Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
On my - rare - visits to the US I'm always shocked by the levels of poverty on display. It's not just 'apart from the inner city slums.' It's huge swathes of hopelessness right across the country. They're airbrushed out of existence because the media ignores them - it's much more interesting to focus on shiny celebs - but much of the US is still incredibly grim, even compared to the rough parts of London.

And it's not just financial poverty. It's about limited opportunity in every sense. If you're not born into the right caste in the US, your choices are very limited. Extremely talented individuals can change caste, but they need to be truly exceptional. How free can you be when you need to be a four-sigma person to have a chance of escaping your economic fate?

As for the religious dictatorship - name a recent president who hasn't deliberately and consciously used faith-based Christian rhetoric to sell their plans, or who has gone against the trend by setting out a secular and/or atheist moral program.

You might think Clinton, but then there's this.

Huge amounts of time and energy are expended on purely faith-based issues, like sexual and reproductive politics, which in a secular culture shouldn't be issues at all. Meanwhile things that matter - energy, the environment, and broader social welfare - are framed as extremist plots to destabilise the fabric of American society. Alternative belief systems - Muslims, pagans, atheists, agnostics, gnostics, Hindus and the rest - have little or no access to law-making.

You probably have to spend some time outside of it to understand how insane - very nearly in a literal, certifiable sense - the political scene looks from outside of the US.

The common roots of all of this seem to be a deep streak of almost mediaeval authoritarian fundamentalism. I agree that religion is a symptom, because US economic attitudes are just as detached from reality as the Religious Right is.

The real state religion seems to be Randian self-centredness and social Darwinism - the rich and powerful take everything, just because they can, and the poor and weak get nothing.

Not all Americans practice this religion to the same extent. But politically and socially, the worst possible thing that you can be in the US is poor and weak. Not only will people not usually help you, they'll treat you with contempt instead of compassion.

(And I'm far from smug about this because here in the UK we're headed in the same direction.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 22nd, 2007 at 08:30:57 PM EST
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