I was living in Prague during the second half of the Bush administration because I thought becoming an expatriot would make me a better writer.  It did not.  However, while I was not becoming a better writer, I spent a lot of time in bars, killing the brain cells that contained the next Great American Novel and learning what foreigners hated about my country.  It was an enlightening experience and one that I would encourage all Americans to have at least once.

Prague is a strange, beautiful city that has been conquered several dozen times, and therefore, its citizens are of a peaceful, cantankerous disposition.  In all the times I tipped my elbow there, I never once saw a Czech man get into a physical altercation.  The Czechs don’t like to fight with their fists unless absolutely necessary.  This does not mean they are cowards.  Not at all.  They just know what their strengths are and play to them.  A citizen of the Czech Republic would much rather insult your country, your mother, and your soccer team (in that order), and reduce you to a blithering pool of insecurity than waste his time dirtying his clothes with your blood.  They are a verbal people, and they know how to turn an insult.  On the other hand, they are also a mumbling culture, so it is sometimes difficult to know when you’ve been insulted.  I once asked an elderly local why the Czechs always spoke under their breath, and he looked at me like I was an idiot.  “You ever had tongue cut out by KGB?” he asked.  “No,” I said.  “Me neither,” he said.  And then he mumbled something I couldn’t understand.

I couldn’t sip a Pilsner in Prague without eventually being approached by a local who wanted to know what was wrong with my country.  I seldom had an answer for this, so I simply bought them beers and listened to their opinions on the subject.

The conversation always started off with George W. Bush, of course.  This is not a political blog, and I’m not interested in getting into a debate on the subject of whether or not Bush was a good president.  However, I can say with absolute certainty that no political figure in my lifetime has been more reviled by the citizens of foreign countries than Mr. Bush.  I once knew a French woman who couldn’t say his name without spitting afterward.  True, the French are a little on the, ahem, expressive side, but still, no one wanted to face her in a public debate.

However, Bush was despised by people at home and abroad for a variety of reasons, so this criticism was nothing new.  What really interested me was the second person that was brought up when listing the reasons why they hated America.  Almost without fail it was Tom Cruise.

It must be said here that I have disliked The Cruise for quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Top Gun and Risky Business when I was sixteen as much as the next sexually-repressed, testosterone-charged boy, and over the years I have enjoyed numerous other Tom Cruise movies, but at some point I began to grow sick of his smug face appearing on giant screens all over the country.  Still, I’d never really thought of Tom Cruise as the representation of everything wrong with America until I started talking to the Czechs.

Actually, the Czechs didn’t have a theory about it either, just an intense hatred.  Whenever they were asked what pissed them off about American culture, they fumbled around for a few minutes, passing over things like McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Congress, eventually settling on Tom Cruise.  They couldn’t place their finger on it, but he represented something rotten in our culture.  The first couple of times it happened I sort of shrugged it off, but after hearing his name bellowed by unshaven drunks all across the city I decided to give the matter some thought.

Here’s what I came up with: Foreigners hate Tom Cruise because he is a very charming, very handsome egomaniac, and our culture has chosen to elect him as our ambassador to the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “I didn’t vote for that guy to represent me.”  But in a way you did.  I did.  We all did.  Do me a favor.  Go to Tom Cruise’s IMDb page and count how many movies he’s made that you’ve seen.  Go ahead, we’ll wait…

Finished?  Was it more than you thought?  It certainly was for me.  I’ve seen twenty-four Tom Cruise movies.  Twenty!  Four!  And I don’t even like the guy.  He is a blockbuster machine thanks to American culture.  We created him.

Tom Cruise is a charming man, but he is not a very good actor.  Whenever he’s playing a character that requires more than a smarmy smile (Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, etc.), he looks like one of those male betta fish when you hold a mirror up to its tank: nervous, angry, and absolutely in love with itself.  Tom Cruise is Marlon Brando without the intellect or talent.  Everyone knows this, but it doesn’t make any difference.  Would we rather have Steve Buscemi or John Malkovich as our leading man?  Sure, in a theoretical world.  But Buscemi and Malkovich just don’t fill the theaters like The Cruise.

And what’s so bad about Tom Cruise, anyhow?  Is he really such a terrible pop culture ambassador?  Well, yes, actually.  Besides the fact that he’s a mediocre actor and has a weird nose (looks like it’s made of Silly Putty or something; what’s up with that?), he also has such an enormous ego that he actually believes the Scientology muckymucks when they tell him that he’s on a higher spiritual plane than the rest of us because they want to feed off his celebrity.  In fact, every time Tom Cruise has tried to speak without a script in the past five years, he ends up sounding like he’s one step away from getting himself a pair of Nikes, starting a cult, and hopping on the next comet.

So are the Czechs right?  Is Tom Cruise evil incarnate?  No, he’s America incarnate.  That’s the problem.  American culture has voted, and this is what we’ve come up with.  Charming egomania.  Is this really what our country is all about?  Of course not, but it’s what our cultural democracy has decided to put on a pedestal.  Can you blame other countries for wanting to take him down a peg?

Take a Look in Africa

January 13, 2012

Originally published in Boulder Weekly

February 2008

The man is making me uncomfortable.

He is 5’10”, approximately 160 lbs, 50ish, fashionable in that vague metrosexual way that’s common amongst middle-age males of a certain income level, brown hair with brush strokes of gray, avocado-green sweater, khaki pants, expensive-looking hiking shoes, designer glasses. He is the classic example of a prosperous American liberal. He probably attended a very good college, and at that college he probably majored in something practical — finance, botany, computer sciences — but he probably also enjoyed elective courses in Eastern philosophy and Latin American literature. He looks successful. He looks open minded. He looks like the type of person who listens to NPR.

Oh, and he’s white. Very very white.

It is difficult to ignore this fact, particularly because the man is dancing to live music played by a local Afropop band named the Bizung Family. It’s his dancing that is making me uncomfortable. If I had to choose a single word to describe the strange way he is contorting his body to the rhythm of the music, I would say “awkward.” There is a lot of thrusting going on in the pelvic region, accompanied by a great deal of head-bobbing and arm-flapping. He looks like a large, uncoordinated crane attempting to take flight for the very first time.

The Crane is not alone. There are approximately 45 members of the audience, and 90 percent of them are white. Three of the five band members are white. I am also white, just in case you’re wondering. There is nothing wrong with being white. It’s not a genetic flaw or a cultural disease; it is simply a racial classification used to define a group of humans with a common ancestry and a glaring lack of melanin. However, there is something slightly unnerving about a roomful of affluent, Anglo liberals dancing to African music, and I’m trying to figure out why.

One of the problems is that there is a language barrier between the artist and the audience. Mohammed Alidu, the lead singer/drummer/songwriter of the Bizung Family, is from the Dagbon region of Northern Ghana, and most of the songs are in his native tongue. The music is cheerful and energetic, but the lyrics are often heartbreaking. The white people smile and dance while Alidu sings, “Oh, what a struggle. Suffering. Starvation. / Come in liberation. / Take a look in Africa, take a look in Africa, take a look in Africa.”

This communication gap is one of the difficulties faced by international musicians who are attempting to create art that represents their culture while at the same time catering to a blossoming Western market. World music has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past 10 years, but some believe that popularity comes at a price. While some Afropop musicians have started singing in English in an effort to avoid confusion and boost album sales, others consider this too large a sacrifice. The Bizung Family has a few songs in English on their upcoming album, Land of Fire, but most are in Dagbani.

It is obvious from the beaming faces in the audience tonight that these listeners love the Bizung Family’s music. But it’s difficult to tell whether or not they understand the entire message. There is a cultural barrier that both sides want to cross, but the process is not as simple as it looks.

Aside from The Crane, most of the people on the dance floor are young women, college students, neo-hippies, with T-shirts that display various reggae bands and environmental slogans. The Earth is Our Mother. Clean Air, Clean Heart. They are currently facing one another in a small circle. Every once in a while, one of the young women will step inside the circle and, after receiving whoops of encouragement from her compatriots, proceed to dance solo to the music. The Crane hovers just outside this circle. He clearly wants to join in, but he is hesitant. As a modern male, he has been taught not to encroach upon female territory uninvited. The women are not purposefully trying to exclude The Crane. They either don’t notice he is there, or, like many women who are accustomed to dancing in clubs, they instinctively withdraw from strange dudes in order to avoid being unwillingly fondled.

My heart goes out to The Crane. Even though he looks ridiculous, I honestly think he is trying to connect with the music and culture in front of him — he just has no clue how to make that happen.

* * *

Connecting to people from other countries is nothing new for Alidu, who has been performing African music in various venues around the world for more than 12 years. When I asked Alidu whether or not he believed American audiences understood the meaning of his songs, he thought about the question for a while before answering.

“There is a lot of sadness in the world,” he finally said. “I want to bring happiness to people’s hearts. I want to share joy with my music, but also I want to speak the truth. It is not easy. When people dance, they are happy and that is good. It is good for the world. Music speaks to everyone, and I have to trust that the people will hear my message.”

This answer was kind of confusing. At first I thought he was talking in circles to avoid the question (this happens a lot in music journalism), but then I realized that Alidu actually has a completely different concept of music and instrumentation than I do. As a proud member of America’s Generation X, I have been taught that lyrics are the most important part of any song. Now, the lyrics don’t always have to be good (I’m a genie in a bottle / You gotta rub me the right way), they don’t even have to make sense (Get down, turn around, go to town, boot scoot boogie), but they do have to constitute the driving force of any chorus that comes on the radio. There is nothing wrong with loving good (or even bad) lyrics, but fixating on one aspect of music can sometimes desensitize listeners to the other facets of the art form. This is something that I hadn’t really thought about much until I started researching this article.

About a month ago, I interviewed Alidu at a dimly lit coffee shop on Pearl Street while Miles Davis played in the background, and it was a strangely Zen-like experience. I don’t want to get all New Agey and spiritual about it, but Alidu’s voice has a calm, almost-musical quality to it that is sort of hypnotizing. Part of it is his quiet tone, which makes you lean in close to hear him; part of it is his accent; but mostly it’s the careful, rhythmic manner in which he pronounces his words.

In essence, Alidu doesn’t talk — he sings. I know that last sentence makes me sound like a schoolgirl with a crush, but it’s true. If I didn’t bring a tape recorder with me, I would have missed half the interview. I spent most of the time listening to the sound of his voice and thinking about rainbows and puppy dogs.

But there’s more to Alidu’s metrical vocal cadence than the fact that it soothes stressed-out music journalists. His speech patterns are an indication of why he believes music can cross linguistic barriers. Alidu sings when he talks, and his drum talks when it sings.

Alidu is descended from the Bizung lineage of talking drum chiefs in Dagbon. The talking drums (and the technique used to play them) were invented by Alidu’s great great great grandfather, and they are designed to replicate the tones and rhythms of human speech. In Dagbon, master drummers like Alidu are not just entertainers; they are musicians, court historians and record keepers. Ancestry is very important to the Dagomba people, and family history is recorded in the rhythm patterns of the talking drums. Each family has a “proverb” that must be played by the master drummers at weddings, funerals, festivals and various other social events. A proverb is a short axiom that is chosen by the family, translated to the language of the talking drum by the master drummer, and used to praise the family name.

“It is a history,” said Alidu. “When I see some person, I might not know them, but I still know them with my drum and I play their family. It’s not something that we write down, but we all know it. When you play their drum song, you praise them to make them feel important and part of our culture.”

In Dagomba culture, the talking drum literally has a language of its own. Therefore, when Alidu says, “Music speaks to everyone…,” he is not merely being philosophical.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone understands what the talking drums are saying — even in Dagbon, the general public is not fluent in the talking drum language — but it does indicate a form of artistic communication that differs from Western models. And that helps explain why Alidu can communicate with his audience in Boulder despite vast language and cultural barriers.

Sort of. I don’t know. This all sounds good on paper, but honestly, I don’t think I really understand the whole equation. There’s still something missing, and I can’t figure out what.

* * *

Meanwhile, The Crane is still dancing. Sweat is pouring off his pasty brow, but he’s still flapping those arms and thrusting that pelvis. Flap-flap-thrust. Flap-flap-thrust. It looks more like a calisthenics routine than a musical celebration, but he is determined to stay the course.

Two more African men have just walked onto the dance floor. They are friends of the band, and Alidu greets them from stage. Koffi Toudji is a large man with a smile almost as broad as his shoulders. His companion, Adjei Abankwah, is thin and angular, but in a hyper-athletic sort of way, like a marathon runner or a cyclist. The group of female dancers immediately makes room for the young men in their circle and encourages them to dance.

And they are good. Really good. Toudji is surprisingly graceful on his feet, and when he moves, the entire room seems to sway with his muscular frame. His dancing is fluid, deliberate, like the gentle rocking of a boat on calm waters. Toudji dances for a few minutes and then turns the floor over to his friend. Abankwah has the style and confidence of a professional dancer. He attacks the dance floor with leaps and twirls that are thrilling to watch. His performance seems to energize the band, and Alidu begins to pound out a scorching rhythm on his drum, eliciting smiles and cheers from the crowd.

The Crane is viewing all of this from outside the circle, and if possible, he looks even more alienated than before. His flapping doesn’t quite have the same gusto, and I wonder if watching these new dancers has made him aware of just how inelegant he looks.

The Crane’s deflated appearance makes me feel a bit alienated, as well. At first it was kind of amusing to watch him make a fool of himself on the dance floor, but throughout the course of the night, I’ve come to identify with the man. I like him. I hope he sticks around until the end of the show.

* * *

Another problem that concerns the Afropop phenomenon is that Americans don’t generally know much about African history. Granted, we don’t know much about European history, either, or Canadian history, or Middle Eastern history — and it probably wouldn’t kill us to brush up on U.S. history. But we seem particularly oblivious about Africa, and that ignorance allows us to turn a blind eye toward that part of the world. Afropop has deep historical roots that stretch all the way back to the murky waters of colonial tyranny and oppression. Anyone who seriously wants to understand Afropop needs to know at least something about where it comes from.

When many African countries gained independence from imperialist powers in the 1900s, they recovered a continent in shambles. There was poverty, war, disease. Modernization hit Africa hard, and it altered the economic and social structure almost overnight. Young men and women left their families and flocked to the cities seeking work. But life was hard in the cities, too. Desperate to make sense of the changing world, Africans turned to music for inspiration and expression. They began to combine traditional African styles with modern instruments and Western pop sounds to form a hybrid genre that could bridge the gap between the cultures. The music often contained upbeat rhythms and melodies, but the lyrics reflected the socio-political hardships of the times. This gave rise to an entire generation of rebellious artists who created music that educated and mobilized the populace.

The golden age of Afropop lasted 50 years, from approximately 1940 to 1990, and helped mold the perception of Africa both internally and abroad. Ironically, the recent decline in the popularity of Afropop on its home continent has coincided with its rise in the countries that once colonized Africa. There are now Afropop bands in almost every major city in the United States and in many European nations. White people across the globe are suddenly fascinated by the art form their ancestors helped create through acts of international oppression and violence. And here, it seems, we really get backed into a corner. Since Afropop is an art form forged out of the need to understand the horrors of colonialism and we (meaning Western culture representatives) are the colonizers of the modern age, it is sort of impossible and kind of insane to think that we could ever truly understand Afropop. And if we can’t truly comprehend the genre, how can we really borrow from it or appreciate it without becoming the colonizers once again? Quite a conundrum. It seems I have taken us straight into the heart of quagmire.

* * *

The Crane is tired. He has flapped his last flap, and now he is standing by himself watching the other dancers. I am tired, too. All the optimism and energy has been drained out of me. Trying to understand the convoluted relationship between post-colonial art and post-postmodern liberalism is no way to spend a Thursday night. I need to go home and turn off my brain. Drink a beer. Listen to some Garth Brooks lyrics. No thought required for that.

The Bizung Family launches into its final song. The Crane musters the energy for one last flap-flap-thrust routine. I look around for my coat.

Abankwah spots The Crane standing alone and motions for him to join the circle. The Crane shakes his head. It’s too late. The moment has passed. The Crane has closed himself off. Abankwah leaves the circle and walks over to The Crane with a huge smile on his face. He hesitates for a moment, possibly trying to figure out how he can get this middle-aged white man to let down his guard, then Abankwah playfully takes The Crane by the hand, pulls him in close and starts to waltz him around the room. The look on The Crane’s face is beyond mortification. He has no idea how to handle this turn of events. The audience cheers him on. The Crane blushes. Then he smiles. Then he starts to giggle. Soon, he is willingly gliding across the floor like Ginger Rogers in the arms of Fred Astaire. Alidu plays his talking drum.

Not to be outdone, Toudji looks around for another pathetic white dude to dance with. I realize too late that I am the only other pathetic white dude in the room. Before I can protest, he plucks me easily from my seat and drags me onto the dance floor. I am horrified. This is not part of the plan. I am supposed to sit in the corner and observe. I am supposed to be a serious journalist (or voyeur — whatever). I try to pull away, but his grip is tight. What the hell is happening? He begins to waltz me around the room against my will. I try to keep from stepping on his huge feet. This is ridiculous. He is holding me so close that I can feel his heartbeat. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. His feet are enormous. His hands are enormous. This man is like a mountain. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. The crowd cheers me on. I want to die. I have never been so embarrassed. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. The crowd cheers. I try to smile. Well, damn, it’s not so bad. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Abankwah twirls me like a ballerina. I giggle. Suddenly, everything seems so simple. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Is this all that we need to do? Could it really be this easy? Alidu plays his talking drum. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. The Crane smiles at me. We smile at each other. Alidu plays his talking drum. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. I can hear it. I can hear the drum. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Take a look in Africa. Thump-thump. Take a look in Africa.

The Sky’s the Limit

January 13, 2012

Originally published in Boulder Weekly

September 2008

I’m thinking about redecorating my apartment. Nothing fancy, just a giant 7’ by 7’ Cross-Word Puzzle Mural to cover the east wall in my bedroom. It has 28,000 clues and 91,000 squares, and it comes with a 100-page help book and a nifty storage box, all for the very reasonable price of $29.95. Of course, if I purchase that, I’ll also need the World’s Largest Write-On Map Mural, which covers more than 10 square feet of wall space and features capitals, countries, major cities, political boundaries, time zones, ocean depths and more! This is the only detailed, eight-color 2006 mural of its size, and it’s a bargain at just $149.95.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that my living room is going to look pretty drab after my bedroom has been bedazzled with these unreasonably large wall-hangings. That’s why I plan to throw out my couch and replace it with a full-scale replica of King Tutankhamen’s Egyptian Throne Chair. At just $895, this detailed copy of the 3,500-year-old original is a steal. With a hand-painted gold exterior and a carved lion head on each armrest, it’s a must-have for any Egyptophile.

I know, I know — the throne is going to look ridiculous sitting next to my normal, boring oak bookcase. Which is why I absolutely must have the matching $895 King Tut Life-Sized Sarcophagus Cabinet, which looks like an actual sarcophagus on the outside but also has a surprising amount of shelf space on the inside.

*     *     *

I first discovered SkyMall magazine on a flight from Denver to Chicago in 1996. I was 21 years old, and it was the first time I’d ever been on a commercial jet. Consequently, I was scared shitless. I tried to relax by listening to music and digging my fingernails into the right arm of the octogenarian sitting next to me, but I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that I was sitting in a 300,000-pound hunk of metal that was filled with 50,000 gallons of flammable fuel hurling through the sky at 500 mph. For the first time, I truly understood the meaning of the words “death trap.”

After annoying the flight attendant with a million questions, most of them concerning the laws of gravity, I finally picked up a SkyMall and started to flip through the pages. I was immediately enthralled. Robotic vacuum cleaners; collars that translate your dog’s barks into human speech; fish tank coffee tables; musical toilet-paper dispensers — I was perfectly content for the rest of the flight.

Over the past decade, I have continued to collect SkyMall magazines, although I have never made a single purchase from any of them. My favorite issues sit on my coffee table (which, sadly, is not also a fish tank), and I look through them on a nightly basis. As a tool for understanding American culture, SkyMall is more important than The New Yorker, Harper’s, Newsweek, Esquire and Rolling Stone combined. These magazines can only give you facts and supply you with social commentary; SkyMall on the other hand is an ongoing sociological experiment. And since SkyMall’s only agenda is to make money, you can trust that it’s not influenced by anything except greed. SkyMall products that don’t sell are quickly removed from the magazine, but the popular items return month after month, year after year. Therefore, if you’re an obsessive nerd with a lot of time on your hands like I am, you can trace cultural trends by examining how the contents of the magazine evolve over time.

It’s important to note that SkyMall customers don’t fit into a single category. I doubt if bluecollar workers in Detroit are scratching their heads and wondering where they can find a portable commercial steam cleaner or an electric shoe buffer. On the other hand, SkyMall is not just a magazine for high-class millionaires, either. It’s difficult to imagine Donald Trump and his cronies ordering a toolbox with orange flames painted on the side or a bar stool with a motorcycle seat.

At first glance, SkyMall appears to be extremely random and chaotic: a hot dog cooker on one page and a tapestry depicting the French countryside on the next. However, if you read it consistently, you realize that SkyMall has actually tapped into an extremely specific piece of our national psyche: the desire for more. No matter what socio-economic class we belong to, Americans want more. If we have a 24” television, we want a 32” television, or a 45” television, or a flat-screen television. If we have an appliance that makes two pieces of toast at a time, we want one that makes four pieces, or six, or we want an appliance that cooks rotisserie chicken while it balances the checkbook and plays samba music. Americans defeated the British, we conquered the wilderness, we landed on the moon, and now we want a fountain pen with a builtin digital recorder and an FM radio. All for the very reasonable price of $89.99.

I am Stupid and so are You

January 13, 2012

Originally published in Boulder Weekly

August 2008

Recently, it occurred to me that I don’t really know anything. Not that I don’t really know anything about the mating habits of the hairy-nosed wombats of Australia or that I don’t really know anything about neutering housecats; I don’t really know anything about anything. It’s not that I’m necessarily stupid (duh) or that I’m misinformed (double duh); I just don’t retain any factual information. For instance, I can talk about the cultural significance of Little House on the Prairie and Hot Pockets for hours on end, but I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how a microwave works. (I assume there is a gaggle of tiny dragons inside that funny box that gently breathe fire on my chicken noodle soup when I push the magic buttons.) I can deconstruct and manipulate the semantic/philosophical world around me like a motherfucker, but I don’t know a damn thing about how that world operates.

And there is really no excuse for my ignorance. Interestingly enough, I am living in a sea of information. At no point in human history has there been more data on more topics in a more accessible format than at this very moment. I have books, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, cell phones, BlackBerries, iPods, my next door neighbor who constantly feels the need to tell me about all her personal health problems (stop showing me your bunions, Rita!)…

Two hundred years ago if I wanted to know when the upcoming vernal equinox was going to happen, I would have to get on my donkey, ride down to my local alchemist, and watch as he examines a closet filled with astronomical equipment. Two months later, I would have an answer. Right now, all I have to do is type the funny little words in Google and three seconds later… Voila! (The next vernal equinox occurs on March 20, 2009, at approximately 11:44 a.m., in case you’re wondering.)

Ironically, the ready accessibility of such raw facts seems to be one of the main impediments to my ability to obtain and retain knowledge. The volume of information that’s available to me is overwhelming, and since I can access the data at any time, I don’t feel the need to learn it.

Is this a problem? Yes and no. No, it’s not a problem, because this is how our entire society is set up. Everyone in America operates within this system (and, actually, you could probably argue that everyone in the world operates within this system, although I’d have to look that up on Wikipedia). In fact, this is an essential part of our cultural make-up. Since we can’t all be Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, we must rely on others to be “experts” in a particular field. Our normal lives have become so complicated that we can’t possibly understand even the most simplistic daily operations that we perform. Instead of learning how a carburetor works, we simply take our SUV to the nearest mechanic. If a raccoon falls in the toilet, we just call the plumber and the veterinarian.

On the other hand, yes, this is a huge problem. American society has become a giant, corporate entity and every employee is stuck in their own specialized department. Theoretically, this makes everything more efficient, but in the reality, it means that we are raising a generation of intellectual lemmings. Since we don’t know how anything actually works, we rely completely on other people to define the world around us. This is probably why the public is always so paranoid about the media feeding it biased information. Since we don’t do any research on our own, it seems like a conspiracy when something like 9/11 happens. What? People hate us in the Middle East? Why wasn’t I informed? It must have been a media cover up.

The concept of American individualism started to die as soon as Henry Ford perfected the assembly line. Everyone performs a small, specific operation in order to manufacture a product. At the end of the day, the factory workers don’t actually know how to change a tire; however, through their collective efforts, they have built a car. That’s how we manufacture ignorance in a capitalistic society.

What’s the answer to this dilemma? I would tell you to start educating yourself, create a cranial dam to hold back the flood of intellectual apathy, fight the system. But then again, what the hell do I know?

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