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Whither America, whither the world?

By Ali Parsa

Some 170 years ago a great American, Ralph Waldo Emerson who was considered as a prophet by some said,
 "The end of the human race is that it will die of civilization."

Emerson was by no means a pessimist, but a realist even though he lived when ethics, wisdom and truth ruled people's lives far more than today.

Realistically speaking, there are good reasons to believe that both America and the world are self-destructing. Let us discuss America first, because it is leading the pack. Looking at America from Emerson's perspective and using the cause and effect method, we can identify the causes of its decay. More than 2000 years ago Virgil said, "Happy is he who has succeeded in learning the causes of things."

Let us find the causes of what ails America and the world.

Public education - The founders of America devised public education as  the most important pillar of lasting Government of the people and they rightly assumed that public ignorance and the system bore much fruit for several decades before going downhill by the opponents of the American Revolution whose interest was and is better served by an ignorant public. At the present our public education system has changed from the best in the world to one of the worst that trails even some developing countries. 

October 2000 Readers Digest cited a study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, "80% of graduates from 55 top American colleges flunked history questions drawn from basic high school curriculum. Less than 25% could identify James Madison as the Father of Constitution. About the same percentage did not know whose idea was the "government of the people, by and for the people." Students could graduate from the top colleges without taking a single course in American history. By contrast, 99% of the students surveyed knew the cartoon characters Bevis and Butthead."

This is the country whose Thomas Jefferson said, "Enlighten people and tyranny of body and mind will disappear like evil spirit in the dawn of a day." And "Those who expect to be ignorant and free, expect what there never was and never will be." Consider also Aristotle's warning in 380 B.C., "The fate of empires depends on the education of their youth."  Contrast this with Present Bush's remarks when asked if he reads book. He said "I do not read books, I read people." Again, this is the country whose Jefferson said, "Those who do not doubt will not read, and those who do not read are blind."
History repeats for the ones who do not read it. In the history of Western civilization no one has impressed me more than Cicero who said-if I recall correctly, not to know the history that happened before you were a boy, you will always remain a boy!

Effective education leads to wisdom and frugality, which in turn latter tells us that we can educate more with less and we cannot fix education or any system by throwing money at it, or constantly coining fancy names-the last of which is "No Child Left Behind", even the title of which is a deceptive and misnomer-since in the age-old philosophy of education we will always have some left behind even with ideal education system. This is aside from the fact that NCLB is a failure due to lack of funds! After all, many schools in developing countries that contribute to America's talent pool, are products of schools whose funding is less than it is in the worst American schools!

Indeed, effective education impacts every aspect of individual life and the government and the lack thereof is the mother of all evils among which are illiteracy in basic science, math, history and geography of not only the world, but those of our own country-America. These include even lack of basic knowledge of what, when and how much to eat; its economic loss due to over-indulgence, obesity and multitudes of health problems. One should not forget the detachment of the people from the government of the people and their lowest voting record(163rd) in the world. It should be said that resistance to the passage of Campaign Finance Reform and power of money over individual rights is a major reason for the public apathy. Last but not least America with only 7% of the world population consumes about 50% of its illicit drugs. I personally think that, had the young people received effective education they would resort to far better means of enjoying life than substance abuse.

The notion of being the World policeman - We seem like we have lost the wisdom of beating other countries into submission is unethical, wrong and un-American-against the American Ideals especially if we do it at the cost of ignoring our internal problems. Long time ago the past colonial powers learned that "democracy is not an exportable merchandise" and "charity begins at home. American Ideals dictate that other nations deserve to have the right to be left alone and do what is best for them not what we dictate. The latest fitting joke at this point is that an American official has warned an unfriendly country, "Be nice to America or we will bring freedom and democracy to your country!"

As sad as it is, the reality is that the direction America is going is a natural process. Natural, because all empires as any biological system go through three main stages, that are birth, growth and decay. Therefore, in a way we should not be surprised to see America following the footsteps of colonial powers that the American Revolution defeated some 200 years ago. Barbara Tuckman said, "Every successful revolution puts on in time, the robes of tyrants it has deposed!"

The reason for a relatively longer life of the American empire was the wisdom of its founders to create a nation with universal appeal. The founders knew what the masses in colonial world yearned for and made that product-they made a better mouth trap, if you will! In short, their better product attracted countless intellectual and capital resources from all over the world. Had it not been for the constant influx of new immigrants, America could not last this long. This is a sharp contrast to anti foreigner movement in America's declining years at the present.

Analyzing Emerson's prediction, the culprit for decay of America is technology and "civilization" devoid of ethics and exemplary leaders that in the verge of annihilating not only America but the human race. The American founders would not have succeeded if they did not possess these attributes. Yes, they had flaws also, but they were the best imperfect human beings for their time! Indeed, every American should wish that their present leaders were as imperfect as those founders.

Economy - Individual Americans are known to have the lowest saving habit and so does the government that has made America the biggest debtor nation in the world. Indeed, it is puzzling that a nation with 8 trillion dollars of national debt-that is $40,000 per man, woman and child has proclaimed itself the richest nation in the world! It appears that America is not only concerned about present bankruptcy but is indifferent to passing this enormous debt to its future generations. Speaking of exemplary leaders, one rarely notices any government official to be serious in preventing waste, fraud and abuse of the public funds.

"War on Terror" - The whole idea of so called War on Terror reminds me of a Persian fable I read in grade school. It goes as; a wolf was drinking water upstream from a sheep. The wolf, yearning for a good meal started to pick a fight by shouting at the sheep: stop muddying the water you fool! And that was the end of the sheep!

Here, I see the wolf as America and the sheep as the weaker nations whose resources we need to support our over-indulgence. This kind of proliferation of bullying is emulated throughout the world with every nation picking at a weaker one with no end in sight. Obviously, America has no moral authority to stop it. It is almost the law of jungle and back to pre-1776 and colonial times. Where is the wisdom to realize that this state of affairs prevails we can never wing the "war on terror."

To further muddy the waters, we further create hatred for ourselves by venturing into other countries whose names we cannot pronounce, leave alone our ignorance of their culture, religion and language. Using the terms such as US (civilized) v. THEM(barbaric), US (angle) v. THEM (evil and infidel) will only increase and aggravate global tension with a good chance of repeating the history, crusades and another world war.

Ignoring all our internal problems and blaming global terrorism is nothing but absurd. Is this the country whose Jefferson said, "A nation collapses more from within than from without." We can ill afford to spend ourselves to bankruptcy in the name of pursuing terrorists who are of our own making. First we make them and then we break them. Take every terrorist group and you find that we have provoked them to turn against us. In other words, every terrorist is a mistreated friend. There are very few born-terrorists that could be eliminated very easily. A Chinese saying goes, "You do not need an ax to kill a gnat."

We have forgotten that the founding fathers of America were also called "terrorists" by the colonial power they deposed!  We have to admit that the cheapest and most effective means of overcoming our opponents is treating them in accordance with the human rights and the American Ideals. It is ironic that we resort to pre-1776 measures during Information Age and in a country that is the hub of scientific research on human behavior. I personally believe that if the American public were well-informed they would not allow such behavior from the part of their government. And, if the founders of America felt this, they would spin in their graves with speed of highest speed centrifuge.


What is, and has been going on for some time in America is what could be called the Undoing of the American Revolution and the defeat of freedom and democracy. Ignorance and freedom are oxymoron and against the American Ideals. Understanding, appreciating and preserving these ideals requires intellectual power that is becoming rare in America. America should choose between a dictatorship and freedom. It cannot name itself a democracy and act as a dictatorship and in effect tell the world what to do or "Do as I say, not as I do." As they get educated, even the developing countries resent this. Our arrogance is taking us back to colonial times. If we decide to choose democracy in words and deeds, and if we believe in the American Ideals, then we should do the following:

Declare a war on ignorance. This will be the cheapest and most effective means of dealing with terror, providing homeland security and even boosting our national defense.

Leave other countries alone and let them sink or swim. If we believe in the American Ideals we can be sure that they turn to us on their own choosing when they are about to sink. I, myself have been displaced from my motherland three times to avoid the unrest created and financed by America that wanted to change the system to its own liking. I love America, but I would love it even more if my life was not disrupted. 

We have the wherewithal and the technology to educate ourselves and the whole world with what would be a pittance compared to what we spend for stockpiling weapons of mass destruction that is already enough to annihilate the world many times over. There are many frightening figures on what we spend to meddle in other countries' internal affairs, but I like Andy Rooney's figure on-60 minutes on 2-12-06. According to him, we are spending $100,000 per minute in Iraq alone. In the meantime some 50 millions of our people are without any health insurance and most of our infrastructures are falling apart. 

According to Thomas Jefferson an informed public is the best safeguard for a country. I know the American public enough to believe that if they are told the truth about what their government does, they would not approve of most of them. We have forgotten the fact that it was truth that made this nation free and conversely, it is the falsehood that is bankrupting it.

An informed public recalls what J.P. Durran said in 1790, "The condition upon which God has given us liberty is eternal vigilance."  

Do not make a make a mockery of democracy because it further turns off the public and further distances them from exercising their civic responsibilities and makes it even more apathetic. In other words, it takes the people out of the government of the people. 

Throughout history, all civilizations have stressed the fact that the public without exemplary leader will undermines the foundation of a state. This reminds me of Saadi-13th century Persian poet and philosopher who emphasized the importance of exemplary leader. In today's terminology this would be called "trickle down" theory.

If a king while strolling care-free,
picks an apple from his subject's tree.
His men will uproot every tree,
And eat all the apples in a binge and spree.

In short, unless America puts its own educational, economic and social houses in order it will keep losing ground and finally succumbs to consequences of not meeting the challenges of the time.

If it wants to survive, America can ill afford to ignore these realities and deny these signs of self-destruction. An Ethiopian saying goes as, "Those who hide their wounds will never find a cure." Just what is wrong with a financially strong America whose debts are not driven up by other emerging powers and whose ports are not managed by others? Recall Jefferson's warning on the consequences of allowing our leaders to leave us with debt?

Finally, I hope that, we the Diaspora in America will realize that the most logical and the best use of our energy is to help our host country America at this challenging time, and not criticizing other countries for suppressing freedom and democracy. The most important thing that we can do is to take an active part in helping the American public to reach a point where they are in charge of this country and revive the American Ideals. Remember that the present course of America is self-defeating in that it energizes the lesser dictatorships that emulate America.

We should also join forces with many like-minded individuals and groups in America who are dedicated to save their country from the present assault on the freedom and democracy. And, always remember as the American Revolution became a reality with a handful of dedicated men, we, too can help America to be America again. We should recall Margaret Mead's words, "Never underestimate that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

For more on these issues please visit my website,

... Payvand News - 3/3/06 ... --

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