Creative Visualization 101
Self-help books have become popular in America. These books pose numerous questions. One such question asks, "Where do you want to be in three years, five years, or ten years?" The question immediately fixates on two things: (1) What you want (2) according to a timetable. Anything is possible. You can be whatever you want and do whatever you want. There is a problem with this approach to life, however. "Where do you want to be in ninety years?" Answer honestly, and everything comes into sharper focus.
How does a self-help guru deal with the most fundamental human limitation of all? Perhaps he would respond with something akin to the idea, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins." This would be rephrased as, "Whoever dies having achieved the most goals wins." The goals might be anything. Perhaps you'd like to be dictator, occupy the Rhineland, take Austria, break up Czechoslovakia, overrun Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, etc.
The Philistinism of our prevailing value-neutral self-help terminology underscores America's national disorientation on the eve of calamity. One might ask, "Where do you want your country to be - in three years, five years, or ten years?" Will you have a country in three years? And if you don't have a country, will you have work? Will you have food? Will you have security? To paraphrase Cato the Younger, "If you want to keep all your fancy furniture, perhaps now is the time to do something for the Republic."
Life in consumer society has been about self-gratification. The most important questions have hedonistic assumptions built-in. Such are not questions at all. They are ready-made answers; false answers, in fact. The ancient formula for happiness was self-knowledge, not self-gratification. For self-knowledge is the hardest school of all, involving many painful realizations. The question that is missed, that is left out by the self-help gurus, is that of fundamental identity: Who are you? We've been told for many years that we can be anything we want. And it isn't true. We cannot all be rich. We cannot all be the King of England. Pretend as you will, but pretending doesn't make it so. And yet, our politics has devolved into this kind of game. We visualize the kind of society we want. We think it shameful to accept human limitations. Here is our economic crisis in a nutshell.
Today's ideological gurus and demagogues talk of a "great society" or eliminating poverty. We have our "war against drugs" and all that nonsense about educating everybody. Oh yes, we would like to be a nation of aristocrats. Americans pick crops? No way. Bring in the Mexicans to do it! Does work have dignity? No way. Let the Chinese work. Americans will buy and buy, shopping until they are dropping.
The new administration has a vision. It has a wish list. This is where we want the country to be in four years. But how can you talk about where you want to be, when you don't even know who you are? Ask the more fundamental question: "What does it mean to be an American? Who are America's friends, and who are America's enemies?" The last two questions help us answer the first question.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is one of America's enemies. This week he gave a speech that glistened with self-knowledge. He announced a "large-scale" Russian rearmament; what he called "a qualitative modernization of our Armed Forces to give them a new, forward-looking perspective." President Medvedev underscored his self-knowledge when he greeted Russia's military leaders in the following way: "Comrade generals and admirals! Comrade officers!" This is a communist form of address. A non-communist or anti-communist would not use this greeting.
Most Americans do not know who they are. Instead, they have goals. They have a timetable. Many pundits are already predicting that 2011 will be a good year. The economic crisis will be over. For the Russians, however, 2011 is the year that Russia's military will be thoroughly "buff." To their way of thinking, the economic crisis will not be over. Rather, the Americans will be ripe.
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