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Friday, May 18, 2012

If I Were King


If I were King of America, I'd outlaw all "consensual crime," that is "crime" committed that doesn't harm the person or property of a non-consenting other. We've tried this before; it was called prohibition. It was a failure then, and it's a failure now. In a truly free society, we'd neither fear nor outlaw any behavior that doesn't harm the person or property of a non-consenting other. In fact, true freedom dictates that this behavior not be outlawed. These laws corrupt the justice system at all levels; they are insanely expensive to society, and they do little or nothing to deter the behavior they're meant to control. Drugs, prostitution, gambling, motorcycle helmet laws, public nudity... the list goes on and on. To be clear: we're not talking about children here... that's what consenting adults means. Furthermore, we're not talking about behavior that offends some non-consenting other... we're talking about actual, measurable, demonstrable harm. Finally, even in extreme cases where it might be demonstrated that said behaviors might cause small amounts of harm to society-at-large (the consumption of some drugs, such as methamphetamine, for example, in the form of higher health costs for us all) the overall savings would be so much greater that any "costs" would be more than mitigated. We would have a safer, happier, richer country for it.

If I were King of America, I'd institute a national service program. One's national service would begin at age 18 or upon the completion of high school, and might be in the form of military service but might also consist of inner-city poverty relief, planting trees in national forests, building homes for homeless people or working in shelters, rounding up stray animals and taking care of them, or teaching. The possibilities are virtually endless. One's national service would last two years (but might be extended to form a career, as many military personnel do now) and during one's service all food, clothing, and shelter would be provided, as well as a non-taxed (but minimal) wage. After completion of national service, one's higher education would be completely paid for, all the way to post-doctoral levels. A national service program would foster love of and dedication to our country. It would provide invaluable social skills and maturation for young adults and prepare them for the challenges of life. It would greatly decrease current disparities and conflict between different ethnic, sexual, and social classes. It would be educational both for those involved and those who benefit directly from the program (i.e., the poor or homeless, for instance) and would do immeasurable, ongoing good for the entire country, both materially and socially. All foreign applicants for citizenship would have to serve their two years prior to and as a requirement of being naturalized.

If I were King of America, I'd drastically reduce the size and cost of our military. Most of the actual service men and women in the ranks are good, dedicated, moral people, and none of my cuts would affect their pay or their level of support. But many of those running the show are corrupt thieves who protect their intrenched power-positions with the tenacity of rabid badgers and the moral standards of rapists; they are corporate shills and profiteers, and as such our military gets us into far more trouble than it protects us from. My cuts would directly affect them and their get-rich-quick schemes that imperil us all. All overseas military bases would be immediately closed. (Can you imagine how outraged we would be if there was a Chinese Air Force base on the outskirts of Dubuque, Iowa? Well, that's how the rest of the world looks at us.) Our image and the goodwill toward us would go up worldwide, and with the savings from running all those bases I'd make absolutely sure our soldiers had the best, safest, most up-to-date training, equipment, and living conditions. Not only that, but they'd be home, right here, in the event they were needed to actually protect our homeland, instead of the interests of some offshore corporation's profits. And if someone were actually stupid enough to attack us on our on soil, the military would be right there, to come down on 'em like Thor's hammer.

If I were King of America, I'd reform our educational system. I'd need lots of advice, because it's really screwed up. It seems like there should be some sort of national standards; some sort of minimum requirements to give us all the confidence that our country wasn't someday going to be run by ignorant morons (wait a minute... whattaya mean someday?). But every time something like this is tried we end up with programs like "No Child Left Behind" (speaking of morons) that are demonstrated failures. In the eighteenth century, it was possible for an educated man to have a working understanding of most of accumulated human knowledge. Since then, human knowledge has increased exponentially and it is going to be unquestionably hard to catch up. But I don't understand why high school graduates today often don't seem to have even the ability to teach themselves on into their future, via reading. Furthermore, the undue influence of special-interest groups like religious moralists and white supremacists and flat-earth science skeptics must be squashed unmercifully. This crap has no place in a school. If they want to home-school their children to be superstitious, unthinking, racist, sexist troglodytes that's fine; but it will have to be in addition to well-rounded public education, not in place of it.

If I were King of America, I'd reform our tax system. It seems to me that some form of taxes are necessary. There are "things" we all seem to want - like maintained roads, and safety standards for restaurants and hospitals, and some sort of (at least minimal) police force, for example - that are best organized and paid for by our joint contributions in the form of taxes. As it is, our tax system is grossly unfair, with poor people paying a much higher percentage of their income to benefit us all, with the rich getting richer and richer and richer at our collective expense. I'd need help on this, too, because compared to our tax and financial system the educational system looks like an operating room at Johns Hopkins. But "help" wouldn't be forthcoming from those in financial power now. I'd need help from elderly people living in trailers. I'd need help from coal miners. I'd need help from inner-city school teachers in Detroit. I'd need help from homosexual artists in Santa Fe. I'd need help from firemen. I'd need help from people in wheelchairs. Then we might get something at least vaguely fair. 

If I were King of America, I'd abolish muzak. Muzak is destroying our ability to appreciate art. If every single place we go we are smothered, slathered, swamped, drizzled, and dipped-and-deep-fried in low-fi, low-volume, overproduced, pastel-blather-vomit of so-called "music" then we can't even recognize the real thing anymore. I have a musician friend who refuses to perform in any venue that plays canned music between his live music sets. He claims that the audience is being taught to talk over music, to consider it by definition a background noise that allegedly soothes but doesn't mean anything or have any relevance beyond the placative. That won't do. It's gone in my reign. 

If I were King of America, I'd treat rights like rights and privileges like privileges. If something is a right, then by definition you can't take it away from someone... it's their right. No one asks to be born, but here we are, and it seems to me that (despite some admittedly troubling ramifications) we'd be better off if every person knew they'd have something healthy to eat, adequate clothes to wear, a safe place to sleep and clean themselves, and competent medical attention when they needed it, no matter what. Could this be expensive? Yes, of course. Could this be habit-forming and lead to laziness? Yes, of course. But look how we've done so far. We might at least try this and see how it went. I can't imagine things would be any worse, and they'd probably be better. At the very least (combined with my first edict to eliminate "consensual crime") there'd be way less need to turn to a life of crime to "make one's living." Then again, privileges are licensed, and thus can be taken away for bad behavior. For instance, we could virtually eliminate the drunk-driving problems in this country if we'd remember that it isn't one's right to drive a car. Drive drunk and endanger others? Okay buddy, that's the last time you ever drive. Problem solved

If I were King of America, I'd abolish my own title and office. No civilization should be run by one person, no matter how enlightened. Hell, if the great Buddha himself dropped from a rainbow and offered to run this joint, I'd turn him down. Even though things might be better with him at the wheel, god they'd be boring! Not to mention that the morality of an entire country run by one person is debatable, to say the least. No matter how well-intentioned and altruistic, some wing-nut in a shack in Idaho is gonna have a complaint... and they'd be right. Our nation is too big and complicated to be organized by consensus, but no matter how flawed (oh, come on... it's not "flawed." It's totally fucked up!) our allegedly democratic system is, it's still better than me (or any other single person) driving this train.

If I were King of America, I'd be assassinated. Everything I've mentioned so far... every single thing... is tangled in entrenched interest that's not gonna give it up anytime soon (yes... even the muzak) and they'd kill me without a second thought to maintain the status quo. And notice that I haven't even mentioned the oil / energy industry, who are arguably the biggest bastards of them all. This country is ruled by money, and don't let anybody tell you anything different. Look, I like the stuff and wish I had more of it. I may not "deserve" to win the lottery any more than the next guy but I think I have pretty fair taste and I don't understand why I'm not making more when I can write, make art, and play music as well as I can. Still, there's only so much I need. But not everybody thinks that way, and they're gonna be the undoing of us all, my friend. They can't get enough. They're like slavering dogs drooling after raw meat, or deranged sex fiends jerking at the front of their pants and stalking one more victim, or druggies red-eyed and raving until they get just one more fix. But unlike all those whack-jobs, they look out for each other, because they know that if we ever catch on their blood will run in the gutters. They keep us scared of each other, scared of brown people in foreign countries, scared of people of other religions, scared of homosexuals, scared of... whatever... so we won't notice that they're reaming us every hour of every day of our lives. 

Go back and read this list. Even if you don't agree with what I'd do if I were King of America, we don't need a king to fix this shit. We can have anything we want. We're the people. WE THE PEOPLE. It's ours. All we have to do is reach out and take it back from the hands of the sniveling bastards and thieves that stole it.

2 Comments:

Blogger Green Man said...

your are right that I would not agree with every fine point, but I am proud to say that you were once my student. If the election were today, I would vote for you to be King of America and send you a bullet proof vest so you could hold the office as long as possible.
Your former teacher and current friend, Frank G. Green

2:19 PM  
Blogger Lisa Middlebrooks said...

Long live the King!

3:54 PM  

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