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American DenialismDaniel Johnson Salem-News.com
America is the most economically inequitable nation on earth among the developed countries.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - I recently read a book: Denialism: How irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet and threatens our lives. It was about: people who refuse to have their children vaccinated in the face of all the evidence demonstrating the efficacy of vaccination; people who believe that “organic” food is “better” with no evidence to support the belief; people who believe in alternative medicines and cures, again, despite the lack of evidence to support their beliefs.
After reading the book, it struck me that denialism is a psychological phenomenon that applies equally well to most American’s beliefs about themselves and their country.
It’s another side of cognitive dissonance which allows people to simultaneously believe contradictory facts without obvious mental conflict.
In nearly eighteen months of commenting on American society, my experience has been one of denial by most commenters to the many facts I presented.
I introduced charts and economic information, all of which was denied by many commenters without providing a single countervailing item.
In a small number of cases, in fact, commenters actually made stuff up. In a larger proportion of cases, some commenters resorted to insult and invective which is a certain sign of having no valid countervailing argument.
Another batch of commenters tried diversion and deflection by, instead of responding to a specific statement, would try to point out Canada’s failings.
Sometimes those statements were accurate, but they do nothing to refute the argument they are denying.
I’m reminded of the famous Monty Python skit “The Argument”.
A man comes in wanting to have an argument. The man at the desk says he has to pay first. The man pays and attempts to begin an argument. The man at the desk, “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to argue unless you pay”.
“But, I just did”.
“No, you didn’t”.
“Yes, I did”.
“No, you didn’t”.
The man then says, “Look, an argument isn’t the automatic gainsaying of whatever someone says”.
There is it is. Too often, in the comments section, readers just automatically gainsaid my statements and left it at that.
In a recent comment, I quoted Ferdinand Lundberg from The Rich and the Super-rich:
Whereas European royalty and nobility played profound integral roles in European history, the latter-day American rich were more like hitchhikers who opportunistically climbed aboard a good thing. They produced neither the technology, the climate, the land, the people nor the political system. Nor did they, like many European groups (as in England) take over the terrain as invading conquerors. Rather did they infiltrate the situation from below, insinuate themselves into opportunely presented economic gaps, subvert various rules and procedures, and, as it were ride a rocket to the moon and beyond, meanwhile through their propagandists presenting themselves, no less, as the creators of machine industrialization which was in fact copied from England and transplanted into a lush terrain.
One Salem-News writer did not like this quote and wrote: “Re yrs from Lundberg, his own crotchety tone and some of why he wrote as he did is all too well-known --but not, apparently, to you.” If it’s “all too well known”, who else knows it? An example of just gainsaying what I presented.
What I ask for in response to this quote is: Which of Lundberg’s assertions are wrong and what would be a correct alternative assertion?
To suggest that I “cherry pick” my quotes for arguments suggests intellectual dishonesty on my part. My quotes on a wide variety of topics have been gathered over many decades and they are selected at the time for their relevance and interest, even if they are not for a specific argument at that moment. So, I am interested in seeing some valid refutation of Lundberg, not just disagreement and gainsaying.
Here’s another quote I found some years ago by John Wain, a British historian writing in his biography of Samuel Johnson. On America in the 18th century he wrote:
While refusing to pay taxes, the colonists nevertheless continued to accept the protection of British naval power. It has always seemed to me that Johnson had a real point here. No country in history has gone through its teething period with so little interference from outside as the United States. During the century and a half in which the country grew up, the possibility of foreign invasion was simply not a problem. And the reason, or one of the reasons, must surely be the thoroughness with which the British navy policed the North Atlantic. A pretty handsome service to be had without paying a penny.
Countervailing argument, anyone?
My psychological motivation for writing critical pieces about the United States is a fair question. I’ve answered it before, but I will reiterate. The United States has become a rogue nation on the world stage. I’ve covered this reality in my reviews of books like Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America's century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq, Andrew J. Bacevich’s Limits of Power: The end of American Exceptionalism, Susan Jacoby’s Age of American Unreason, Bruce Judson’s It could happen here: America on the brink, Garry Wills’ A Necessary Evil, and others.
As a northern neighbor, and citizen of the globe that we all share, I fear continued American harm to the earth and its other peoples. One comment response that pops up fairly regularly is along the lines that Canada should be grateful that the U.S. is there to protect us. This ignores the reality that if we were situated elsewhere on the globe, we wouldn’t need American protection. But why, being where we are, do we need protection? Because America is such a brutal nation in its treatment of others, that it is legitimately hated by many. I’m speaking here of American government policy. Many Americans, on an individual basis, are compassionate and generous to others. Unfortunately, they are not in the majority.
The belief in American Exceptionalism is one of the most egregious failings of many Americans.
Roger Cohen (an American), in reviewing The Myth of American Exceptionalism, by Godfrey Hodgson concludes:
The high number of its prison inmates is exceptional. The quality of its health care is exceptionally bad. The degree of its social inequality is exceptionally acute. Public education has gone into exceptional decline. The Americanization of the Holocaust and uncritical support for Israel have demonstrated an exceptional ability to gloss over uncomfortable truths, including broad American indifference to Hitler’s genocide as it happened.
Every nation in the world is exceptional in some ways. But American exceptionalism has the taste of America being better, special, favoured, chosen-by-God, in comparison to the other nations of the world. This takes me back to the quotes by Lundberg and Wain above. America, as a nation, has indisputably been lucky.
I’d like to reprise some of the charts I included in earlier stories. They show a negative American exceptionalism. America is a nation run by and for the exceptionally wealthy. One commenter wrote: “Our system when used properly works. We have the ability to change the system with our most powerful weapon our vote. Backed up by our right to bear arms.” and, “We do have the best system. If we choose to use it.”
Unfortunately, a clear cut case of American denialism. If the citizens have the ability to change the system, why don’t they? When in the last century did it work? What’s the point of having 300 million guns if you don’t use them?
The purpose of my critical writing and of this piece in particular, is to try to supply an antidote to the Kool-Aid that Americans drink. Put down that glass. You have nothing to lose but your chains.
American wealth concentration has returned to the level it was at in the 1920s. Since the 2008 meltdown millions of Americans have become beggared but the rich have become even richer. This first table is six years old and doesn’t reflect the recent increased concentration at the top.
America is the most economically inequitable nation on earth of the developed nations. Notice from the chart that economic concentration, the wealth held by the top 1% of Americans, reached its lowest point in 1976 and began to increase, again, with the Reagan years. Coincidence? I think not.
Despite some commenters attempt to spin the numbers, or even make up their own, America is the most violent of the developed nations. (Table 1)
American infant and child mortalities, and overall life expectancy should be the highest in the world, but they are nowhere near that (Tables 3 and 4).
Commenters are now invited to prove the opposites of my assertions or at least cast a reasonable doubt.
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place