America – the ‘we’ illusion

We the people, have it drilled into us that we are to be patriotic. We must say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every school day, we sing the Star Spangled Banner before every sporting match and politicians everywhere proclaim they are simply representing what ‘Americans,’ or in the Republican case, ‘Real Americans,’ want and act accordingly.

All of this gives the illusion that we’re on the same team and want what is best for our fellow countrymen as a whole. We wave flags, love our 4th of July celebrations and as Obama put it are an ‘exceptional’ group of people.

However, through the actions of politicians, American businesses and the general state of society as a whole, the idea occurred to me that we are not on the same team at all! We very much like the illusion of a strong, unified group of people but in fact, America behaves more like a business than a place that has the welfare of its citizens in mind. Everyone else is not my countryman but my competitor.

Let’s back up a bit and start with society as a whole. In the ’80s we all watched the same television shows, got pretty much the same news out of the three main networks and all lived in fear of our mutual enemy the Soviet Union. This entertainment and information was broadcast to every television set in the USA and we were all on the same page.

But in the 90s with the introduction of cable TV we now had an explosion of options and so started watching different things. As time went on the news channels learned that entertainment makes more money than straight news and then began to diverge along ideological lines. We are no longer on the same page neither in entertainment preferences nor the ‘news’ we receive. This shapes how we think and as the gulf widens we’re looking at the other side with disdain. This is easy to quantify since if you’re a Fox ‘News’ customer the things said on CNN or MSNBC would make your blood boil and the same for CNN or MSNBC customers tuning into Fox ‘News.’

What used to be politics determining the content of the news channels has now been reversed. It is the news channels which are dictating the politics and it is the politics which is dictating which way our society goes. So which way is society going and how is this contributing to a fracturing of unity? Well, the most apparent is the Republican fight against national healthcare. If we were all “Americans” and wanted to do best for Americans as a whole, wouldn’t it make sense to at least have a national healthcare system in You’d think that it would be a no-brainer wanting to ensure that your fellow countrymen are healthy at minimum right?

Nope. American is a business and its core value is profit, not the welfare of its people. Insurance premiums are skyrocketing for the benefit of shareholders and should a citizen not be able to afford insurance they could go bankrupt or even die due to lack of healthcare. Not a very good thing for unity is it?

Republicans believe that healthcare should be earned and would be easy to attain if the citizen were a productive member of society, had a job, then could get it through work relatively easily. Well, let’s take a look at that.

I’ve worked for two, well-known, American companies. If you work hard, make profits for the company then you should be good to go right?

No. For the past decade the companies I’ve worked for hit record profits as we drove down cost and increased the profits coming in from customers. You’d think this would translate into bigger bonuses and a sense that we’re all on the same team at a company level even if the politicians weren’t coming through for us on a national level. What record profits meant were layoffs, no increase in wages and even cutting the budget for the “Best in Class” party for top sellers.

The company I worked for used to have a 3-4 day party in Mexico and bringing your spouse was free. But even with those record profits the company switched the party to Jamaica (cheaper), cut the amount of days and we also had to pay the plane ticket for our spouses. The focus was increasing the stock price for shareholders instead of improving the morale for employees through bonuses which we all should have gotten for all the hard work we put in that made those profits happen.

So how can you better your situation in this type of scenario? Well, you have to climb the latter. Your colleagues are not your teammates but your competitors. The goal is to get the top management positions so you can make a LOT of money You then take that money and buy expensive things. Everyone else at the company be damned and instead of rewarding them you increase pressure to create even more profits and use the threat of layoffs or simply firing them if they do not perform to those higher expectations. Team work? Unity? That is simply an illusion which HR is tasked to come up with some sort of nonsense to try to make you feel good about being abused.

So now we have the politicians taking benefits away saying we should just be productive and get them from the companies and the companies are squeezing their workers to the bone by offering less and less for more work. In this environment and if you’re not the 1% who gets those top management jobs the only way to move up is to switch jobs. This is easily seen by what Millenials do. They know full well there is no ‘loyalty’ in a company. You just do a good job after which you’ll be offered a pittance of a raise, if a raise at all, so you throw out your resume and go to whichever company will pay more.

Now let’s switch back to being a citizen of the USA. What if we could switch countries as easily as we can switch jobs? What benefits are we receiving in this country versus those provided by other countries? If you look at the benefits it is also a no-brainer that if switching companies was as easy as switching jobs it would be something any reasonable person would want to do. The difference is language, culture and tribal barriers. People are American because they do not have any other options. Most only speak English, know nothing of other countries and would be completely lost if they just picked up and went to live in another country, requirements and citizenship barriers aside.

But for a Global Citizen this is something to consider. Outrageous you say? Eduardo Saverin, a Facebook co-founder did just that to escape taxes. For me, my example is to use Japan where I have deep ties. Let me explain.

When you go to Japan it says “Welcome Home” in Japanese. Do you know what you’re greeted with when you return to the USA? You’re greeted with a very unfriendly interrogation, that is what. The last time I got off the plane I was barked at to stand in the correct line and then drilled on where I had been and what I had done. Welcome home I guess?

In Japan they are one tribe and this makes a big difference. It is easy to know if you’re Japanese or not and if you are you’re in the club and breeze right through immigration. Not so in America. Everyone is suspect and our immigration will let you know it.

Japan also has national healthcare. I’m willing to bet if everyone were white, middle class and Christian we’d have national healthcare immediately. But we’re not on the same team and it is not in our nature to want to pay for another through taxes. Whatever taxes I pay better benefit me directly, the rest of my countrymen be damned. Again, we’re not on the same team, it is one citizen versus another on the national level.

Sure there is some unity when you get to the local level. You want what is best for your community and this level of teamwork increases as you get into smaller groups. You want your school to do well, your place of worship and so on.

But wait! That isn’t the case either. In my hometown in Ohio a very controversial school levy was just passed that would increase taxes to pay for a badly needed renovation of the schools. It was split pretty evenly but what shocked me is that some of the most wealthy were the most against it! We cannot fault them because they are just adhering what it means to be ‘American’ these days and that is to increase your personal wealth and to hell with everyone else.

It seems I must backtrack as the trend of self interest only at the national level has come to the local level as well.

So what are the benefits of being American if we just take a look at benefits for being a citizen? I really cannot think of anything when I see that many other countries at least have national healthcare. I’ve heard of something called Social Security which Americans must pay into but guess what? That is expected to go bankrupt in the next decade or two. So not only are there no benefits, but you have to pay for a ‘future’ benefit’ that won’t even be there! It seems that being a citizen might actually be a disadvantage!

This is all quite a shame. In the ’80s there was a sense of unity and that we were in this together. Today that sentiment is gone and we are all competitors. I don’t think this is what our leadership actually intended to happen but it is the way things are going. And with all the flag waving, well, they have no other choice and Americans really don’t know much about other countries so would never have given this idea a thought. They would say “love it or leave it.” These are the same people that would stick with an abusive spouse because that is all they know so what do you do? You tell everyone how much you love them and that they are the best! They don’t have any other options so they double down with what they’ve got. The abused spouse at least knows they are lying. The average American doesn’t know any better and how could they? They don’t know anything about other countries except for what they are told from Faux News.

If we could switch countries as easily as we switch jobs we would do so if we looked at the benefits alone. America should be treated as a business and if you have the money to play America is hands down the absolute best in the world. But if you’re a middle class American (a demographic which is shrinking rapidly mind you) then the deal you’re getting for simply being a citizen should be treated like a stock that has declining value. You know what would truly be American? The ability to sell your citizenship. You make money, America would get more rich people and it would align with the core values of America. Profit at all costs.

For a Global Citizen you’d be foolish not to hold on to those other passports. The only thing America seems to want to offer these days is the ability to go die at war in some foreign land for whatever reasons the dinosaurs in office have dreamed up. National healthcare is being destroyed, you have to pay into Social Security which will soon no longer be available, you’ll be greeted with an inquisition every time you return to the USA and for all of this what do you get? You get the requirement of taxes. You have to pay for the privilege of getting nothing in return except for the ability to live in a beautiful place.

The land is beautiful even if the people running things are not. But from what I understand you can still buy up property and that may afford some residency benefits. I haven’t checked the rules recently but America is for sale and even across the street, the house is owned by Chinese who rent out to whoever has the money to pay, all American renters as far as I can tell. Foreigners buying property to rent to Americans. It is so beautifully American it makes me shed a patriotic tear.

America is a great business, but less so a country that looks out for its people.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/