“A thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
“The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time.
Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”
Nearly three decades ago, when our son was an undergraduate geology student, he came home one day bubbling over with enthusiasm. “Did you know that everything can be explained by thermodynamics?” he said. “Everything?” I squinted. “Everything!” he repeated. So it’s ironic that today, a generation later, I should start this piece with a definition of entropy, in an effort to explain the “decline and disorder” in the country where I was born and raised, baptized, deflowered, drafted, and discharged, the United States of America.
One possible definition of a “country” is a group of people with an abiding sense of shared destiny, a conviction that they’re all in it together. That goes for all of the countries of Europe and a lot of others around the world, most of them actually, except for the United States. They’re almost all in it for themselves. Seen from here, the state that comes closest to the world norm in this respect is Massachusetts. They actually had the audacity to call themselves a “commonwealth.”
Nor is toxic American individualism a recent phenomenon. This is from Alexis de Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America (1840):
…a new expression to which a new idea has given birth … a deliberate and peaceful sentiment which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from his fellows and to draw apart with his family and friends … [abandoning] the wider society to itself … [sapping] the virtues of public life … [and finally being] absorbed into pure egoism.
Ruthless Competition, Maximum Profit, Powered by Patriotism
How did the Americans manage to miss the common-good boat? Early on they adopted individualism as a national philosophy. That, of course, precluded any form of collectivism or joint solutions to the challenges of their society. As time went by the American people assimilated that gravely flawed–in terms of uniting, consolidating and advancing a country–idea. Not only that, they elevated it to a virtually religious belief, one that cannot be questioned. Any deviation from the gospel of American individualism is seen as sinful. It didn’t take long for powerful special interests to adopt the self-made-man mantra and adapt it to their own needs, starting with no-holds-barred competition. Profit became king and commonwealth was replaced “patriotism,” a much more flexible, less specific concept that could be easily converted into a tool of manipulation. This phenomenon is most evident in the process of arming and training young American men and women for war and sending them to far-off foreign lands, then bringing them back in black, heavy-duty-plastic body bags.
Without patriotism, it would be much more difficult to embark them on such a fool’s errand. Patriotism soon morphs into a variety of nationalism capable of justifying everything, from the extinction of most of Guatemala’s indigenous people to reducing Iraq to rubble and anarchy. What to say about their penchant for starting wars and then losing them? Considering their military wherewithal, is losing even a possibility? More recently the Americans were driven out of Syria. And just a few days ago we are informed that President Trump has decided to “withdraw” from America’s longest war, in Afghanistan. Justin King, “Beau,” the genial southern journalist who presents his lucid take on the news daily on YouTube
, admonished recently., “Don’t believe that ‘withdrawal.’ What has happened to the Americans in Afghanistan is that they have been defeated.”
A Recipe for Ruin
The very notion of a country based on laissez-faire, every-man-for-himself principles inevitably brings with it the loss of national consensus, coherence, identity, and general wellbeing. Absent these factors that give meaning and direction to national policy–to the commonwealth–what happens next responds to pure thermodynamics. Remember the second law? “Entropy always increases with time,” which aptly explains what’s going on politically in the United States today. Seen in terms of plain everyday logic nothing seems to make any sense. Voters vote against their own interests. Initiatives to thwart voter turnout are rampant. Congress passes tax cuts for the rich. Bare-faced lies pass for truth. Trickle-down economics is alive and well. Issues that affect all citizens equally–the environment, climate change, racial equality, universal education… have either been abandoned utterly or are in the process of being mutilated beyond recognition. Candidates arise from seemingly random, highly unqualified sectors of the society, and obey criteria that don’t make any sense. Highly-placed-but-culturally-limited figures in the American administration under President Donald Trump speak in terms of “sound theological principles” in government and in private rely on “The Rapture” to solve all the country’s problems. This is not just a violation of the separation of church and state, it’s rule by nonsense. Good government shouldn’t depend upon miracles or biblical prophecy, and to pretend that it should is to drive the country even further down the road to ruin.
What the Americans Are Best At
Not surprisingly, the things that Americans are best at have to do with mind control: advertising, persuasion, brainwashing and, above all, fabricating and selling their quintessential lies. If they decide to implement a long-term regime-change project in an oil-rich country–say Venezuela–they must have, of course, a good reason. They do have one, and it’s always the same. It’s a lie but they can skip lightly over that hardly-relevant detail. They’re going into those countries (or sending their proxies in) to oust repressive dictatorial regimes and replace them with democracy. It’s not about oil. It’s about freedom.
That weary old saw–or some variation on it–has been used time and again over many decades to justify American conceived and financed wars, proxy wars, takeovers, subversions, false-flag operations, genocides and other violations of international law. Legality is irrelevant to them. They have absolute veto power in the United Nations since its creation in 1945, and they refuse to recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court. Does this sound like the very definition of a rogue country? Well, yes, but the formula continues to work for them. Is that because they are big, have paved the world with military bases, and are armed to the teeth? That’s a possibility, too.
The other flimsy pretext for American meddling in other countries’ affairs is “anti-communism,” the eternal constant in the American muddle. Communists are not necessarily the devil, though they have been demonized in the US as if they were. In fact, the world’s most civilized countries–those of Western Europe–have drawn many principles that have contributed to their highly-successful social-democracy model of society straight from Marx and Engels. European workers have a month’s vacation from day one. Is this why the United States is out to break the back of the European Community, starting with the British Brexit?
What Happened to the American Dream?
The American Dream is the Americans’ most wonderful lie, the magical gossamer strand that sustains their whole house of cards. “You, too, can be rich! If you’re not rich it’s because you don’t work hard enough, or you’re somehow defective.” And that bit of cheap doggerel is what powers a presumably-well-educated, first-world country of more than 300 million people. At this stage in the first quarter of the 21st century, the American Dream has succumbed to entropy. It was inevitable, due to the very nature of American society from the beginning.
Do you have trouble relating to physics? This same message can also be expressed–perhaps even better–in poetry:
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats, 1920
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Author: Michael Booth
Michael Booth, the creator of TrumpAndAllTheRest.com, is a US-born publicist, author and online publisher who has lived in a Spanish village in the foothills of Sierra Nevada for the past five decades. Though better known abroad for his fine-art printmaking sites and online magazine, Booth's day job for the past decade and a half, until recently, was his communications agency, dedicated principally to designing and implementing Internet strategies for Spanish companies and institutions. It took him a long time to get out of publicity and into writing but it was worth the wait.
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