Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mothers of Invention

By Distributorcap

I can't help myself I'm addicted to a life of material
It's some kind of joke, I'm obsessively opposed to the typical
All we care about is, runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles
Give me something I wanna be, retro glamour,
Hollywood yes we live for the

Fame - Doin' it for the
Fame - Cause we wanna live the life of the rich and famous
Fame - Doin' it for the
Fame - Cuz we got a taste for champagne and endless fortune

Lady Gaga

Today on one of the morning cable chat fests, there was a whole discussion on why the USA is losing its preeminence as an economic power and innovator. The poor hosts were bemoaning the loss of this country's edge in technology, science and manufacturing, and were just amazed that other nation's were challenging our lofty position. These same brainiacs also had a very simple answer to fix the problem - Americans just need to regain that pioneering spirit that built this nation and become more creative. In other words - Just do it - yeah US!

I didn't realize fixing the nation's economic woes and loss of jobs was something as easy as clicking your slide rule three times and saying "there's no place like America."

What these very well paid talking heads (who probably couldn't tell a florence flask from Florence Henderson) failed to bring up during their lament on the state of American ingenuity is that our lack of innovation, creativity and scientific leadership is a deeply endemic problem that cannot be fixed by a bunch of suggestions or changes in policy. Our plunge in to the abyss of stagnancy has been years in the making. And this drop off the cliff is constantly being reinforced by long-term neglect to our education system, the rise and loud voice of evangelical religious dogma (which generally hates science), an obsessive fixation on money, a youth culture which values fame above everything else and the media's need to sell soap as opposed to selling development.

Can anyone name a single show on cable or broadcast that dedicates itself to "glamourizing" invention, patents, scientific breakthroughs or the betterment of society? We have plenty of programs that extol the virtues of making money, that show how to become wealthy enough to retire at 25, that demonstrate the value of voting people out of a house or island, that teach us you can dance your way to fame, and that allow maniacs on the air which damn scientists to hell for believing in evolution or climate change.

All the drive to keep America as the world's leader in research, science and technology seems to have ended when the last Apollo spacecraft left the moon in 1972. We replaced our brains with a bunch of lunar rocks. Sure we have developed and created thousands of inventions and products that are the best in their respective fields, but the big, bold push to the next level of innovation has take a back seat to the next big, bold get rich quick financial derivative.

We enjoy making money much more than making things. We love to buying those things, but making them (and dreaming them up) has been sourced out to "other societies." After all, who wants to get their $50 manicure dirty or be forced to wear Lee Press-on nails.

Thirty years ago, a conscience decision was made by the ruling elite (read Ronald Reagan) that education was not going to be a priority in this country. Cutting taxes and teaching our kids that they deserved something for nothing replaced basic accounting and ethics. A whole generation grew up thinking that you had to make money and become famous - or else you were nothing. Complementing the Reagan doctrine were mass market shows like Dallas and Dynasty - where everyone had a endless supply of money, worse beautiful clothing and seemed to never work a real job. At least Ward Cleaver wore a plain suit and went to the office to work. Alexis Carrington went to the office and had catfights with Crystal over Blake.

Millions watched every week. Very few people were in their basements worrying about the potential of an oil-dependent economy.

By the time our "other" education President and administration was installed in 2000, kids (and the public) had been ingrained that if you didn't make a fast buck, it wasn't worth the effort. At the same time, religious dogma began to creep into the education system. Many of those "teachers" (with full encouragement from the administration and tacit approval by the media) began to demonize real science and inventive thinking as heresy. Add to that the exaltation of shows like American Idol - and you had the perfect recipe for laziness.

Americans for all intents and purposes stopped wanting to lead, they wanted to rule.

Within a very short period of time (3o years is not that long a time) - America went from the world principal "idea" land - to a torpid and languishing nation living on it power and past. Instead of planning for a future, we lived for the moment. We borrowed (rather mortgaged the future) to fight wars, we developed products that made money, but didn't make life better. We wanted to be on American Idol more than we wanted to be on Jeopardy (even the questions on Jeopardy began to reflect the country at large - more about who shot JR?, and less about geography and science).

Unless we somehow turn this Titanic around and start teaching our youth that building the next economic platform has to benefit society as well as benefiting themselves, it is only a matter of time before China (and India and Brazil and Korea) pass us in terms of global leadership - maybe even militarily. The next great financial derivative may make a few of those MBA-types mega-wealthy, but it will do nothing to make this country wealthy. And unless the media starts making a concerted effort to focus on science, math, technology and innovation as opposed to credit default swaps or Lindsay Lohan's, their grieving over America's fall from king of the hill is nothing more than crocodile tears.

We also need to stop blaming everyone else for our failures and start owning up to the fact we have put ourselves into this position - and spending trillions in Afghanistan, cutting the capital gains tax and taking our anger out on illegal immigrants is not going to fix the mess. Only a complete revamping of the way we think of our society will.

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  • thank's such a great post

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    get hits and views!

    By Blogger james, at 9:49 AM  

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