12/31/2013 10:19 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

Where Do You Stand? Where Do We Fall?

Mike McCarthy, political commentator and a friend of mine on Facebook, wrote this a few days ago:

By mid century the society of this country will be fully reshaped to suit corporate needs. The individual will be a slave consumer, trained from infancy to be a compulsive buyer, and to be obedient to the dictates of corporate governance, executed by Federal, state and local governments and the courts. All public employees and services will be corporate hires and operations. All "entitlements" will be eliminated in favor of corporate insurance and management. All public assets, such as parks and roads, will be corporate properties. Infractions by workers on the job, including talk of organizing, will be punishable by fine and imprisonment, as will all public demonstrations showing disloyalty to the corporations. All housing will be corporate rentals -- urban, small and mean. Americans, already monumentally clueless about the duties of citizenship and the trajectory of "their" country will be completely reconditioned to accept subjugation to the job, the company and the Federal corporatocracy. And we will constantly be at war to bring profit to war profiteers. And, of course, the corporations will accelerate their destruction of the environment and depletion of resources, with increasingly fatal results to the public -- which will still be watching shit-for-brains TV shows when the authorities come knocking to drag them away.

Pretty bleak future for this country. Is he correct in this dire prediction? I certainly hope he's not. I prefer, in fact, to believe that people in America are starting to wake up and recognize their responsibility to not only themselves, but future generations, and will begin to move in the direction that is local, sustainable community building. I don't wish for this because I have any particular philosophical or political leanings, but because I remember first hand a different America four decades ago. It was one, for example, where many people had small backyard gardens and were able to provide healthy produce for their families. It was one where Main Street was filled with mom and pop establishments, and I could walk into a store and speak to the owners. I recall an America where banks were small enough that those in charge of them, the officers and the clerks, would have felt shame that they stole money from their neighbors by making bad deals.

And public education. As a student, I learned about the history of the Labor Movement, for example. I was moved by the sacrifices hard working Americans had made so that working conditions would no longer be horrendous for men, women and children. The list of my recollections of a different America goes on and on. But more telling than all of these details is an attitude, a spirit that seems to be furiously disappearing. That attitude was neither ironic, snarky, cynical nor mean spirited. It was in fact the opposite. There was a sense in people that you were not supposed to be violent towards one another, either physically or emotionally. That even when you found it difficult, you were to behave in a way that gave the other person at least a momentary benefit of a doubt. You did not pull out a weapon and kill someone as you "stood your ground." You asked questions and did not assume the other was about to kill you because they had darker skin than you did. You were also rather appalled by television shows and films that glorified violence, greed, deceit, racism, sexism and a lack of self respect and respect for your fellow Americans. Remember that phrase? Fellow Americans? It was something to be proud of once.

We were never a perfect nation. Any country built on the blood of slaves, indentured servants, child labor, the abuses of the obscenely wealthy is far from perfect. But we seemed to know at one time that these were things to be ashamed of, that we needed to strive for something better. Something other than drone strikes, unending surveillance, wars waged all over the world to maintain the coffers of the corporatocracy. We knew such actions were immoral, disastrous and would kill us in the end. Do we still know this? Are we aware that America has put more people into prison than any other country in the world? And that many of these men and women are nothing more than slave labor because they had the unmitigated bad luck to be poor or "illegal" or dark skinned?

I think many Americans do know. I also believe a small percentage are doing everything they can to reverse this nightmare. But sadly not nearly enough. Why is this? Why have we not risen up and taken to the streets and reclaimed a democratic society? Are we so zoned out on the Internet, or bad films, or TV to be even remotely aware of what is happening? Are we too frightened, weak, apathetic or disturbed to rise up and take control of our lives? Do we simply not care that our children, our flesh and blood and their children will soon inherit the horrible society we are handing them? Are we such cowards that our own small and insignificant lives are more important to us than the desire for justice, hope, true security and the promise that was once America?

I hope my Facebook friend is wrong. I hope that America will find its way home. But we have moved so far away from where we need to be that I fear much of what my friend declares may come true, may even be true in part right now. I pray for all the children who did nothing to deserve such a future that my friend is way off base, removed from reality, overreacting to some temporary state of the Union. At the very least I wonder if you will get away from the computer and the TV and begin to ask the hard questions of your neighbors, family members and friends, and continue this discussion. We know something is very rotten in the state of the Union, and now we need to determine collectively what to do about it. Let's hope it's not too late.