Synapses of Insight

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    Living in the emergent global society, one of the questions that intrigues me is whether the lifeless consumeristic culture, which has overwhelmed people in America and generated a very high percentage of dead souls, has become virtually uniform. If so, the human spirit is indeed in peril.

    One of the few benefits of residing in an empire in rapid decline (even as a majority of otherwise educated Americans keep denying that America is or ever was an empire) is that it affords the perspective of wholeness and history.

    Anyway, we’re still the best at exporting movies. There’s a line from “The Last Samurai,” a Tom Cruise movie from 2003 (just after America’s decline became precipitous and undeniable) that jumps out from otherwise predictable dialogue.

    The Cruise character has ‘gone native’ after spending months living and training in a holdout samurai village. The backdrop for the movie is the bloody and repressive transition Japan made from feudalism to modernism during the 19th century, when the ancient verities of the samurai were quickly replaced by the brutal efficiencies of industrial society.

    The art of the sword became the symbol of a past that had to be roughly cut. The soldier expat Cruise character joins the crème of the samurai warrior class, and they make a last stand for their way of life against Tokyo city boys armed with muskets and Gatling guns.

    At the turning point in the film (OK, movie), a former fellow Yankee officer confronts the American samurai verbally before confronting him mortally on the battlefield: “Why do you hate your countrymen so?” he blasts. The newbie samurai has no response.

    I do. It isn’t a question of one individual hating his countrymen—that’s scapegoating–it’s a question of why one’s country has become so hateful.

    The best/worst empires don’t kill or even enslave you; they envelop and co-opt you. In light of that, I’m questioning whether the soul-killing, globalizing North American culture has become sufficiently global that it makes no real difference where one lives on the planet anymore.

    That’s not to say the world is being controlled from Washington. The worldwide socio-economic juggernaut, having been set fully in motion, doesn’t require a controlling center.

    It’s like the eye of a hurricane; it doesn’t generate the storm, the tempest merely wheels around it. So too, Washington DC may have become the eye at the center of the total hurricane of man.

    Sadly, the heretofore-exalted voice of America’s hope has turned out to be the dead echo of man’s hopelessness.

    Can the man, Barack Obama, who promised to preside over our transformation, transform himself in time? If not, he’ll be consigned to the dustbin of one-term presidents in American history.

    I often hear about Americans who have traveled and lived in other countries. I’ve even done so myself. They almost always return, supposedly wiser and more appreciative of their homeland.

    Hogwash. America is no better place to live than anywhere else. Yes, living here is easier physically and materially, but it’s harder psychologically and spiritually.

    No, the only reason to return to America is because nothing significant is happening anywhere else in the world. One might as well be unhappy and physically comfortable than unhappy and physically uncomfortable.

    Not that physical comfort matters very much. It actually has little to do with anything essential. That is, unless history gladly proves me wrong, and the vortex of America’s globalized culture reverses its spin in the land of its origin.

    In short, my feeling is that it doesn’t matter much which country one lives in anymore. Culture is being effaced and eroded everywhere. Violent resistance has gone the way of bin Laden, and even indigenous cultures have become tourist destinations. That leaves the individual, wherever he or she still lives.

    The conversation is no longer with our countrymen, but with our planetary kin. And until the revolution in consciousness ignites, it’s a one to one synapse of insight.

    The only thing left to do, indeed the only way ahead, is to keep the flame going within oneself, and help kindle anyone able to receive a spark.

    Martin LeFevre

    [email protected]

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