Last week, while the Momocrats were here celebrating our no small victory of getting a substantive blog-terview with Senator Obama, the rest of the interwebs were a twitter with the latest incident of inappropriate celebehavior, namely Miley Cyrus disrobing for Annie Lebowitz in Vanity Fair.
Now, I’m as avid a participant (though closeted, must maintain my brainy Clark Kent disguise) in the celeb-culture as the next gal. Though I would not dream of filling my home or my daily commute with any of the dozens of celeb-rags that cover newsstands in techni-colored rainbow splendor, let’s face it, there’s little as satisfying as doing the treadmill or the elliptical while voraciously snarfing down a Star or an Ok! or even a Life & Style (you can pretend to workout, and get some culture too!) So I know about Hannah Montana and Heidi Montag (except for why she’s famous?) and Gossip Girls and of course Ms. Brittney.
So when the Miley Cyrus brouhaha erupted, I was tempted to dismiss it with the usual sleight of hand that I reserve for news that isn’t news. But then this most appalling thought stopped me short: how could I, a mother of two girls, be so non-plussed about a 15 year old “role model” cavorting half-naked in a theoretically “reputable” general interest magazine? When did I become so desensitized that it no longer phased me that a girl that I could imagine my own daughters emulating was basically set up to seduce the entire world with her tousled hair, lacquered lips and bedroom eyes?
Because every day, in this life we lead, our values are getting chipped away, one little nick at a time, by those who profit by doing so.
In this case, a magazine that I believe(d) to be of substantial quality, Vanity Fair, decided to profit by profiling the teen superstar, in a way that was inevitably going to draw ire and controversy. And controversy = $cha-ching$. As a profit-dependent corporation, Vanity Fair has simply decided to take its cut. It follows a long progression of for-profit corporations chipping away at our sense of modesty and sexual responsibility: from the topless models in Abercrombie and Fitch, to the sexually precocious high-schoolers on Gossip Girl and the OC, to Bratz dolls with their bare navels and crotch skimmers.
A few days ago, Lawyer Mama made an impassioned plea on behalf of single payer universal health care. She too drew some ire and controversy (though, as far as I know, not for profit) in particular from one reader who believed that such a system would be antithetical to a bottom-up solution of realigning morals and re-establishing community. And to some extent, the reader is right.
The problem of 47 million Americans being uninsured should not, in an ideal world, be the problem of the government, which is, in the end, a soulless entity, and, just like any other soulless entity, flawed by bureaucracy. The fact that there are 47 million Americans who could be wiped out by a single health incident should appeal to the other 253 million American’s sense of humanity and collective responsibility.
Except, (chip, chip, chip) here comes the for-profit corporations, in this case, the insurance companies and HMOs, to chip away at our values, to desensitize us from the things happening around us.
Because my first reaction to Miley Cyrus’s photo was: she’s a star, she’s not my life, I can keep my children away from that kind of undue influence. In other words, the message being conveyed by Miley to millions of American children is not my problem because my children in particular would not be exposed to it. In exactly the same way that the 47 million uninsured Americans will not burden my particular wealthy and supportive community.
Just as we have now been conditioned to think that the sexualization of adolescents is alright as long as it is artfully done, done to a celebrity, or done to someone who, though visually underage, is factually over 18, we have also become conditioned to think that it’s ok for health services to cost 30-50% more for the uninsured compared to the insured, for a person to be denied preventative health care because they are uninsured, or, even worse, that it a person is uninsured, they probably deserve it.
Desensitized. Just look around. How many ways have we been desensitized by corporations?
- We have allowed corporations to subsidize our school sport fields, our school lunches, our school field trips.
- We have allowed mortgage brokers to convince us that we can afford to buy houses with no down payment and on an adjustable rate mortgage that will reset in five years.
- We have replaced voluntary military service with contracted security.
- We have allowed credit card companies to rewrite the bankruptcy law so that it is harder to enter bankruptcy and harder to discharge debt.
- Billion with a “b” has become the millennium’s million and we don’t even blink until the letter (and number) turns into trillion with a “t”.
We have basically entrusted our country to a few people whose net-worths are directly tied to the short term profits that they can generate. Short term profits, long term catastrophe.
The problem is, I am a capitalist. I *heart* capitalism and I don’t want it to go away. I have no interest in tearing down the man. I embrace the man. I recognize that as a shareholder in these corporations, whether directly or indirectly through my retirement savings, I am sharing in the upside of their corporate decisions. These decisions have made America as a whole, and me in particular, more wealthy. And it is the spirit of competition that keeps America (and, apparently, *snark* the Democratic primary *roll eyes*) strong.
With the boom of capitalism, even in the non-democratic reaches of the world, we have to recognize that there has been an ancillary effect of decentralizing community. We don’t work and live the way we used to. We are much more mobile, we connect with people (such as this pan-America political cooperative) across the world more than those down the road, we are multi-cultural and multi-faith. All of which present barriers to community based solutions.
When I took a mediation class in law school (by fluke, not by interest), the first thing we were taught was to look beyond the specific demands of the two parties and at the underlying desires. We forget how often people who appear to disagree in fact share the same intentions. Democrats want a strong country, a safe country, a country that will give their children a future. I’m pretty sure Republicans want the same thing.
I have even voiced my personal admiration for John McCain, or the McCain he used to be until he started to pander to the very voices that he used to disdain. Remember that McCain? The one of fiscal responsibility and small government?
And don’t forget that when McCain used to talk about small government, he was talking about taking away government intervention in capitalism. He was talking about doing away with pork barrels (which, admittedly, after doing some research, is not apparently as big a problem as some make it out to be) and PACs (which are, in fact, bigger problems than many make it out to be).
Because we have a system of capitalism run amok. The market forces that so many Republicans are so eager to subject our education, health care and social security systems to are the very same market forces that apparently required the government’s intervention after 9/11, the internet bubble burst, and the most recent credit crunch. If the government can step in to save companies in need, why did it become a crime to step in to save citizens in need?
Without a strong citizenry, we can have none of the things that we all want: a strong country, a safe country, and a country that offers a future for our children.
(photo courtesy of Disney)
Kady is sorry this post is so out of date, but she’s pretty out of date too on her personal blog at Loaded Dice.