Rare earth mine, CaliforniaUS-Mexican borderNear Douglas, ArizonaBarber shop, MichiganForeclosure eviction, MilwaukeeOilfield, western North DakotaWindmill blade manufacturing, Newton, IowaDillon Panthers, Austin, TexasBargirl, NYCPassage, painting by Stephen LackGulf of Mexico, BP platform
America, once, held out a promissory note stating:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
While it can easily be argued that this promise was from the outset fraudulent, in, for example, not including among its “men” the native inhabitants of North America, nor women, nor black people, or in being the construct of a slim minority of wealthy men who designed their formula for government to lean towards their benefit at the cost of others (one had to own land to vote back then), the promise nevertheless was given, and many in time took it to be genuine, and in steps it seemed the nation thus founded moved stumbling towards its original stated aims.
Today this promise seems, though, ever more questionable. The nature of our modern technological society, based on a capitalist economic system which didn’t really exist in our founder’s time, and a radically altered change of “shared values” seem to challenge it daily, in manners both obvious and near-invisible. Life itself is challenged with the vast output of our society, which blindly produces things with no real accounting as to their impact on our very lives and the small globe we live upon. This very moment a river of toxins flows into the Gulf of Mexico, owing to the profit-minded practices of a giant corporation, which in collusion with a manipulated government, chose not to install a half-million dollar device which might have prevented the BP Deepwater Horizon well blow-out. The price which this “accident” will incur is at present incalculable, and will never be meaningfully measured in that standard American yard-stick, the dollar.
The corruptions which led to this incident run like gold veins now throughout our entire culture – a corruption broadcast by radio and television in the fraudulent “news” that passes off propaganda as “truth” no less than did the old Soviet Pravda, which meant “truth.” It runs through the highest institution of our “justice” system, the Supreme Court, which some months ago ruled that corporations have the same rights (if not the same responsibilities) as people, in a craven ruling which signaled that our political system has been completely purchased by the powers of business and wealth. It runs through the common shared discourse of the nation in which the facile poisons of fame and celebrity are taken as virtues, and the squalid matters of movie stars and pop singers are of greater import for many citizens than are the chronic wars which eat as a cancer at our society. It runs through the compliant participants who long ago forgot the originating impulse of our nation: no taxation without representation. These days, the most represented – the corporations which now own the political structure and govern in their interests – pay the least in taxes, and those with no representation, the common citizens, are taxed proportionate to their incomes far higher than the richest. So far have the founding structures of our social contract collapsed.
The fractious response to these ruptures is seen in the Tea-party, in the profound and deep alienation to be seen across our narrowed political spectrum, in whichever language it is spoken. Our politicians seem like the embalmed figures of the late Soviet Union, sporting their emblems, caught in a turgid and dead language, speaking in the circular echo-chamber of their own dumb blindness. Our American version is little different, and there is little reason to think that we will fare other than that imagined monolithic “union” did. Our future is dissolution, the consequence of a terminal corruption of the commonweal which once, for a while, seemingly held us together.
Of course, from the very outset, it was all an illusion.
For further images from Stephen Lack, see his website.