“The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse”

“In an environment of confusion and despair, it helps to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel so overwhelming.”

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Every day, thousands, probably millions of people ask their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues similar and increasingly familiar questions: What has happened to our country? How did we get here? Isn’t it scary? Can anything be done about it?

“There is an abundance of evidence that there are forces tearing apart the U.S. economy and society, causing increasing levels of fear, anxiety and trauma for large numbers of people. Many people are mystified as to the specific causes of their fears, with a mass media system that constantly broadcasts propaganda about how great America is and a new digital media system that may be exacerbating the problems for a society under immense and unprecedented duress.

“There is the added problem that the theories and the means of social change we are familiar with, and to which we still turn, are not remotely up to the task we face, and have mostly proven to be inadequate. Virtually every problem we face has gotten worse over the past 40 years, and heavily sped up since 9/11 and the economic crash of 2007.

“In an environment of confusion and despair, it can be helpful to name the beast—essentially to understand the forces at play, how they operate, and why they feel both intractable and overwhelming. So, what follows is a kind of “Users’ Guide To What Is Freaking Us Out.”

“What Has Happened to Us?

“So the big question is: what is the “it” that has happened to us? Depending on your vantage point and the myriad problems in front of us, “it” can be any number of causes and factors.

“For many, it is the disappearance of the sense of a democracy many thought was embedded in U.S society. Sure, we’ve always been ruled by elites. But we are in a new era where we feel crushed by the overwhelming dominance of corporations and big institutions that treat people like commodities, getting away with degrading people’s dignities while pocketing large profits. This is especially true of banks, which are now so big they are beyond the reach of the legal system for fear that the global economy will be adversely affected.

“Many people feel they have no control over the direction of the country because their vote doesn’t matter—incumbents with the most money mostly get elected. Many voters feel trapped by the lack of options because of pro-corporate stances of both Republicans and Democrats, and then there is another beast—the rabid right-wing.Our legislators are bought by campaign contributions and seem incapable of constructive action. Meanwhile, … ”

Click here to continue reading this opinion column from Don Hazen, the executive editor of AlterNet.

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