I often wonder where things went wrong in this country. How things got THIS screwy? I count myself among the minority that realizes that while America might be 237 years old... We have only been a superpower for 70, maybe 80 years. And being a student of history, I realize how uncivilized we were not so long ago. Conversely I also know that no matter how savage and dysfunctional our nation has been in the past (see slavery, woman’s suffrage, Native Americans, Jim Crow, etc…), there has always been a constant steady state of progress. Conditions have ALWAYS improved, for EVERYONE, each generation. No matter how totally fucked up society was at that moment, you were still better off than you were 20 years earlier, better off than your parents and they better than theirs, etc...
At some point in my lifetime, that ceased to be the case. I do not feel like my kids will have a better life than I did. I don’t know very many parents that do. As rough of a childhood as I had, I don’t believe my kids will be better off than me. Racism is different and not as blatant today. Technology gives them certain advantages but those same technologies seem to enslave them more than benefit them. Even I am hooked on the technology. You are probably hooked into my drug of choice while reading this, while injecting it (reading it) from YOUR needle of choice (iPhone, Droid, iPad, Kindle Fire, Mac, PC, etc…).
So what went wrong? I have at least part of the answer for our modern decline of society. Something so simple and yet so counter intuitive to everything they teach you in Church, in School, and at home as a child… Today’s society is taught to follow instructions to the letter. So, what do I mean by that? The preacher/priest tells you the Bible is the word of God and is meant to be treated literally as the one and only truth. The lawyers and law enforcement tell you to follow the Constitution and the local laws, word for word, to the letter. Our schools and parents tell us the same when we are children.
So what is so wrong with that you might ask? There have not been more than a handful of perfect rules or laws in the entire history of the world. A clever man will always find a way to skirt ANY law or rule ever written, if but only on a technicality. Technology increasingly makes it possible to leapfrog the limitations set forth by the authors of even the best laws. If you are not allowed to drill for fuel on THIS land, you do it from the next property over using drills that can travel for miles horizontally. This all creates a predatory society of people looking to beat the system at all costs. It creates a standard that allows one’s conscious to poison hundreds of millions of people in order to turn a profit. The more money you have, the more access you have to the creative minds that can help you beat the ”letter of the law” and greater still your abilities to influence and change the laws to benefit you and/or your agenda (finance judgeship campaigns and lobbyists). One group gets away with murder while laughing all the way to the bank and the rest commit murder and roll the incarceration dice.
The rich have always gotten away with murder… But they often paid for it in some way. It at least left them cautious. Ted Kennedy never shook Chappaquiddick. Jane Fonda still has her Vietnam cloud over her and Jerry Lee Lewis never shook his sex scandal. Many a political hopeful had their careers dashed due to an indiscretion that poor people go to jail for. Today, they actually prosper and turn a profit on their crimes, a la Savings and Loans Scandal (see the Bush brothers… Yes THAT Bush family). That even sounds nice… Scandal!!! Bankrupt the country is what it really was but it was a SCANDAL when rich people do it.
So how did we get here? How did we go from a society that believed in the spirit of the law, to a society that only believes in the letter of the law? Ask the average Joe what the “spirit of the law” is and most would be at a total loss. We killed the spirit of the law a decade or two or three back so it does not shock me. Let me explain the Spirit of the Law with a seemingly insane law by today’s standards (but made total sense when it was signed), that was only dropped from the books a relatively short time ago from NYC’s law books. Because some people had bears as pets, there was a law that made it Illegal to walk a bear across Broadway, the busiest street in Manhattan. Sounds pretty crazy today, but when Horses, buggies and trolleys were the lay of the land, a bear could wreak havoc by spooking a horse and rain death on the congested streets of NYC, no matter how uncommon it was to have a bear in Manhattan. By today’s standards, a rich person would walk a tiger across Broadway and get away with it because only BEARS were prohibited… And their lawyers would get them off… But back then, you would be hit with the same penalty if not worse for crossing the tiger. The spirit of the law would have taken into account that not only is an un-caged tiger an equally stupid animal to take into the big city but that a tiger represents even more chaos than a bear ever could. That is what has gone so wrong with our world today, or at least a big part of it. It started with mandatory sentencing for crimes & zero tolerance laws and now EVERYTHING is fucked up. The letter of the law is often easy to defeat with the right resources, but the spirit of the law is infinitely harder to defeat. But once they trained us to accept its defeat and deny its existence, the rest of the dominoes came tumbling down.