer confidence. Consumer conscience is seen as an evil or at least a “negative” to be overcome. “Spend at all costs!” is the order of the day, and the patriotic duty of Americans. Americans will literally kill for that right. And Americans will support a mighty military to preserve the ability to kill for that right. Thus, America’s strength becomes its weakness.
The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.