The Influencers

During the past four years we have all seen a side of the United States that left many of us aghast! It was shocking to realize that in the richest, most powerful country in the world almost half the population believes that wearing a mask to thwart off a lethal virus is a political statement supported by outlandish conspiracy theories! (Covidiots are not only in those backward nations, huh America?) So, how can this be when we have about 116,867 million libraries stacked with the most incredible books to enlighten, educate, elevate and edify us? And, we also have 9057 public libraries (year 2016 figures) stacked with the best written books in the world comprising all the varieties of publications ever published? What is it then that Influences people’s thinking the most? Is it their political leadership? Their religious affiliation? Is it Ignorance? Manipulation? Tribalism? What draws people to drinking the Jonestown Kool-Aid time and time again? Have they not read enough about the numerous scandals surrounding opportunistic manipulators who, whether under the guise of religion, politics, tribalism, racism or otherwise have compelled people to commit horrifying crimes? Is The Holocaust not enough proof of how one megalomaniacal criminal committed a most heinous and savage genocide – that we, the Palestinian people, are still paying for – as his people went blithely along? It is perplexing, to say the least.

Perhaps it is very telling then to realize that the most popular book in the US is the Bible (sales of which are 5 billion copies worldwide). It seems, therefore, that Religion was, and remains, the most Influential cultural aspect of our lives. No wonder then that most people in the US and across the world continue to fight and kill each other over Religion and their own interpretation of it. Even within the same religion there are often such varying explanations amongst the different sects which leaves one wondering whether they are even referring to the same Holy Book? This is the case in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (I am not as knowledgeable about other religions) How can this be?

I was very surprised when I looked up the best selling genres of books and the number of copies sold in the US. Here they are:

Romance/Erotica (1.44 billion)
Crime/Mystery (728 Million)
Religious/Inspirational (720 Million)
Science Fiction/Fantasy (590 Million)
Horror (79  Million)

Smut is on top of the list? No Philosophy? No History? None of the genres that might be Intellectually Stimulating? Nothing that will prevent us from continuing to repeat the same old blunders that humanity has been committing for thousands of years? How are we to put an end to Violence in every one of its despicable facets if we do not learn from our past? What a sad statement of our wicked human condition! It truly behooves me!

Moreover, our children’s educational curricula are so lacking, and the history that they are made to study is so one-sided and biased that there is no way it can enlighten them about the woefulness of the human condition and its repetitive cycle of discrimination, violence and war-mongering. Quite sad, really!

During the past few months and since the Virus permeated every nook and cranny of our lives worldwide, plus all the discontent, inequality and injustice that it has laid bare, humanity has been preoccupied with coping, absorbing and processing all the foulness surrounding us which has created unprecedented levels of misery, joblessness, hunger, frustration and stress. Throughout history, and especially at such traumatic moments, we, human beings, have tended to resort to snake oil, conspiracy theories, religious misinterpretations, false prophets, tribalism, racism, and extremism of all kinds in an ignorant effort to explain events, while forgetting all the incidents since Abraham that warn us not to resort to these measures. We are, indeed, obdurate!

Anyway, and being that television is one of the Influencers of our culture, there are two shows that I have been watching since they launched and that depict how Negative Influencers who might be political, religious, criminal, or other human beings threaten all of us: FBI and FBI Most Wanted – despite the fact that the suspense elevates my blood pressure sky-high! And, while I do realize that our government subsidizes some of our Hollywood and other Productions, and, perhaps, the FBI subsidizes these two shows, especially after all the negative coverage that they got during the Trump Administration (and some even going back to Hoover’s era) nevertheless, and as I watch, I think to myself how lovely it would be if our actual FBI and Police Detectives behave the way that they do on TV rather than going around shooting black and brown people as if their mantra is: Shoot First Ask Questions Later! Wishful thinking, I guess! It seems to me that the CIA and the FBI have always been the Dark Side of American Domestic and International Policy. My own experiences of that Dark Side are first-hand as I witnessed their well-known covert activities in the Middle East and read about all the other clandestine plots they supported across the world which have left in their wake unforeseen and very dire consequences. Nevertheless, I have great respect for the  thousands of individual men and women working at the FBI and exposing so much criminal activity every single day and hour. They are certainly heroes and heroines whose successes remain largely unknown to the general public, especially these days when crime and criminals of every kind you can think of have proliferated exponentially! When I read about some of those crimes I realize how very wicked, and even evil, we, human beings can be. Certainly our unruly world is in bad need of more Positive Influencers!

So how do we fix it, then? Where do we begin? My answer is, mainly, but not exclusively, with The Main Influencers: Religious Institutions who need to clean up their sordid act before they preach to us; Political Leaders who must end their opportunism, corruption, lies and hypocrisy; The Media which must begin to air programs that inspire the public, rather than shows that are more money-making, sensational, biased and agenda-driven that only debase rather than elevate the viewers. We must get to that responsible point if we want to straighten up the wayward path we have been treading on. Having said all that, let me add that since I am unable to change the world, the best I can do is to spout out my opinions on these posts, keep my head above water and cope in the best way I can, while fervently hoping that the incoming American Administration will be Positive Influencers meting out Equality and Justice nationally and internationally!

I leave you to think of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s amazing questions that are as pertinent today as when he wrote them almost one hundred years ago and that apply to many Politicians, Corporations, Religious figures and the Media:

Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?

(Although this is attributed to John F. Kennedy, Gibran wrote it fifty years prior to Kennedy’s saying it)

Are you a merchant utilizing the need of society for the necessities of life, for monopoly and exorbitant profit or a sincere hard-working and diligent man facilitating the exchange between the weaver and the farmer? Are you charging a reasonable profit as a middleman between supply and demand?

Are you a religious leader, weaving for your body a gown out of the ignorance of the people, fashioning a crown out of the simplicity of their hearts and pretending to hate the devil merely to live upon his income?

Are you a newspaper man who sells his idea and his principle in the slave market, who lives on the misery of people like a buzzard which descends only upon a decaying carcass?


The Elites versus The Hoi Polloi

The show: Saturday Night Live (SNL) got it right when they said that the celebrations for the Biden-Harris ticket seemed to be as jubilant as those at the end of WWII! Oh, my! Other MSM outlets were saying that the world breathed a deep sigh of relief at Trump’s loss. Moreover, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris seemed to be indicating that over half the nation desired a return to the status quo ante – that is: to our previous political comfort zones;to the ante-bellum status – that is: pre-Trump’s-war. This seems to be such a lame and minimal premise and only further proof of how draining these four years have been! Also, over half the nation seems to have indicated that our previous normal where we can criticize, argue and discuss our political issues, cantankerous as they were, is certainly far better than the chaos, the incendiary Tweets, the bullying, manipulation, corruption, illusions, delusions and sheer ineptness of the exhausting Trump Presidency. Nevertheless, a post-mortem of the past four years has to be looked at, discussed and analyzed with as much objectivity as we are capable of, if only for averting another attempt by another politician in the future of dragging us into the Dark Ages, which, thankfully, we have averted this time around. Moreover almost half the electorate voted for Trump, and we should not disregard them, or their genuine concerns, especially that their disappointment at their loss is going to be dangerously festering for quite a while.

It is clear from all the statistics after the election that American Cities, which are mostly inhabited by the Elites who are better educated, more sophisticated, diverse, cosmopolitan and less malleable voted for Biden-Harris and won this election. And, those who lost, were mostly the Hoi Polloi of the sparsely populated hinterland, predominantly isolated, less educated, more religious and less open to the changes that have been going on in the world whether they pertain to the new technologies; to the shifting culture and its openness, to inclusivity, to science, to climate change and its effects, as well as to the enormous demographic changes going on in the nation. This phenomenon of Elites versus Rural Communities is world wide, and it reminds me of how after Gamal Abdul Nasser, the President of Egypt, died, the new President, Anwar Sadat, decided to go to a remote area of rural Egypt to greet the people who, having been told that the President was coming, lined up the streets. And, as the motorcade was passing, they began shouting and clapping: Yahya Nasser! Yahya Nasser! (Long Life for Nasser). They had no idea that Nasser had died, and that it was Sadat in the motorcade! Funny as it may sound, this is a true story, and I mention it only as an extreme example to illustrate the contrast between Cities and Rural Communities.

There is no doubt that Trump, as well as the Republican/Conservative Party capitalized on this fact, and concentrated their efforts on America’s Rural Communities. That seems strange to me, since the GOP was once known as the Party of the Elites, and the Democrats were known as the party of the Hoi Polloi, or the labor class, the poor, the underprivileged, the farmers, factory workers etc. etc. Trump has certainly turned this fact on its head, hasn’t he, since the Elites in the Cities were what tipped this election towards the Democratic Party. Quite interesting, I might say, and another example of how both political parties use and manipulate us. All of us. The Left, the Right and the Middle, the Elites, as well as the Hoi Polloi!

Throughout Trump’s Presidency there was a Block of interests dead set against him and against anything he said, or did. He called it the Deep State (whatever that is). CNN (with few exceptions) and MSNBC were in that Block, and sometimes I was offended by their vitriol, their vindictiveness and their dripping antipathy. It was certainly over the top! On the other end there was Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News where the talking head sycophants were fawning and enraptured with Trump’s every word, Tweet and action. Disgusting as it is to watch them, it is no surprise, since these are the same anchors who had ramped up the neocon war on Iraq, on Libya and on the entire Arab World with dripping poisonous talk, lies, bigotry, racism and propaganda. They have been doing that on many divisive issues! Could Trump with Murdoch/FoxNews’ choir green light Bibi (who has been chomping at the bit!) to attack Iran during this transitional period? It would not surprise me at all, although it would be catastrophic for Iran, the region and the whole world! All our hypocritical, war-mongering MSM outlets would support that, even if tacitly. It is quite sad, actually, that all our media outlets are no more there to serve the interests of the people, or any ideals. Sadly, they only cherry-pick what information they think we need to be told about in order to serve their slanted agendas, sensationalism and the mighty dollar. Certainly, the industry needs a rethink! Meanwhile, there is a slew of other news sources to choose from.

Nevertheless, might this election be more like a Stop Gap Transitional pause in our political landscape here at home, as well as internationally, thus allowing us to get over the exhaustion of the past four years and to refocus on which direction we want to go in the future? Because, anyone expecting a Transformational fulfillment of all of Biden’s promises, or the drastic changes that the country really needs in order to become more Just and Equitable might only be setting themselves up for disappointment. I am keeping my expectations on the low end, simply because reversing the damages that Trump has inflicted will be quite an undertaking, and he is by no means done yet! His tortuous exit from the White House will be trying everyone’s tolerance, and he will keep at it long after that exit. Moreover, there is still a lethal Virus in our midst that we all need to cope with.

When I look back on all the elections that I was part of since coming to the US, and at all the Presidents who presided over this nation, I have to admit that none of them fulfilled all our expectations: Left, or Right. It is impossible to do so, because they are human beings not gods, and we are human beings with all the follies, foibles and wickedness inherent in our nature. Thus, not everything that Trump said, or did, was evil. Some of his doings I agreed with. I still do, although some of my initial assessments regarding him were totally wrong. However, I admit it, whereas neither the media personalities, nor our corrupt politicians ever, ever admit that they were wrong on anything. And they have been wrong. Still, the difference between Trump and previous Presidents is that he has no respect for the Office of the Presidency, nor for the people. His only interest is an adopted, warped, supremacist ideology and how that would benefit him. Also, with previous Presidencies there was a certain modicum of honor and class amongst all politicians. Today it is sad to hear that those who support Trump are AFRAID to oppose him lest he go on tirades against them. Grown men and women AFRAID? Have their spines turned to jelly? They would rather sacrifice all honor, self-respect and democracy for their own sordid ends? It is utterly beyond comprehension!

Nevertheless, and at the end of the day we should all rejoice that this Democratic Republic – notwithstanding all my numerous personal criticisms regarding many of its policies and aspects – and which we have held onto so far, has proven that it can, and will survive, bruised and battered as Trump has rendered it. We should all rejoice in that and continue our efforts in making it work better hard as it is going to be to heal all the fragmentation and anger. It is a far better choice than having to live with a despotic Strongman in the White House, surrounded by his immoral, self-serving, opportunistic, despicable henchmen!