What Christianity, competition and democracy share is that the only thing worse than hearing them questioned is having them practiced--provenance unknown
We Yanks have been recently ranked the fattest people on earth. Now let’s suppose that our pols and pundits went around praising us for being slim, trim and fit. Imagine they declaimed that, when it came to being svelte, we were a model for the world.
And so it actually is with rugged individualism (which should be added to the quote above). Rarely has something so fugacious been so flogged. Willard Romney and the yahoos (sounds like a good name for a band), never stop crowing about our unique gift of uniquity. Let those other not-so-great countries wallow in community and cooperation, we Americans stand each of us separate and alone in snickering at their socialistic sensibilities.
The reality, of course, is that John Wayne and the Marlboro Man caught cancer and dropped dead years ago. Sociologists tell us that, far from being rugged individualists, most of us are closer to being clones than cowboys. In truth, we’re mass produced in consciousness factories where actual individualists get dumped into the misfit bin.
We talk a lot about individualism’s supposed spawn of leadership. Are we not the masters of our fate at home and the leader of the free world to boot? Then how come we have a pair of tick and tock parties that limit citizens to an A to B range of politics and policies? How come no real and rugged American leader has come forth to shift the country out of reverse and into high gear? How come the best we can is do is Willard Romney, who’s about nothing, and Barack Obama, who’s about Romney?
How come the collectively organized Chinese are eating our lunch when it comes to ingenuity and avidity? If bootstrap enterprise is the way out of our economic mess, how come the countries faring best in these hard times are the welfare states of northern Europe and the leftist lands of Latin America?
Ah, you retort, what about Steve Jobs, everybody’s “I Did It My Way” hero? Sure, I go along with applauding his creativity and initiative. But after I finish clapping, what about the tens of thousands of Apple employees and contract drones scraping by on two bites a day. Emulating the Jobs' of the world is not going to create jobs, good ones anyway. Fixing this country will take a collective effort. Everybody together, not everybody alone.
Editor’s Note: When I began writing this particular blog, I didn’t know that Alex Cockburn, one of Ireland’s, America’s, journalism’s and the left movement’s true individualists passed away. Because he made his illness his own business so as preclude its effects on others, I also didn’t know that he had been battling cancer for two years.
Cockburn was a cantankerous inspiration for all of us who try to abide by the useful bromide that journalism should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Counterpunch, one of the best news sites ever, is just part of his legacy of acuity. courage and wit. It will continue, edited by Cockburn’s associate Jeffrey St. Clair. Anyone interested in the real world ought to read it. On a happier note, everyone ought to rent or rob "Beat The Devil," one of the wittiest movies ever. Directed by John Huston and starring Bogie and a fabulous cast, it was taken from a novel by Claud Cockburn, Alex’s father. Alex used that title for his long running column in The Nation. No one thrashed beezlebub with more panache.