Monday, December 7, 2009

Today's Anniversary--Pearl Harbor Day

It was 68 years ago today that the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor. This launched America's entry into World War II, the "Good War".

The society mobilized. We shared the sacrifice of our men in uniform. We endured shortages of resources needed for the war, such as rubber and meat. We planted Victory Gardens to help feed ourselves. We bought war bonds to help finance the war. The government owed interest to us, not the Chinese. Women came into the factories and built munitions and aircraft. There was the draft.

That war, which was shorter than the concurrent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was not walled off from the majority of Americans like the ones now. We have volunteer armies and mercenaries (especially mercenaries) fighting the wars now. America keeps dipping into the till, printing money to go into the hands of privateers. We see no painful images of war's realities, blood and death and the killing of civilians. Instead, we are exhorted to do our part simply by consuming.

There is no shared sacrifice anymore. What glues our society together? Trivial images of fleeting, valueless celebrity scandals re: Tiger Woods and high level party crashers? We live in homogenous communities, segregated census districts where everyone shares the same ideas and never has to cross paths with people who have different ideas. Those different ideas become fuel for anger and violence, and are easily exploited. The population is increasing online. Corporations collect infinite mounds of data in order to pinpoint exactly what you desire as a consumer and sell it to you, one individual, atomized micro-niche at a time.

Will social networking sites hold us together? Can they substitute for deteriorating social institutions?

No comments: