But enough about you…

a writer's blog

Make America Great Again

without comments

statue_of_libertyWant to do something good for your country? Want to do something really good for both your country and yourself at the same time? Go take an adult ed course.

No, this isn’t some sort of snide joke about you or me or anyone else being stupid; we all need to smarten up and we need to smarten up fast. Taking a college course, right now, will help you and it will help America in the most tangible and long-lasting way. Behind almost every problem in America, be it street violence, jobs, diet, health, climate change or political engagement, is a lack of education, a lack of involvement and a lack of trust in the institutions of the country, one of the major ones being our education system. So if you claim to be a patriot, go prove it: Make America great again. The first step toward greatness is to improve things, and you’re not going to improve anyone but yourself. So get to work.

On September 11, 2001, when al-Queda managed to hijack a set of jets and use them as bombs, it was following a philosophy espoused by Osama bin Laden that the weaknesses in western culture could be used to destroy us. The man who used a truck to mow down innocent people in Nice, in July of 2016 was following the same philosophy, and the San Bernadino killers used America’s easy access to guns against us. In all cases the death and destruction was made possible by an open and trusting society that left the door unguarded to a powerful instrument of destruction.

And guess what’s even more destructive than a truck? More destructive than a van full of assault rifles? More destructive even than four airplanes full of jet fuel? How about a hundred million people who deny climate change because they don’t understand the science behind it, even though our military leaders list it as the greatest threat to American security? How about an estimated fifty million Americans who believe the 9/11 attacks might have been a US government conspiracy? How about all the people you know who can’t tell the difference between a fact-checking site and a propaganda site on the web? Or the millions of people who currently have viruses on their computers because they fall for online scams and bad links. Computer viruses are both a personal risk and a societal risk because we can carry that bad code with us into industry and government offices, infecting everything along the way.

You have the ability to not be one of these dupes – just get yourself down to a community college or your local adult ed office at a nearby university, and skill-up with a computer course.

Or how about this: Everyone currently hates the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but few people know why Obama has pushed so hard for it. Even if you’re a die-hard Obama hater, do you honestly think he just hates American jobs and is trying to give them away to Peru and Singapore? Take a poli-sci course and find out what’s actually going on there. Stop accepting easy answers because they’re exciting or simple or scary/fun/sexy/cool and make you feel all counter-culture-y, and be one of the people who actually knows the answer – you might still be violently against this trade agreement, but with some education you’ll base your argument on facts instead of a routine you saw on Comedy Central or Fox News.

How about jobs? The job market is actually pretty good at the moment, but the robots are coming, and guess where they’re coming the fastest? They’re heading for the most common jobs in America, because that’s where corporations stand to make the most profit by robotizing. If you’re a truck driver today and you’re 55 years old, you’re probably going to keep working until a standard retirement age. But if you’re driving a truck and you’re 30 years old, you will definitely find yourself out on the street in 10 years because robotic trucks will take over. Bank clerks, toll booth operators, automobile final assembly-line workers, gas pump operators, medical lab technicians, printers, typesetters, photo retouchers and hundreds of other jobs are disappearing or have already disappeared because computers – if not outright robots – can do the job for us and can do it more cheaply and often more more precision. A generation ago one of the top jobs in America was ‘secretary’ or ‘administrative assistant’. Look around you now: aside from the very top echelon of corporate America, there is no such thing as a secretary because most executives and office workers just don’t need them.

Even people like me, with deep knowledge of databases, security, network configuration and performance/tuning – 30 years ago you’d have hired someone like me to set up your database and you’ve have paid me $100/hour or more to do it because you had no choice. Now? Get a free account at Heroku or Amazon AWS, press one button and you’re done: you have a world-class, highly-secured, high-performance database, with file-design assistance and automated backups for absolutely nothing. A robot will keep it free of viruses and hacking, and another robot will recover it for you if you screw it up through your own mistakes. Programmers are constantly scrambling to learn the newest technology because we’ve written systems that automate the jobs we were doing just a minute ago. We technicians are snakes eating our own tails. I take classes all the time in my own area of expertise; because if I didn’t I’d wake up tomorrow morning to find that I’m no longer a database expert, I’m a Walmart greeter.

Constant and meaningful education is the only thing keeping me one step ahead of the ‘bots. So many people are standing up against trade parternships and unions, against offshore manufacturing and jobs moving the Mexico, when the actual danger to your standard of living is that your job will soon be done by a machine, or by nobody. Jobs in America are not disappearing, they’re transorming, and if you don’t transform yourself you will find yourself angry at someone who’s taken away your standard of living, only you won’t know who it is and you’ll be left pointing in the wrong direction by those who planned it.

Education will save you, a better educated population will save America.

And finally, you can’t talk about dangers to America and making America great again without addressing propaganda. All countries propagandize. America has radio stations worldwide that pump out pro-American messages. We export the American ideal with every film, book, television program, Apple product and four-wheel-drive truck we sell. Our spy agencies work to plant pro-American messages deep into the media of other countries. All well & good. We Americans don’t call this propaganda, we call it getting out the message of freedom and liberty.

Do you think China doesn’t do the same thing? Or Russia? How about Saudi Arabia? Iran? England? Germany? All countries put out messages in their own favor, but the messages differ in content and intent. America remains, since the end of World War II, the most powerful nation on earth. We are very hard to attack economically and we’re almost impossible to attack physically (beyond the aforementioned localized terrorism). But culturally we are wide open to attack, and the propaganda pumped at us is designed to undermine the trust in our institutions. Every time somebody posts about how all politicians are evil or untrustworthy, or refuses to differentiate between political parties, to take our politics seriously; every time someone fails to check facts before spreading innuendo, Vladimir Putin has a giggle, because we’ve fallen for a story designed to undermind trust in our society. If you don’t understand the institutions of your own government you will never trust them. If you don’t understand the mechanisms of the press, you won’t know which ones to rely on. If you’re afraid to be challenged by a teacher to defend your position or change, then you’ve lost faith in the American ideal of self-improvement. The goal of foreign propaganda is to undermine, and it’s all too easy to do that to an under-educated population.

Most people look at the Statue of Liberty and see the torch, but what’s she holding in her other arm? It’s called a tabula ansata, it’s a pair of hinged tablets. That’s right, the other arm of liberty is holding a book. You want to really make America great again? Go crack a book.

Written by Alan

October 8th, 2016 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Writing