An Independence Day special report: I have seen the New America!

Summary: The FM website presents information and analysis, but seldom in the first person. However there are frequent requests for information about my activities during these years in which the foundation of the New America was laid. Here is my story, quite appropriate for remembrance on Independence Day.

Defeat at Chess

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Just in time for Independence Day I finished a three year project to reform a large non-profit organization in my community, investing a considerable amount of time and money (too much). It ended in total defeat, crushed in a way that proves to me that the New America has arrived.

This was an organization in which I’d worked as a volunteer for almost two decades, and held a high office. Being experienced and with some skill at local politics, I carefully pitched my idea one-on-one to the top five dozen of the organization’s key people. Since the need was clear to all, the solution obvious, the cost and risk low (albeit requiring much work), I succeeded in building a broad base of support — up to and including the senior leadership.

But this is a New America. Local organizations in the America-that-once-was were run by local elites. Doctors, merchants, real estate developers, politicians — responsible, affluent, hard-working citizens. But the growth of a super-rich class of the 1% has transformed these people into local gentry who can do little but deferentially advise our Lords. This makes almost impossible the kind of grass-roots organizing I attempted. The reason is obvious to anyone who has dealt with the 1%.

The 1% — CEOs, ultra-rich, senior politicians — are surrounded by servants and courtiers. Their power and wealth allows them to believe that they are smarter and more knowledgable than their inferiors (the gentry, the help, the peons). Their minds tend to be closed to input from their inferiors. Nor need they share their plans with those not of their class. They are the trump cards in every game.

Defeat is enlightening, not fun
Defeat is enlightening, but not fun

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They dominate their local communities. Even the gentry genuflect before them. They are members of national or even global community of elites, listening mostly to one another and to those of the help that specialize in crafting art and ideas that appeal to the 1%.

The dynamics of local organizations — mostly chapters or franchises of national or international groups — have changed to accommodate the changing pattern of US wealth and power. Control slides towards the center, to national HQs where the elite gather. Away from the grassroots.

My little plan crashed on the walls of the New America. First, I did not realize that our local elites were no longer firsts among equals, but Lords. Insufficient deference in a brief conversation, disagreement over matters in which I had formal authority (which means nothing compared to power of a Lord) — and I lost a powerful supporter.

Second, and more important, my plan ran contrary to a larger plan of these elites. Nothing nefarious; these are well-meaning people sure of their superior knowledge of what’s best for the public good. Not a conspiracy (do you keep secrets from the mice?). But my plans so laboriously laid were sea foam on the rocks.

Most interesting, in a dark sense, were the reactions of my supporters to the wreckage of this plan — with which they agreed as to its necessity and feasibility. More precisely, their silence. Strong people in their own domains, they became deferential and obsequious before the voice of our local elites. That’s when I knew the battle was over, and the New America had been born.

I have shared this story with others. The most common response is that they too have seen similar things in their local communities. Many of us see the New America, but as yet few will acknowledge it even to themselves.

I lose no matter how many times I roll
I lose no matter how many times I roll

“So too, at the present time there is a remnant …”
— Romans 11:5

An understanding of the New America makes discussion of politics and geopolitics into idle gossip, chatting in the stands about the game on the field down below. For serious people the only important subjects are those which affect their goals and actions (the futures of the people and things they care about). Today that puts politics in center stage for all Americans, perhaps for the first time since the conflicts about civil rights and the Vietnam war.

There is always hope for the future, although I cannot see or imagine how reform might come to America. Perhaps time will reveal other paths to the future.

About the decline of America’s community organizations

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman, 1985

Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” by Robert Robert D. Putnam, Journal of Democracy, January 1995 — Later expanded into the book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000).

Defeat in soccer

For More Information

To see the big picture:

A few of the posts about the New America:

  1. We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!, 8 January 2013
  2. How do our leaders see us? Don the shoes of the 1%. Look down on the 99%. Describe the view., 5 February 2013
  3. Realism about the prospects for reform in America, 3 March 2013
  4. Confession about a failed forecast, 26 May 2013
  5. A third try: The first step to reforming America, 28 May 2013
  6. Compare our New America to the America-that-once-was (a great nation), 12 June 2013
  7. Glimpses of the New America being born now, 18 June 2013
  8. The bad news about reforming America: time is our enemy, 27 June 2013

A Commemorative Statue

“Defeat” by Christopher Erney

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Defeat by Christopher Erney

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17 thoughts on “An Independence Day special report: I have seen the New America!

    1. the angry silence is the voice that comes forth from the negation of the self. the negation appears to be an object but it only exists in the relation between the subject and the nothing behind it…it is impenetrable

    2. I apologize for the delay…
      for example here you state “have seen similar things in their local communities”
      ‘the thing’ that you see is an EFFECT of the gaps and inconsistencies in the symbolic space…here notated as ‘communities’. the thing is not an inert object…it is knowledge that has no knowledge of itself

      you can see a somewhat inverted version of this in the Drop City:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_City

      interesting to note that the dream of that community eventually turned to a nightmare. de facto members began to speak of being infected like a virus as power and dominance formed invisible hierarchies within the minds of the inhabitants

  1. On second thought, it’s more like James Clavel’s _Noble House_ ( and maybe also his _Taipan_.)

  2. This is a great post. I like the clay of the Dying Gaul sculpture.

    I know the players you speak of. They are self-absorbed and oblivious to the failure of so many of our institutions.

    Amazing you were as composed through all of this as you were. You are a better man than I.

    1. “I know the players you speak of. They are self-absorbed and oblivious to the failure of so many of our institutions.”

      They are self-absorbed. I think rather than “oblivious” to “failure of our institutions” it is more accurate to say they are happy and proud of their successful re-shaping of our institutions.

  3. Nearly 240 years ago, Americans fought and died in a war to benefit the interests of a small and powerful oligarchy. What’s changed since then?

    1. “Nearly 240 years ago, Americans fought and died in a war to benefit the interests of a small and powerful oligarchy. ”

      It’s fun to attempt the date commenters by the ideas they champion, since most of us retain without update the ideas we learned in college. Here we see the economic determinism of Charles Beard (in his great works 1913-1916) and others, explaining how the Virginia squirearchy via the Constitution staged a counter-revolution to establish their class interests at the heart of the US polity. This became the paradigm among US historians.

      In the 1950s historians began to re-examine the factual basis of this theory, and found it quite weak. By the end of the 1960s it had been largely replaced. But these insights circulate slowly, and Beard’s theories remain alive in undergraduate teaching through the 1970s (perhaps later in some schools).

      They remain alive in progressive circles to this day. Part of this is intellectual inertia, people holding to what they were taught. Part of this is that Beard’s theories are simplistic but politically useful.

      Also, the conventional theory is not that “Americans fought and died to benefit the oligarchy”, but that the revolutionary forces unleashed in the 1770s were contained and reversed in the 1780s — with the Constitution being the capstone of the counter-revolution. Many of the more radical Founders thought so!

  4. You r now beginning to see the Emlightenment of Delta Blues and Country musick and u’ve the makings for a publicist (pun intended); “work ur fingers to the bone and what do u git?”

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    [youtube=http://youtu.be/7MBaGjVdaIk]

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    As always enjoy ur posts and cutting edge perception….and as someone to overly involved with a number of Volunteeer orgs–> spot on. This generation of elected will back riot every org they touch because they r after profit and ROI not enduring Service and core Values that stand the test of time until the corrupt core takes hold.

    Thanks–>Kdog sends.

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