Post # 285    AN ELDER AMERICAN’S LAMENT [A pliny essay]

In an earlier blogpost (“IS IT SOUP YET?”), we declared that growing older, contrary to popular belief, is not a “disease,” but to the contrary, has many implicit benefits. To be sure, one’s physical body does begin to underperform, and occasional physical discomfort is experienced [based on long time use]; however, assuming relatively decent health, it is a happy and rewarding time. As previously observed, one is no longer beset with the perennial anxieties and stresses of earlier life, such as youthful insecure identity, inexperienced interactions with the opposite sex, school grades, selection of occupation; and later, courtship and marriage, child rearing, money matters and a host of others. An opportunity, at last, to be oneself,  to knowledgeably and maturely take inventory of one’s internal resources, and understand oneself in relation to society, are among the many unsung benefits of old age. As the earlier post additionally observed, one then accrues the available leisure time to pursue long- deferred interests, perhaps, travel, art, literature, a hobby, gardening, or others.

 

This essay expresses a profound lament entirely unrelated to the subject of aging; indeed, on that subject, our feelings, as indicated, are of the satisfaction of realized fulfillment of our knowledge of self, and a comfortable sense of mature perspective on the world, and on life in general. The intended purpose of the condensed reprise of the earlier post, above, [ regarding the unsung benefits of aging], is to avoid a possible (incorrect) perception that this lamentation represents, in reality, a projection of the unhappiness at growing old. Our profound lament, instead is based upon the current state of our nation, and our nostalgic recollection of better times. The diverse aspects of its degradation, are disappointingly, so numerous as to be best expressed in selective, analytical fashion.

 

SCOTUS:

The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS), the flagship of our Judiciary Branch of government, and the final arbiter of constitutional issues,in the past, justifiably enjoyed, an image of profound respect from the bench and bar, and as well from the informed American public. This has dramatically changed.

To preserve America’s “Separation of Powers” (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), there has historically existed the unalterable (adjectival) requirement, that no case may be accepted by SCOTUS for determination, which contains a political issue either directly, or by indirect effect. For this purpose, a proceeding seeking a “Writ of Certiorari” is initially required, certifying the complete absence of political subject matter in the case. Thus, we were shocked and confused when the undeniably political cases of BUSH v. GORE, and CITIZENS UNITED, were accepted and adjudicated by SCOTUS. Worse, the decision in the latter case, perniciously legalized corporate donation of unlimited funds by corporations to elections.

 

The purported basis, was that a corporation is a” person” and therefore, has the unlimited right of free speech. This ruling was truly bizarre, and its effect, anti-democratic. Indeed, every beginning law school freshmen knows that a corporation is only a fictional construct, affording to the entrepreneur, the safety of limited liability; and expressly not a natural “person”. These decisions demonstrate that the formerly revered and politically neutral, SCOTUS has, unexplainably, degraded into a political institution. The flood of money into our traditional democratic system, designed to be one man, one vote, had eternally been somewhat eroded by money; the Citizens United decision of SCOTUS, enhanced the flood damage to full tsunami status, and in (lamented) reality, diminished the significance of the individual (citizen’s) vote.

 

CIVIC AMITY, TRIBAL VOTING:

The optimistic founders of our democratic republic, were of the assumption that an informed and literate citizenry, would avail itself of the franchise of free speech, to engage in the responsible practice of socially constructive debate, regarding contested issues as they arose. The outcomes, as intended, would be useful to the responsive government in its guidance and policy making. Thus, they expected that the new experiment in nationhood would function as intended, a government for, and by, the people.

 

Debates, were active occurrences in our country for some time; contested subjects included, abolition v. slavery, excise taxes on commercial products, tobacco and alcohol use, currency standards, evolution, military conscription and land and water use. The Lincoln-Douglas debates concerning the metal standard for our currency,  [gold or silver] was among the most famous. Our generation can easily remember inter and intra-school debates and the popular existence of debating societies, which publicly, and informatively, litigated the contested issues of the day.

We sorely lament the tragic death of (the formerly prevailing) civic amity, in which  citizens of diverse opinions would debate issues while remaining friendly neighbors. Regrettably, for some considerable time, people of identical views, seem to have banded together in insular groups of people of identical opinion, each  group, evincing, by words and action, disrespect and antipathy for other like groups, with disparate opinions. Issues such as regulation of firearms, woman’s right to abortion, immigration policy, legalization of marijuana, and government obligation to assist the needy, have completely polarized and split the nation. Tribal loyalty, and not rational consideration of the issues now, too often, determine the voting choice of many citizens, neurotically needing, it would appear, the sense of identity and belonging, reinforced by voting and acting identically, with other members of their group. Such vote is typically based on a single issue, and in ignorance of the balance of the favored candidate’s platform. This harmful practice distorts the intended result and the purpose of the elective process, which was to function as a democratic expression of the public will. An evident, and entirely mind-boggling example of irrational tribal voting, is manifested by the consistent support by Christian Evangelicals, of Donald Trump, who routinely boasts, on about his immoral sexual escapades in the public media.

 

SOCIETAL INTERACTION, COMMUNICATION:

We sincerely lament the incalculable loss to humanity associated with the tragic substitution of mechanical electronic messaging, for natural and expressive human conversation.

It requires no supporting argument to maintain that human progress from the lone, self-dependent cave man, to more modern, mutually interdependent, subsisting society, is essentially attributable to man’s facility of communicative speech. Communicated inter-dependence in developed skills, for purposes of joint defense, food gathering, and other matters of human survival and societal development, were made possible by man’s vital capability of  interactive spoken communication.

In addition to the expression of existential needs, speech has been the humanizing exchange that permits an interactive society of individuals to benefit from the empirical experience of others, to communicate events and happenings, good and bad, and, inarguably of the greatest importance, to make possible, normal life in society. Down through the ages, the pleasure of recognition of a familiar voice, the spontaneous exchange of thoughts and observations, the facility to express personal feelings, joy, empathy, encouragement and when needed, consolation, cemented a vital bond between communicating human beings. Personal interaction serves as a perpetual reminder that we do not exist alone, but can mutually exchange ideas or derive personally expressed support and understanding.

 

Among the most valuable benefits one accrues from societal living, is the luxury of enjoying the experience of personal interaction with others, by face to face conversation, telephone and, when truly personal and nuanced expression is desired, by letter. Yet, more recently, apparently ushered in, concomitantly, with the many advances in computer science, was an exponential rise in the use of small, hand-held computerized devices designed for use in lieu of personalized conversation. Certainly, computers have very positive utility in an uncountable number of functions and efficient applications; but not in substitution for natural conversation. Gone is the pleasure and comfort of hearing the familiar voice, its tone and nuance furnishing recognizable assurance. Gone is the desired reaction, the spontaneous and timely response, gone are the emotional tones evidencing, happiness, surprise, doubt, affection and the intended level of emphasis. Gone are the natural sounds of reassurance, encouragement, empathy, and when desperately needed, consolation. These valuable communicated responsive reactions have been replaced by lighted screen images of cold, data-like text. This is extremely lamentable, and, necessarily, results in a context of impersonality and separation, in lieu of personal exchange. Don’t we all read enough computer data? Human beings need and are entitled to authentic human interaction, and not merely the transmission of electronic symbols. Many members of our young generation will have absolutely no memory or conception, of the warmth and beneficial reassurance derived from real, as compared with, “virtual” experience.

 

SUPERFICIALTY, DENIGRATION OF KNOWLEDGE

We have observed, to our great chagrin, a popular decline in participation in matters of educational and cultural import, and unhappily, a corresponding increase in predilection for superficial and ephemeral diversion. It is existentially necessary to bear in mind that the most valuable and vital resource of any nation, is not its mineral water and natural resources, nor even its geography; it is undeniably, its people. As illustration, we have, in the past, cited the example of 20th century Germany; relatively small in geography, but possessed of a highly educated, skilled and mobilizable population. By reason of those vital attributes in its population, it was able to come [too!] close to the conquest of the entire globe.

 

The construct, or idea of a nation state, is, in reality, a legal, political and geographic conceit; it is successive populations that furnish its history, character and identity.  As the illustration cited above, of 20th century Germany gives testimony, it is adequate education and cultural depth that are the ultimate determinants of a nation’s quality, strength and endurance.

 

In this existential context we have discerned an alarming growth of disrespect for academics, and the liberal arts, inclusive of literature, art and the humanities. These are subjects which lead to the enhancement of human understanding and perspective, and the personal advancement of the individual citizen, and, derivatively, his nation. Reading good literature, is enjoyable entertainment, but more to the point, it furnishes to the reader, wisdom and understanding; it enhances his perspective as to life’s classic human challenges, and the universal attempts at their solution. The citizen’s individual participation in the humanities, (and the arts and sciences) pays double dividends, producing an enhanced and self- fulfilling life for the individual, and as well, a valuable citizen for the nation.

 

Only a general populous, shamelessly and ignorantly content to manifest complete ingratitude toward evolution for its most generous gift to man-  a brain with magnificent capabilities- can enjoy television’s inane afternoon talk programs and game shows, trite soap operas, wastefully play computer games, and elect to cast its vote for Donald J. Trump.

 

-p.

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plinyblogcom

Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Literature Student and enthusiast.

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