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The American Dream... or Nightmare?Author of this text: Kaz Dziamka
Review of Discovering America As It Is
If you are looking for a current,
uncompromising exposé of the savagery of the American political and economic
system, then you must consider this impressive compendium of statistical
information, pertinent facts, and expert testimony. In his 466-page book, with
an additional 86 pages of endnotes, Lithuanian human rights activist and former
anti-Soviet dissident Valdas Anelauskas has succeeded in exposing „The
American Dream" as it is: A ruthless corporate oligarchy masquerading as a „democracy" and „free enterprise." Like many immigrants from
former Soviet-controlled East European countries, Mr. Anelauskas has come here
with his family in search of a more dignified and civilized life. Instead, what
he has seen „here is fundamental injustice, brutal exploitation, morbid
individualism, obscene greed, odious hypocrisy, ad nauseam.… This whole
society," says Mr. Anelauskas, "is like one huge Jerry Springer show.
It is totally sick."
course, those of us who regularly read Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn, or
Michael Parenti will find it hard not to agree with Mr. Anelauskas. But when was
the last time you heard such corporate spin doctors as Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw,
or Peter Jennings engage any of the above in an honest debate about the American
Way? Average Americans have no idea that they are not living in „the land
of liberty and democracy," but in "a land of misery and plutocracy."
One has to give the spin doctors hired by the American political, corporate, and
educational establishments one's begrudging credit for somehow convincing their
overworked and befuddled fellow Americans that freedom means choosing CBS, NBC,
or ABC; the Republicans or the Democrats; Bush or Gore; Coke or Pepsi;
Tweedledum or Tweedledee. That American democracy and the American Constitution
are divine gifts from our Grand Pater. That the American Way is the only right
way. That it is in the interest of our „national security" to spend
close to $300 billion dollars on the „defense" every year-even though
nobody, not even the Commies, poses a threat to the United States. And that to
live in constant fear of being fired (without due process), losing health
insurance, and working the longest hours in the world with the shortest
vacations is to live in a City Upon a Hill. Hallelujah! God bless America — Corporate Godzilla's headquarters for world operations.
Mr. Anelauskas has cataloged the
evils of the American socio-political system in an extremely patient and
conscientious manner, a catalog of misery and corruption so fantastic as to be
unbelievable. And yet every claim or observation is scrupulously documented, and
the reader is offered a breadth and depth of knowledge so vast that it should
probably put to shame all the certified brains of the State Department and the
White House-although it is arguable if these people are shameable since it is
arguable if they still have a conscience.
book opens with an insightful overview of American myths and realities by Y.N.
Kly, a professor of justice and international law. Mr. Kly describes Discovering
America as a „masterful research," which "exposes the
striking difference between the popular world view of the U.S. and its present
reality, a reality with which [Mr. Anelauskas], as an anti-Soviet dissident who
came to the U.S. in search of freedom, justice, democracy and economic fairness,
has had to come to grips.… His findings, which this book faithfully relates,
can only be described as devastating to the popular world view of the U.S. and
its potential for human-centered democratic leadership."
the autobiographical introduction, „My Journey to the Land of Misery &
Plutocracy," Mr. Anelauskas quotes, quite ominously, Sigmund Freud, who
described America as "a mistake, a giant mistake!" He then recalls,
when he was a young Lithuanian human rights activist, his original respect for
the U.S. as a free and democratic country, a preconception totally shattered
after he spent a few years here. We are offered a rare insight into the social
and political struggles in Lithuania, a country rich in tradition and history, a country of which hardly anything of any substance is ever mentioned in the
American media. Mr. Anelauskas concludes the autobiographical part very candidly.
He says: „My feelings towards American extreme capitalism are the same as
toward Soviet/Russian communism: I wish it the same demise. I long for the day
when the world can supercede it, regarding it, too, as one of humanity's very
even Chomsky or Vidal can speak quite with the same appealing candor.
rest of the book is divided into 13 chapters, each a record of such injustice
and criminality that each would quite likely be enough to demand an immediate
termination of the American experiment in „democracy" and to call for a complete overhaul of American society — if,
that is, such a thing were possible.
Chapter 1, Mr. Anelauskas quotes U.S. Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis, who
once pointed out that „We can either have democracy in this country or we
can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." I wonder what it is that an average American fed on a steady diet of national
myths and corporate lies would say when confronted with this „dilemma."
But in America one can never assume the obvious. „This American Dream,"
points out Mr. Anelauskas, "is for the lucky few and is a nightmare for the
„The Tears of the Poor," we read about the heartbreaking story of
America's poverty and the growing gap between the fabulously rich and the
hopelessly poor. "Lives That End at Birth" illustrates the tragedy
that, although American politicians and, in particular, Christian religionists,
rave and rant about family values, the fact is that "America doesn't really
care for children as a whole," according to Burt Harvey, whom Mr.
Anelauskas quotes at the beginning of the chapter. He then backs it up with some
appalling statistics: Every day in America six children commit suicide, thirteen
children are homicide victims, fourteen children are killed by firearms,
eighty-one babies, die, 280 children are arrested for violent crimes, 443 babies
are born to mothers who had late or no prenatal care, 781 babies are born at low
birthweight, 1,403 babies are born to teen mothers, 1,827 babies are born
without health insurance, and so on.
theme of the myth that the American government cares about family values is
continued in Chapter 4 with the same unrelenting unleashing of data, quotations,
and illustrations. In „The Sorry State of Education," Mr. Anelauskas
reminds us that in America only seven percent of the federal budget is spent on
education. (If I may digress: Gore Vidal once calculated that in 1986, close to
90 percent of the disbursements of the federal government went to the military,
or as it is "laughingly" called „the defense." Consider
these two figures and then consider the extent of the evil and madness of the
current socio-political system of the United States.) Not only is the amount of
money spent on public education pathetically small compared with the reckless
and suicidal military spending, but the American educational system is, as Mr.
Anelauskas says, „purposefully designed to make people, to borrow Adam
Smith's phrase, 'as stupid and ignorant as it's possible for a human being to
be.'" No wonder that as many as "forty percent of America's fourth
graders actually believe the world is flat"!
World Housing in First World America" talks about the homeless, „the
most egregious symbol of a cruel economy," as Robert Hayes said.
"Desperate People Do Desperate Things" shows how „criminality is
at the heart of the [American] social system," resulting in crime rates
unprecedented and unparalleled in any civilized country in the world. Crime in
America, say Mr. Anelauskas can "strike anyone, anywhere." Again some
statistics can make one gasp in disbelief: The United States has more murderers
than doctors, college professors and police officers. Perhaps 800,000 murderers
are living free in America. Imprisoning these people will not change anything.
In Chapter 12, "Oppressed Minds," Mr. Anelauskas mentions the by-now
well-known fact that the United States imprisons a higher proportion of its
population than any other country, currently close to 2 million inmates. And
8 through 11 give an overview of probably the worst form of abuse of American
„democracy": the corporate tyranny that makes nonsense of whatever
free enterprise or freedom there is in America. As Mr. Anelauskas argues, this
tyranny is made possible by what Gore Vidal calls „socialism for the
rich," resulting in a staggering $150 billion for corporate subsidies and
tax benefits. Those who are not initiated into the anti-human activities of
American corporations should perhaps not read these chapters: the exposé is
likely to make one nauseous. The ruthless downsizing, the mind-boggling
disparity between the income of the CEO's and that of average Americans, the
denial of basic benefits to millions of Americans, and other such savage abuses
of power are more unquestionable evidence of what Mr. Anelauskas has earlier
called "a totally sick society."
Minds" (Chapter 12) argues that „American society is trapped in a system of private tyranny disguised as a free and open system" and that the
mass media controlled by few huge corporations make sure that „real
democracy" never threatens „the private tyranny of the wealthy."
It is truly irresponsible and silly to refer to the essentially two-party system
of the United States as „democracy." The two parties are two ugly
faces of the same corporate hydra, „two heads of the same beast."
Current Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, whom Mr. Anelauskas
quotes, best describes the two-party system: „The two party duopoly — essentially
one corporate party with two heads called Republican and Democrat, each wearing
different makeup — presents
the citizenry every four years with a choice between the Bad and the Worse. And
every four years, both the bad and the worse get worse because there is no
counter pull to the corporate right-wing pull."
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, „a
pure democracy" was one of the worst forms of government: the United States
was designed not as a democracy, but a certain kind of federal republic with
some elements of democracy. But to the verbal manipulators of the political and
corporate establishment, „democracy" is sacred and means whatever
allows the rich and the powerful to make a quick profit and to distance
themselves from the poor. As Michael Parenti once said in his famous book Democracy
for the Few: „Proximity to the poor is to be avoided."
last chapter, „The New World Order Takes Shape," elaborates on a rather obvious trend: that the U.S. rich elite "are 'predestined' to be the
world's controllers." Mr. Anelauskas surveys the genocidal policies of the
U.S. government towards American Indians and the enslavement of Africans, and
then points out that only before 1895 the United States had carried out 103
military interventions — a mere prelude, though, to hundreds of military
interventions and thousands of covert interventions in the 20th century. Even
though no country in the world "is capable of posing a threat to the United
States," the budgets of the Pentagon, the CIA, and other security and
intelligence organizations continue to grow at dizzying heights. As Mr.
Anelauskas was finishing up the book, the United States, through NATO, embarked
upon yet another military intervention, this time in Serbia and Kosovo. Since
then, the stupidity, brutality, and illegality of the attack have all been
gradually exposed — if
only in the alternative media — but that the intervention was in contravention of
international law was obvious from the very beginning to those who refused to be
bamboozled by the distortions and lies of the mass media.
the concluding comments, Mr. Anelauskas quotes the late President of France,
François Mitterand: „They are hard, those Americans. They are voracious.
They want undivided power over the world." "There is every reason to
believe," says Mr. Anelauskas, that „the world is in grave danger
because of America's goal of global hegemony."
yet, the book ends on a hopeful note: All empires and tyrannical systems
eventually crumble. Recently, this happened to the Soviet Union. "So, too,
there may come a day," says Mr. Anelauskas, "when, as with 'the former
Soviet Union,' people will speak of 'the former United States.'"
would like to argue that Mr. Anelauskas' devastating critique is an impassioned
hyperbole, that things are not really as bad as he describes them. If so, then
one may find oneself in a no-win situation: trying to challenge — not
his views — but facts.
in the American Rationalist © March/April 2000
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