We live in an expanding culture of victimhood fueled by identity politics. Americans are supposedly saved from themselves by a new hipster generation of Silicon Valley zillionaires, socially aware techies, progressive government bureaucrats, crusading liberal journalists, and cranky, mostly irrelevant academics. So why do they not address the need for politically correct self-policing? Here are five examples of how postmodern do-gooders could help the nation in 2016.
The left believes a corporation or business is ultimately financially responsible for the unanticipated consequences of using its product. Smoke too many cigarettes and the tobacco companies are sued for knowingly having tar and nicotine in their products. We go after fast food and super-sized drinks for inundating unaware Americans with trans fats and processed sugar. Design flaws earn auto companies billions of dollars in recalls and fines.
But why do we ignore smart-phone companies? Studies supposedly reveal that texting or net surfing while driving is a greater impairment than is driving while under the influence. How many of us have seen 20-ton semi-trucks weave down mountain passes, as a 20-something driver is glued to the opiate-like device on his lap? Doesn’t Apple know how its product is being misused and causing death and mayhem—or has it commissioned some secret study showing that its devices are as addictive as painkillers and therefore essential for expanding sales?
Shouldn’t a benevolent government agency in 2016—in the fashion that it regulates less-lethal handguns—go after iPhones to block their use while the user is in motion? Cannot Obama’s consumer protection bureaucrats put an “automatic motion shut-off app” on every smart phone? In one day last week, a vagrant with shopping cart walked into my bumper at a crosswalk while texting, a young woman slammed on her brakes in front of me during a bottleneck while texting, and a driver went off the road into the gravel. Again, all were texting. How about a microchip to turn these gadgets off once they are in motion? Wouldn’t that remedy be as humane and socially aware as trigger locks on new handguns? Could we register lethal iPhones?
The Diabetes Pandemic
One in three Californians admitted to the hospital for any reason is found to have type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a state plague. The poor and Latinos as well have obesity rates of 40% and suffer from skyrocketing type 2 diabetes—often requiring kidney dialysis (there are two such clinics now in my hometown). Undocumented immigrants arriving from Mexico (which has the highest obesity rates—70% of the population—in the world) are especially at risk—and discover that the America diet is no different from what caused the pandemic in Mexico.
The national health implications seem to rival those of the AIDS epidemic. Millions of the country’s residents are at risk for a mostly preventable disease that can be avoided or arrested by diet and exercise. Medi-Cal costs are over $175 billion. Most of that staggering expense is covered by the federal government; but in dollar amounts alone Medi-Cal represents half the California state budget, and would long ago have broken Sacramento if not for federal bailouts.
Why, then, is there not a California public health campaign in Spanish and English to warn residents and Latinos especially of their greater risks? We talk loosely of the “Latino” vote as politicians pander to it by supporting sanctuary cities and open borders. Would it not be more humane to campaign on a public health crusade analogous to the AIDS efforts in the 1980s and 1990s? Why the relative silence about this pandemic that is zeroing in on an entire population?
We caricature the schlock of 1950s advertising. Crass Madison Avenue “ad men” supposedly ruined our Golden Age of TV programming with non-stop blaring ads, as pitchmen like Mike Wallace hocked everything from new, improved detergents to fortified breakfast cereals and menthol cigarettes.
In reaction, NPR, PBS, and FM radio gave us quieter types who whispered in soft voices and offered a little nasal-twanged introspection, as they modestly asked for public handouts every 10 minutes.
But are not the 21st-century hipster salespeople now far worse? Can you go to a website without an ad materializing or being redirected to a buy-something page? Have you noticed that if you buy snow gloves, Big Brother’s IP-address-sniffing ads for snow boots soon pop up on your news page? Check the weather once from your zip code, and suddenly you are told that you should subscribe to the Weather Channel. The blare of 1950s TV is nothing compared to your computer screen.
Why is it hard to stay on a news site but impossible to get off an ad page? Out of nowhere voices chime in about a buying a new phone. Videos jump in hyping the latest cable drama. Ads once on the margins now sneak into the middle of the screen—all this from the new generations that don’t wear flattops or wear wing-tips and square ties. What happened to their promises that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”? If they can cool the planet and lower the seas, and make half the graduating class valedictorians, surely the Masters of the Universe can stop the contamination of the Internet by 24/7 schlock selling?
Break Up White America
Each self-identified minority group, immigrant and native, seeks some sort of ethnic or national cachet other than Joe-Blow “American.”
Have an ethnic boost of something other than “white,” and the road to victimhood and with it an edge in admissions and employment is supposedly enhanced. But in our multiracial and mixed-up culture, what is “white” other than a crude and inexact rubric that somehow includes darker Greeks and Armenians, but not lily-white Ted Cruzes?
Is Barack Obama more a “black man” than my authentically black Punjabi neighbor? So why not junk “white,” and let so-called whites, as others, fragment to rediscover their own sometimes distant ethnic identities?
We can go back to “German,” as in: “Robert Heine, a German, was injured yesterday in a car accident.” Or “Jack Lang has become the first French supervisor at the DMV.” If the usage of just “Latino” or “black” is OK identification, without even the need for hyphenation, why not return to IDs like “Czech” or “Polish”? Did not Hitler only about 80 years ago invade and destroy Poland? Why then are Polish-Americans and German-Americans supposedly indistinguishable brotherly “whites”?
Are so-called “white” ancestries any shakier than fourth-generation “Latinos” who may be Oaxacan or Castilian or Brazilian, or 1/16 “Native American”? Why not just toss in “whites” in 2016 and rediscover the map of Europe?
Who needs even “European-American” when we all can become a minority nation again of Brits, Scots, Irish, Italians, Danes, and French? My second- and third-generation high-school Mexican-American friends often spoke Spanish no better than I did. Their children speak not a word. They are, or are not, as Latino as I am Swedish. And with such new ethnic cachets come claims on identity victimhood. We can return to catchy ethnicized first and last names. Someday I will tell my son to name his son Ragnar Björn Hanson. French has accents; so why not use them as do Latinos? The nobody Herb Berger can — Voila! — become a somebody Hebèrt Bergère, who will have a lot better chance getting that job at the VA.
Poor George Zimmerman might have fared better had he been maternalized into Jorgé Mesa. I doubt the media would have edited Jorgé’s 911 call or photoshopped away Mr. Mesa’s facial injuries. Germanic Zimmerman for too many conjures up some scent of the Waffen-SS. Mesa, George’s mother’s surname, instead suggests victims of Spanish conquistadors. Barack Hussein Obama was no big deal when for a while he was Barry Dunham.
With exoticism comes advantage. Can we once again remember the Irish indentured servants? The loyal Germans in the U.S. who were interned in World War II and in some cases deported to Germany after the war? The innocent Scottish immigrants who were butchered on the Western wagon trails? They all can be in 2016 if their names show ethnic pride—1/32nd or not.
Campuses now lecture us on cultural appropriation. Americans “steal” Mexican food and ruin Calypso music and offer in return only tasteless burgers and syrupy bland tunes. Europe, we are told, gave us toxic legacies, from diet to lifestyles. Forget Shakespeare and Shaw; anybody supposedly could write such drivel, which is why you don’t have to be white to play Hamlet or Eliza Doolittle.
But cannot Americans in 2016 also blame others cultures as the fonts for our current destructive habits?
Corn starch and corn syrup are two of the most deleterious of food additives that wind up in everything. Who is to blame for both? Was the world a healthier place without this toxic New World gift of corn? Did anyone have a peanut allergy before Columbus? Did Jack Daniels incapacitate us before indigenous peoples brought us corn?
For that matter, did pre-Columbian and pre-Magellan British or French smoke, snort cocaine, gulp addictive coffee and teas, pour sugar on their food, or eat fatty potatoes before non-European tribes hooked them on these sometimes deadly food and recreational habits? Were not bathing suits modest before the contamination of bikinis?
Who gave us incense-driven allergies? Is there much evidence that syphilis was epidemic in Europe before Columbus? There certainly seems no evidence for it in Greek and Roman medical texts.
Can we hunt back promiscuous indigenous Patient Zero on the basis of fossilized DNA?
In 2016 can Americans culturally disassociate themselves from these injurious foods and bad habits that once were the sole domain of a victimizing America, Africa, or Asia? Why is an eagle feather torn from an endangered species considered sacred but not a cigar at 7-Eleven?
If we are going to take stock of our pathologies and start an inventory of which culture is to blame for making us unhappy, then let us start with those foods, drugs, and practices that do the most damage. Yes, we can!