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Whoever loves money never has enough;
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do We Need A Noam Chomskyland And Other Post Family Vacation Reflections

When he was 5 years old, my one nephew would crawl into a chair with me so I could read Noam Chomsky to him. At 6, he used a Noam Chomsky book I gave him to learn new words like "is" and "the." Because he is currently taking a sabbatical from reading Chomsky, I quipped to him while in a line to a ride in the Universal Studios Islands Of Adventure amusement park that I was going to take him to Noam Chomskyland after our trip. And when I reflected on my comment, I decided that if such a park was successful, it would put Conservatives in a dilemma of having to agree with Chomsky because of the dictates of the market while Liberals would have to pay attention.

A family vacation can be an interesting time to learn and reflect on what is going on around us. I found, as expected, that the staff of the vacation villa where we were staying easily understood some things that even some of my academic colleagues refused to acknowledge. For example, I was saying to one staff member behind the reception desk that if a person only cared about those in his or her own group, then that person had adopted a gang mentality. This concept is not intellectually challenging at all; but it does make some defensive, especially those who belong to society's dominant group.

My family knows that I am not the best person to take to amusement parks. We were in Orlando Florida where we all visited the Universal Studios theme parks, Sea World, and Aquatica. My kids and their cousins also spent a day at Disney World. The adults and my granddaughter went to Aquatica
 twice. Both times, I wore jeans and a teeshirt and spent most of my time either reading books like Anti-Capitalism: The New Generation Of Emancipatory Movements by Adamovsky and The Cross And The Lynching Tree by James Cone or pushing the stroller so the granddaughter could fall asleep. On the Harry Potter simulator in the Islands Of Adventure park, which I rode to be with the wife, I kept my eyes closed, to prevent motion sickness, and held my hat with one hand and my glasses on with my other. It was one of those unmanly things to do. And on our last day there, I stayed in the condominium because vacation food was not agreeing with my system.

While at the Hogwarts Village, see above, I was able to converse with two tourists from England. We compared countries and discussed some of the problems both countries had. My friends told me how some of their society's benefits killed, in some, the incentive to find work. I added that this is true especially when one is brought up in a society that teaches us to seek our own pleasure first. This was one of the highlights of the amusement park trips for me. And in addition to the books I read at Aquatica, I almost finished the book Days Of Destruction Days Of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, a book not sold at most of the amusement parks we visited probably because it is considered to be a possible mood wrecker.

If one wonders why Americans are either ignorant of or apathetic to what is happening in today's world, it could very well be because our society puts so much energy into celebrating entertainment and fantasy. And we do so bravely considering the courage required to remain unmoved despite the certain self-destruction we are rushing towards. If anyone doubts the fact that we are enthusiastically embracing our own demise, consider the picture below advertising, what I thought was new but was later corrected, a bacon sundae.


We found the above at a Burger King in South Carolina. And because of this, I am now convinced that the doomsday predictions made by the Mayan Calendar are correct.

Like the Israelites who went off to play and worship a Golden Calf of their own making because Moses took too long, we too have become idol worshippers. Of course, family vacations and occasional trips to amusement parks does not idolatry prove. Rather, one only needs to observe the great cathedrals of amusement and entertainment erected throughout the whole country. And if that is not enough, consider how much money we spend on magic boxes that act as portals to some fantasyland escape and compare that with what we spend on educational materials that help us to both understand the plight of others and appreciate more of what it is to be human. Perhaps the final proof is that too many of us look at work as the price of admission to enjoying a "real" life of frivolity rather than take joy in working to give to others.

What is behind all of our efforts here is a sneaky sense of entitlement that says "whatever!" and "talk to the hand" to those who pay the real price for our euphoria. That is why the deprivation that comes from a lack of funding does not bother us as long as our centers of entertainment are state of the art. The same goes for the conditions that sweatshop-slave-child laborers have to endure to make the fun products we buy affordable. Thus, the drug of entertainment, which we are constantly mainlining,  makes us numb to the suffering of others. But it also makes us blind and deaf to the real state of the world around us. We seem unaware that our current unsustainable system is about to collapse.

Perhaps we should ask ourselves the question, how much time and money would Jesus spend on entertainment and amusement.

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