Of Obsessions, Habits and Addictions

In my last blog, I said that greed has become so much of an addiction with Americans, it is impossible to see them kicking the economic habit .

That thought caused me to briefly look at American’s habits, addictions and obsessions, and see how they deal with them, and how many are broken.

In general, America is the worst place to break a habit mainly because Americans generally don’t want to take personal responsibility.  They look to blame outside forces, friends, families, the society at large, the coke they’re shoving up their noses.  They refer to some habits as diseases, and try to find some gene handed down by their parents as the reason why they can’t stop spending money on useless items.

Another issue is that many Americans think that they can get away with stupidity and arrogance because that’s part of being American.  So stupidity becomes an addiction with them.  Its embedded in the ‘I don’t care what anyone else says, this is what I’m doing’.  Great if you’re a genius planning something scientific, not too great if you are an idiot trying to do a ‘jackass’ stunt.

Another powerful ingredient is the ‘Me’ mentality… ‘all about me’.  I have been scrutinising some people in my neighborhood and am constantly amazed as to how they keep doing the same ‘carry-down’ things time and time again, simply because they are out seeking just for themselves.

I don’t know if you know this story… about the scorpion that wanted to cross the flooded river?  Well, he asked the frog to give him a lift.  “Do I look like an idiot?” asked the Frog, “You will only sting me to death”.

“Why would I do that?”, replied the Scorpion, “If I do that then I also die”.  Bested by this logic, the Frog had the Scorpion hop on his back.  In the middle of the raging river, BAM!, the Frog gets a load of deadly poison in the back.

“Why?”, he asked, “You’re gonna die too”.

“Why? Because I’m an American”, mused the Scorpion, “It’s in my nature”.

Ok, I made a slight modification to the story, but you get the point.

Now, what happens on the personal level also happens on a national scale.  More accurately, let’s flip that script… what happens nationally is reflected in individual behaviour.

Here are some examples, in no specific order.  Living beyond one’s means has become an American addiction.  With credit cards and loans, many of us are living way beyond our income.  But the federal and local governments, and big corporations, run deficits all the time so the tone is set there.  We have long become a society of OPM, using ‘Other People’s Money’ to fund our needs and lifestyle.  But there will be a judgement day, and it is now.

Greed and Envy are habits that Americans cannot kick… that goes without saying.  For too long the American economy and way of life, were based on the exploitation of other smaller more vulnerable economies… the “we tell you what we want to buy from you and the price we will pay, and we will tell you what to buy from us at a price we set” mentality.

Granted the latter is not just an American affliction, but America is more afflicted than any other country, and has no qualms using military force to get their way.  See Iraq amongst a multitude of others.

Interestingly, PM Gordon Brown of Great Britain is now saying that the IMF and the World Bank are out-of-date.  Yikes!  Michael Manley must be spinning in his grave.  

According to reports, Brown ‘called on world leaders to set about reforming international financial institutions to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that led to the current financial crisis’.  Oh yeah?  Well what about when said institutions backed by you, were creating crises in small economies?  “We were calling for change back then but you callously and contemptuously slammed the doors in our faces”, the ghost of Manley might be saying.

But I digress.  Back to addictions and obsessions.   America and Americans are addicted to power or the illusion of power “we are number one”.  No, you aren’t… but no one can tell them that.  Worse still, they are addicted to the ABUSE of power, from the white House, the Pentagon, the corporate boardroom, to the guy next door. Power is abused in relation to race, religion, sex, body features, class… whatever.

Look how many of the financial corporations who begged for a bailout, turned around and abused the money to either pay extravagant bonuses or splurge on spending on themselves?  They are too long addicted to this way of thinking and can do little or nothing to kick it.  A bad habit become a right, but it is nothing more than an addiction.

Habit is why Barack Obama is not going to make substantial change in foreign policy.  America is to used to lecturing, moralising or even bending others to its will by way of force.  Obama is wedded to the idea that Israel must be unconditionally supported. He as already formed psychological habits regarding Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran.

He like many Americans, particularly politicians, are addicted to looking down on the rest of the world instead of looking across to them, talking to them instead of with them.

Yet everyone but Americans recognise that this habit has cost them credibility.  Obama recognises this disability but it is like me and cashew nuts… we can’t help ourselves.  But me eating cashew nuts won’t get anyone killed or any war started.

The republicans show that they are addicted to stupidity and to a way of life that should have been in a museum long ago.  They just can’t help being adversarial despite the stupidity of their position regarding the economy.  They are obsessed with tax cuts despite the long history of failure.

The democrats can’t help trying to work with a group of people who have no interest with working with them irrespective of whether or not they are in a minority or majority position.  In fact, one can argue that its the democrats that fosters their arrogance.

Habits, addictions and obsessions are difficult but not impossible to beat.  The first step is recognition of the addiction/habit and taking responsibility which is the first problem for Americans.  They fail right there.   George Bush, addicted to failure, won’t recognise or take responsible for his failures.   Put him in power again, and he will make the exact same mistakes.

One can also beat an addiction if one is faced with enough adversity, like losing a loved one because of the problem.  But being a ‘me-centered’ society, makes even adversity not a strong enough incentive.  So even with the economic fallout povertising so many Americans, financial pirates still want to enrich themselves. The same goes for the war in Iraq.  Even with so many civilian dead, the war-hawks push for more deaths.  Me safe, screw you.

Americans have good habits too but we aren’t too worried about those.  Its those bad things that have become habitual, that Americans and the world are concerned about and that we will pay for, for along time.  Americans on the whole need a massive 12 step programme for this country not to continue to spiral downwards due to the many bad habits and addictions developed over years of self-absorption and self-importance.

Will America kick their bad habits?

***

Here’s something that isn’t going to be habit-forming… the republicans just elected an African-American to be party leader. I’m sure that I’m not the only one cynically seeing this as a knee-jerk reaction to Barack Obama.  The republican party has for so long neglected bringing black people into the country club, now they are making one the boss?  Riiiiight.

How much power will Michael Steele really have in shaping republican policy?  0-none, I bet.  He is going to be a figurehead, nothing more.  Steele was never a leading spokesman, not even a leading ‘black’ spokesman in republican circles.

Republicans are trying to sell us that they can ‘change’.  Overturning old habits don’t happen overnight.  Forget about this.

***

And who hasn’t heard about the woman Nadya Suleman, who had octuplets?  Well, it appears she is OBSESSED with having children, the word her mother used.  Suleman had 6 previous children before the recent record births, no husband.  In fact, no man was directly involved in insemination.  She had in vitro fertilisation, implanted embryos.  See what I mean.  Another obsession.  Just what we need, people with a habit for breeding.

hearirant

Writer, photographer, artist. Have been doing all three for some time. More about myself and my art can be found at http://www.louisdavisart.com, and http://www.broward.org/arts/publications/cq/2008/winter08/cq_winter08.htm

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