Slogans, sound bites, and talking points. Although this is now a global phenomenon, it’s an idiosyncrasy of the post-World War I America where mass propaganda was turned into an art. With the advent of internet and social media, the average attention span has now shrunk further to tolerate only 140 characters, sensational titles, and 7-second videos. To discuss this omnipresent American desire for quick fixes, I created an acronym: STESSI – Short Term, Expedient Solutions, Slogans and Ideology. Basically, it’s I want it now, I want it fast, I want it easy, and I want it my way.
Whether it’s politics, economy, healthcare, social issues or foreign policy, Americans are extremely divided on what to do, even though they agree that the system is broken. However, the problems were created by STESSI, and we are still trying to solve them through STESSI.
When we live by slogans, our solutions become binary – either you are all the way for something or all the way against it. Thus, compromises become impossible.
Slogans don’t have nuances. When one person screams, “Build That Wall,” and another angrily responds, “No Ban, No Wall” … there’s no opportunity intellectual discussions on how many immigrants should we let in, where should they come from, what should be their skills, how do we screen them etc.
Slogans are also manipulative by being deliberately vague. Everybody can agree that we must “Support Our Troops.” However, in reality, it often translates to “Support Endless Wars.”
Even well-intentioned slogans can become intolerant and closed-minded. For example, climate change discussions often ignore the hundreds of variables in an extremely complex, dynamical and cyclical ecosystem, and boils it down to one variable—CO2.
STESSI also permeates every facet of American life. Consider the American food system which started to get contaminated after World War II, with the introduction of pesticides (derived from Nazi chemical weapons), fast food and processed food. Later, thousands of chemicals were added to our food to give it fake color, fake smell and fake taste. Another “innovation” to provide cheaper food for more profit was factory farming and the use of steroids and growth hormones. Of course, GMO in the 1990’s topped it all off.
Every step of the distortion was justified by short-term thinking, profit for corporations, and apparent benefits for customers—food that is cheap and yummy.
When obesity started to rise in the 1970’s, the expedient solution was to blame fat in the food.
Fat makes you fat! Simple and obvious. But after twenty years, people were still getting fat. Oh, it’s the sugar! Great, millions of people jumped on that bandwagon. Still didn’t work. It’s all about the calories! Count the calories, starve yourself and go to the gym. Nope, still didn’t work. Wait, we figured it out, it’s the evil carb! If it doesn’t work, don’t worry, there’s always some novel and extreme fad that is just around the corner.
People would rather try hundred wrong, simple solutions rather than one right, complex solution.
Big Pharma and the entire Western medicine adopted the principles of STESSI more than hundred years ago. They rejected holistic, natural medicine in favor of a mechanistic ideology that treats our bodies like appliances with discrete components. For example, doctors specialize in neurology or gastroenterology or psychiatry, when all these are intricately connected. (There has been some progress in this area, but the inherent system is still resistant to holistic science.)
Modern medicine also encouraged the doctrine of “a pill for an ill.” Often times, the focus is only to cure the symptom and not the underlying disease or the cause of the disease. This approach is unscientific and creates serious side-effects at an individual and a societal level. About 1 in 4 Americans are on psychotropic medications, and U.S. doctors are writing 300 million opioid prescriptions every year. Last year, more people died from drug overdose than all Americans who died in Vietnam War.
The desire for quick solutions in healthcare has lead to deadly consequences. Excessive dependency on antibiotics and vaccines can also potentially lead to disastrous epidemics in the future.
As for the business of healthcare, it should be called sick-care. We already spend 17% of our GDP on healthcare. What we have is a completely unsustainable situation where people are getting sicker, everybody wants a Platinum treatment when they get sick, corporations – Big Pharma, insurance companies and medical industry – are purely focused on maximizing profit, and the politicians are puppets of the profiteers.
As for the economy, the elites have been slowly destroying the American Middle Class since the 1970’s. It started out with “Are you making less money? Don’t worry, use your credit card and you can still own all the consumer goods that make you happy!” Then, in the 1980’s, the message changed to, “If we get rid of labor unions, things will be so much cheaper! Also, if we get rid of your pension plans and replace it with 401-K, you’ll make so much more money in the stock market.”
Ten years later, it was, “If we let Mexico and China do the manufacturing jobs, everything will be so cheap, and we will all be ecstatic consumers!”
Of course, China’s economy grew 55 times since 1980, while the U.S. GDP grew only 7 times in that same time period. Now, China has $1 trillion to build roads, railways, airports and sea ports in 50 different countries, while the U.S. can’t fix the failing infrastructure at home.
The Federal Reserve Bank is another institution that’s addicted to using illusionary, short-term, and unsustainable solutions. By constantly tinkering with the interest rates, printing (digital) dollars out of thin air, and creating a series of bubble-burst cycles, the Fed has created a system that enriches the 1%, keeps the bottom 50% in serfdom, and plunges the nation into debt crisis.
When it comes to foreign policy, Americans are fed stories fit for 5-year-olds. There was a horrible, mean dictator who butchered people and killed little kids. So, noble American politicians sent in a powerful army and killed the bad guy. Then everybody had freedom and democracy, and lived happily ever after. Sadly such inane propaganda is still effective.
Perhaps the biggest victim (perpetrator?) of STESSI is the corporate media. Rather than being a beacon and seeker of truth, MSM has collectively turned into a giant tabloid that thrives on sensationalism, click-bait titles, partisan hyperbole, and Deep State propaganda.
So how do we fix all this? Here are three simple steps to quickly accomplish this: <hope you didn’t fall for that one>. The only way to fix our problems is to change our thinking. As Einstein allegedly said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” We all need to strive for deeper understanding of issues, have substantive discussions and debates that go beyond talking points and slogans, be less attached to ideology or political parties, watch more documentaries and less TV, read more independent media and less corporate media, and raise our own consciousness to a higher level.
Author: Chris Kanthan ( Check out Deconstructing the Syrian War, my new e-book on the Syrian war, the most consequential war of recent times)