E pluribus pluribus

E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) – Seal of the United States

A big topic in today’s news was a rant by Rick Santelli, a hyper correspondent for CNBC who appears to believe yelling can compensate for a lack of sense.

The Atlantic’s Chris Good noted that this rant appeared to be part of a growing theme among Republicans/conservatives. For those folks, everything comes down to “American and Patriotic spirit; one that demands respect for individual rights and property.”

This rant is just one of many instances of an extreme individualistic bent common on the Right that has been promoted since at least the beginning of the Reagan era. The idea seems to be that individuals/corporations should be free to do whatever they want – materially, anyway – without any guff from government or the rest of society.

For people with this world view there is no sense of interconnection between individuals and other people, society in general, or the planet itself. Everyone is on their own, and let the chips fall where they may.

In this world, it appears perfectly reasonable to ask, as George Will recently did, “…it is mysterious whose interests, other than those of their shareholders, corporations are supposed to be controlled by.” Apparently the well-being of employees, neighbors or the nation that protects them and makes their very existence possible is irrelevant.

A mystery to me is what such followers of this “Church of Me” make of the motto in the Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum.  At what point do they mentally move from their many individuals to the greater one of the nation?

Surprisingly, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks offers a helpful awareness of our interconnectedness in his column “Money for Idiots.” Concerning the Obama administration’s approach to the current crisis, he writes:

…they seem to understand the big thing. The nation’s economy is not just the sum of its individuals. It is an interwoven context that we all share. To stabilize that communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize.

Unfortunately, Brooks betrays an underlying bias by referring to those facing foreclosure as greedy idiots. While there are indeed many greedy idiots involved, in actuality many people facing foreclosure on their homes are collateral damage of the current economic downturn. A more sensitive – and humorous – response to Santelli’s rant was provided by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

It’s reassuring to see that at least some people are maintaining an even keel during these trying times.


About Dave Higgins

I've been interested in current events since at least the mid 1960's, and in ideas from modern science since the early 1990's. My website Quantum Age, which has been online since 1996, presents a basic framework for applying ideas from modern science to today's world. In this blog I discuss current events in the context of that framework.
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