One Sad Indian

I saw someone litter while I was driving to work today. They rolled down their window, tossed a wrapper on the ground, and kept on driving. I was kind of flabbergasted. How do you do that? How do you make your trash someone else’s problem?

This seems like a metaphor for society at the moment. The Occupy Wall Street folks are saying (and I loosely translate) that the dog-eat-dog, protect me & mine, profit at any cost attitude that has escalated in US society since Reagan tapped that vein in the 80’s is no longer acceptable. No longer acceptable to the people who live with (or are considered to be) the trash that is.

At the risk of sounding disloyal to the socialist hippies, the folks who toss the trash on the ground aren’t swayed by moral arguments about what is right. Calls for a “fairer society” sound idiotic and naive. Mentioning the distribution of wealth is stirring up those boys on the right that just been WAITING to get all that commie crap out of the closet. Fear based propaganda doesn’t have an expiration date, it just gets recycled.

I am hoping that the voiceless movement will allow the not-really-the-leader leader to bubble up to clarify the message. Socialism, anarchy, theocracy, communism, democracy – they are all words being tossed around without too much connection to meaning. Do folks want to change the political system or the economic system? It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I think one thing that is a common thread, in words if not in interpretation, is the desire for personal responsibility.

  • OWS seem like they want the 1% to take responsibility for how their actions impact others.
  • The 1% seem like they want the 99 to take charge and bootstrap their way to the top like they (think) they did.
  • The Tea Party folks seem like they want everyone to succeed or fail on their own without help or interference by the government.

How do you do that? How do you realign an entire culture (especially the US!) to accept ideas like modest shareholder profit in order to retain jobs? How do we dream up a cooperative society in a nation that embraces the mythology of the “rugged individual”?

If the last 30 days are any indication, this will be a very engaging and frustrating election year.

Part of what was so shocking about the littering this morning was that I had recently showed my daughter the Sad Indian commercial on YouTube. YouTube is a great resource for cultural references. We also watched the I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing Coke commercial, but thats for a different post.

She had read something about Rachel Carson and somehow we got around to this commercial. I have very sharp memory of seeing it as a kid and getting choked up. Seeing it in 2011 it looks a bit cheesy and patronizing to Native people. I wonder if that campaign cut down on littering, paved the way for Earth day & the now ubiquitous recycling bins. It sure impacted me.

Maybe the current political turmoil just needs creative folks to step up. Or maybe the digital age will need something else. Like middle-aged white women and their anonymous blogs.