Beta Culture: The Heart and Soul of American Ideals

Subtitled: Hey, Where’s the Blue Collar Atheist, and What’s This Citizen of Earth Crap?

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I’ve heard you say it.

You said “If Bush gets re-elected, I’m leaving the country.” You said “If Romney gets elected, I tell you, I think America is over! I’m looking to move to Australia, or Canada.”

Hey, I thought it myself, a couple of times in the past. But what I DID was, I stayed and, in my own small way, fought. Because if you believe in something, you don’t just leave off believing in it because you lose a round of two of the game where that something is in play. No, you fight. You fight hard and long and strong and smart. Until you win.

Speaking of which, I’d like to give you something to think about on the subject of what’s happening in the U.S.

Illegals

I’ve never had very powerful feelings about illegal aliens. Oh, the “illegal” part has always bothered me. (If you’re going to have laws, they should be enforced. Fairly. Which means on everybody.)

But the bit where people from elsewhere come here to get work and make money, that part doesn’t bother me at all.

I worked at an asphalt plant years ago. I ran the main board and occasionally drove a dump truck. I was also, thanks to my approximately 25 words of Tex-Mex, appointed Speaker-to-Mexicans. Anytime the boss needed to say something to the three illegal laborers we had working the backside of the plant, I was the one who dashed out and got the message across to them.

My boss didn’t even know their names. He called them Sancho, Pancho and Honcho.

Sancho’s name was Noel. Pancho’s name was Jose. Honcho’s name was Felipe.

One of my first few days at the plant, Felipe showed me his college class ring. He had a degree in electrical engineering from a Mexican university. Noel showed me pictures of his wife and 6 kids in Mexico whom he supported. Jose was 68 years old, and sent money back to his children and grandchildren. All three of them were shovelers in the materials bins out back of the plant, helping to keep the chutes free so the various grades of sand and gravel could make it into the mixer in order to produce the types of asphalt we turned out.

And I, years less well educated than Honcho, years less experienced in family life than Sancho, years less wise in life and hard work than Pancho, was their commander.

I STILL look back on those guys with respect. There were a plus to the company, and to the American economy.

America

There’s a thing I concluded years back about, well, what “America” means.

It’s not a flag, or a uniform. The people who think so are dullards engrossed in symbols rather than the ideals they represent.

It’s damned sure not a cross, or a Bible. Some Christian principles are so obviously counter to American ones – Hello? A king of kings instead of democratically-elected public servants? – it’s not even worth talking about.

It’s not even a place. The 50 states are not, in my view, “America.”

What America is, to me, is a body of ideals. Those ideals – freedom, justice, fairness, compassion, equality, opportunity, so much more – can be held by anyone, anywhere.

Though I like to fondly believe they neared their most glorious expression here, once upon a time, those ideals today extend far outside its borders. They predate America, and will remain after it.

The people who hold those ideals are Americans, no matter where they are. If a poor man in El Salvador desires more for himself and his family, and decides to come to the United States to better himself, the moment he takes the first step, in that moment he becomes an American – one of us.

(Readers outside the U.S. who are insulted by the suggestion that you are “Americans,” remember that my country was not always in such disrepute, and that I am, after all, speaking of enduring ideals rather than the current-day political stink. I’m just using this convenient label that U.S. residents will recognize and respond to. But also, I imagine we’re going to begin calling it something else as we move into the better future we’re aimed at.)

Here in the United States, thanks to:

•  8 years of an incompetent fool in the White House, George W. Bush
•  the near-crashing of the economy by said supreme fool
•  Sept. 11, 2001, and the curtailment of certain rights that followed
•  the rise of the Tea Party
•  Fox News lies, Sarah Palin lies, Rush Limbaugh lies, Ann Coulter lies, etc.
•  the war in Iraq
•  the racist and mean-spirited reaction to Barack Obama
•  a greedy and unAmerican Republican party
•  a steadily growing and empowered Christianist movement
•  the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court allowing unlimited corporate “free speech” in political campaigns, essentially the blatant buying of our elected officials

… among many other things, I fear this grand human experiment, at least on this continent, is coming to an end.

But the dream itself, the dream of high ideals of justice, equality and a bright future, is not over.

Each of us carries it. To the extent that we espouse it and live it, WE are the dream.

And the “us” I write about is all of us who hold those ideals. Whether you’re in Australia or Estonia, Cuba or Canada, Iran or India, if you believe in these things, YOU are the dream.

Allegiance

It’s been obvious for a while now that big corporations have no national allegiance. They move seamlessly between Europe and North America, China and Chile, building factories here, hiding money there, and acting against our national interests (including, by some accounts, stirring up revolutions and assassinating problematic individuals).

The same is true of churches — no national allegiance. See my earlier “king of kings” remark, but also note that every Catholic Church on U.S. soil gives its sole allegiance to its ruler in the Vatican – a foreign leader in a foreign nation. Every Catholic Church is not just an embassy of the Vatican, but a missionary school for teaching Catholic ideals and obedience to American children.

And as we’ve learned in the course of this election cycle, Mitt Romney, the Great White Hope of the Republican Party, stores his wealth in at least a handful of other countries … specifically so he can get out of paying U.S. taxes on it. I’m assuming lots of other millionaires and billionaires do the same thing. Again, these are not very good Americans.

So what we have is rich, powerful people and rich, powerful organizations which have little or no allegiance to the United States. If the U.S. melted down tomorrow, Exxon-Mobil and Mitt Romney and the Catholic Church would land on their feet and keep on raking in the profits, sailing their yachts off to distant harbors and living the high life  elsewhere.

By contrast, we have you and me, the common yutzes of America, who are left holding the bag of patriotism. We are expected to salute, pledge, obey, walk the line, pay taxes, submit to pepper spraying, wiretapping, illegal searches, and even confiscation of our homes and cars, volunteer to be cannon fodder in foreign wars, submit ourselves to content-free TV brainwashing, bear the lies and manipulations of a political overclass, the financial shenanigans of an economic overclass, the courtroom thuggery of a legal overclass, meanwhile subjecting ourselves willingly to lower standards of health care and education than other nations enjoy, living in decaying cities and driving over potholed streets, learning to be suspicious of the intelligent and the educated (the very people who might help us see through the lies), eagerly buying the tickets of state-sponsored lotteries, and just generally bending over and taking it up the ass for our entire lives. (Given all that, we’re also expected to swear that we feel GOOD about it. Because, hey, this is the greatest nation ever to exist on the face of the Earth, right? And if you don’t like it, you must love Saddam, and you can just get the hell out, you commie bastard.)

Unlike us, the big corporations, the churches and the billionaires, live not in any nation, but all over planet Earth. They have become their own nations.

It’s time we as individuals allowed ourselves some of that same right.

Renewal

After all, democratic civilization contains within it a social compact we all tacitly agree to. You and I agree to work hard and be good law-abiding citizens and educate ourselves and vote. On the other side of the compact are our governments, our corporations, our banks, our courts, our elected officials, who agree they will provide us safe food and safe streets, educational doorways to an array of careers at which we can actually make a living (followed by a livable retirement), plus a level playing field and a fair chance to succeed if we strike out on our own.

We agree to work and live quietly, they agree to watch out for our interests in those times and at those scales we can’t manage.

When that social compact is breached by the players on the power side – when governments and corporations and churches and billionaires become our enemies, when the law becomes so convoluted and draconian that we become illegal aliens in our own country – those of us on the work side have no obligation to continue to be bound by it.

Oh, it’s unlikely we’ll escape the laws or taxes of our homelands, and it would be unwise to simply renounce citizenship of one’s home country, but we should begin building the national and international connections and infrastructure that will allow us to recognize ourselves as what we are, an independent nation of humanity, a new culture on Planet Earth. A people who have begun to free themselves from the old, established structures and create new ones.

I’m still the Blue Collar Atheist, and I’ll be writing in the same way I’ve always written. But the new name for my blog, Citizen of Earth, is a statement that you and I are more than mere residents of our various continents and nations.

We’re … us. I call us Beta Culture. The first grouping of independent humans coming to recognize shared goals and values beyond nations, beyond religions, and certainly beyond corporations, and who work together to achieve something new on Planet Earth.

Beta Culture is the heart and soul of progressive, rational ideals, freed from the shackles of the malignant social forces that have grown up in the United States and elsewhere. I’ll be writing a lot more about it in the coming year. And you, I hope, will be here to help me define it.

Because, kids, I don’t think we Earth people are gonna make it. Not the way things are going.

Something has to change, and I think this is it.

Zoning Out on Liberal vs. Conservative Issues
Looking Past the Bright Sun of Crazy
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
The Book of Good Living: The Social Minimum

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