Je Vous Dis, Merde! 29: I’m So Demoralized By The USA
Forty years ago, four angry British punk-rock poets of individual and social Angst, known popularly as The Clash, released I’m So Bored With The USA.
One year ago, in a bang-on-insightful piece in New Internationalist Magazine, “The Demoralized Mind,” the New Zealand existential psychologist John F. Schumaker wrote this:
Our descent into the Age of Depression seems unstoppable. Three decades ago, the average age for the first onset of depression was 30. Today it is 14. Researchers such as Stephen Izard at Duke University point out that the rate of depression in Western industrialized societies is doubling with each successive generational cohort. At this pace, over 50 per cent of our younger generation, aged 18–29, will succumb to it by middle age. Extrapolating one generation further, we arrive at the dire conclusion that virtually everyone will fall prey to depression.
By contrast to many traditional cultures that lack depression entirely, or even a word for it, Western consumer culture is certainly depression-prone. But depression is so much a part of our vocabulary that the word itself has come to describe mental states that should be understood differently. In fact, when people with a diagnosis of depression are examined more closely, the majority do not actually fit that diagnosis. In the largest study of its kind, Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sampled over 5,600 cases and found that only 38 per cent of them met the criteria for depression.
Contributing to the confusion is the equally insidious epidemic of demoralization that also afflicts modern culture. Since it shares some symptoms with depression, demoralization tends to be mislabelled and treated as if it were depression. A major reason for the poor 28-per-cent success rate of anti-depressant drugs is that a high percentage of ‘depression’ cases are actually demoralization, a condition unresponsive to drugs.
In the past, our understanding of demoralization was limited to specific extreme situations, such as debilitating physical injury, terminal illness, prisoner-of-war camps, or anti-morale military tactics. But there is also a cultural variety that can express itself more subtly and develop behind the scenes of normal everyday life under pathological cultural conditions such as we have today. This culturally generated demoralization is nearly impossible to avoid for the modern ‘consumer’.
Rather than a depressive disorder, demoralization is a type of existential disorder associated with the breakdown of a person’s ‘cognitive map’. It is an overarching psycho-spiritual crisis in which victims feel generally disoriented and unable to locate meaning, purpose or sources of need fulfilment. The world loses its credibility, and former beliefs and convictions dissolve into doubt, uncertainty and loss of direction. Frustration, anger and bitterness are usual accompaniments, as well as an underlying sense of being part of a lost cause or losing battle. The label ‘existential depression’ is not appropriate since, unlike most forms of depression, demoralization is a realistic response to the circumstances impinging on the person’s life.
Now it’s June 2017, and I feel more intensely than ever the profound truth of what Joe Strummer and John Shumaker were and are telling us.
The USA is killing us all, at the very least spiritually.
And if the fearless Australian neo-gonzo journalist Caitlin Johnstone is right, then we’re only inches away from all being killed physically by them too.
How can the USA be so cosmically fucked up?
Let me count the ways.
— A truly appalling 2016 election campaign in which the best candidates were systematically trashed, terminating in a Punch-and-Judy show between two Establishment meat puppets.
— And, as of 2017, a truly appalling President: an alternative-fact-creating (aka lying), bigoted, faux-populist, dumbfuck, greedy, gun-toting, narcissist, neofascist, New-Billionaire-Boys-Club-oligarchic, nuke-waggling, Tweet-farting xenophobe.
— A truly appalling record on poverty and economic oppression.
— A truly appalling record on shit jobs and work.
— A truly appalling record on health care.
— Racist to the core, riven by culture wars, and smothered by border-walls.
— Literally awash in guns and gun-violence, yet at the same time obsessively, utterly in bondage to the batshit-crazy Second Amendment.
— A truly appalling record on crime-and-punishment.
— A truly appalling record on preserving and protecting the natural environment, and astonishingly widespread climate-change denial.
— Mentally imprisoned behind the almost impenetrably thick cognitive walls of American exceptionalism, and hopelessly gaslighted and mind-controlled by “The Deep State,” by which I mean Big Capitalist corporate interests and their lackeys, the public media, together with the larger “military-industrial-university complex,” in neoliberal democratic states.
I’m so demoralized by the USA.
— Existentially demoralized, and literally on the spiritual and physical ropes….
Until I finally shake myself, look around, and hum a few bars of I’m So Bored With The USA:
He want to shoot some skag
He met it in Cambodia, but now
He can’t afford a bag
Yankee dollar talk
To the dictators of the world
In fact it’s giving orders
An’ they can’t afford to miss a word
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?
Are always on the TV
’Cause killers in America work
Seven days a week
Never mind the stars and stripes
Let’s print the Watergate Tapes
I’ll salute the New Wave
And I hope nobody escapes
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?
Then I finally also remember a fundamental truth about human existence, which is our real freedom to choose and do.
So we’re not completely defeated, until we’ve all been actually blown away by the gun-toting, nuke-waggling Zombie Apocalypse that is The Land O’ Liberty in 2017.
— Because as long as we’re still alive and kicking, then there’s still something we can really freely choose and do:
We can engage in woke progressive politics.
By progressive politics I mean politics that’s based on universal respect for human dignity and autonomy, resistance to human oppression, and mutual aid.
And by woke progressive politics I mean radically enlightened progressive politics, or progressive politics that’s:
(i) fully self-critical about ideological cognitive walls and thought-control, especially insofar as they are created or induced by The Deep State,
(ii) revolutionary in a non-violent way, aiming at nothing less than a step-by-step fundamental transformation of the structures and dynamics of social and political institutions in accordance with progressive moral principles and values, and
(iii) neo-utopian, aiming at the creation, development, and unfolding of radically better world than this one, for example as so effectively described by John Lennon in his famous woke progressive pop anthem, “Imagine,” starting right now.
More specifically then, what am I saying we should choose and do?
Enact the seven-part platform of The WTFU Party, described directly below.
And as always, to anyone who says that this is impossible or just can’t be done,
Je vous dis, merde!
“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.
Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party, aka Up Against the Wall, Philosophy-Fucker!, aka UAW/PF —
1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):
· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.
2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):
· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.
3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):
· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.
Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.
The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.
Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.
(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.
(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.
(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.
(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.
(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.
4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):
· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.
· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.
· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.
5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):
· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.
6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):
· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.
· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.
7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):
· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.
· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.
I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.
Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.
Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 23 June 2017
The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.