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Living In A Decaff World


Every morning at breakfast in the commons I always like to add to the daily tradition of the same scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, and potato products with a rich and smooth cup of decaffeinated coffee. Some might laugh at my taste in this delectable beverage because I have essentially taken out the one ingredient that makes coffee worth drinking for most people, the caffeine. The reason for this odd change is that I love the taste of coffee, but I do not want the effects of jitteriness and the eventual downward crash that caffeine brings. This is a common trend for most people.

As European Philosopher Slavoj Zizek writes in a piece for the Guardian, a reputable British newspaper, “In today’s market, we find a whole series of products deprived of their malignant property: coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol. What about virtual sex as sex without sex?”

Indeed, this trend of “taking the punch” out of the product seems to spill over into our everyday lives, especially when it comes to politics and policy. This is a result of constant negotiation of congressman to appease their constituents. Starting with the stimulus package of not have enough stimulants, by this term I mean money, to actually stimulate the economy. On healthcare reform, it involved universal healthcare without a single payer system or a public option.  For Afghanistan, it was the policy to withdraw troops from the country without actually withdrawing right away. Basically, the meat of these policies were cut out to replace it with a tofu like substitute that is only so filling for the consumer.

In the mist of the bloody campaigns in the key battleground states, Republicans have arduously lamented the political rhetoric of President Bush without mentioning his name, like Voldemort from Harry Potter. Even the Tea-baggers have begun to live in a world of insane paradoxes. Some of the “decaff” language has included: cutting spending without cutting the sacred cow defense budget, demonizing social security and Medicare yet feeding on the senior citizens who use those programs and do not want them cut, and not wanting the federal government involved with their lives, at least until the next natural disaster strikes.

For morality, this “decaff” culture has ushered in a new form of hatred. For instance, not hating homosexuals directly, but just not letting them have the rights to marry and serve openly in the military. In another political fight, illegal immigrants can live in the U.S., but just not work, have children, or even stay here for a long time. Honestly, I might feel more comfortable if the people who supported these policies just came out and said directly that they hated the idea of gays having sex or illegal Mexicans working here instead of masquerading their hate behind campaign platitudes such as “security” and “family values.”

Why has this “decaff” culture taken off?  I have a few proposed reasons. First, people have become lazy in their everyday lives. It is much easier to lose weight without exercise or pass bills without reading them. More importantly, the American people are starting to elect those who are not very well educated and “part of real America.” They then want solutions of academic excellence, but by picking George Bush or Christine O’Donnell, you should not expect Noam Chomsky ideas. Second, is that the feelings towards specific policies do not go away, they evolve into something else. The containment doctrine of the Cold War never disappeared in foreign policy; it just manifested itself in the anti-terrorism campaign in the Middle East. My earlier example of gay marriage is a by- product of the Anita Bryant days. The reincarnation of “anti” feelings always sticks in our consciousness. Finally, is the ultimate delusion that “America is the greatest country on earth.” I will give the unwavering patriots this: America is great for having free speech and being able to have a choice in their careers. In other aspects of “American greatness” I am a little more dubious. We are usually ranked in the middle 20s for education, the lower 40s for healthcare, the high 20s for gender gaps, and 11th for the best overall country to live. With these facts, the slogan “America is the greatest country on earth” is about as meaningful as when Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Baily Circus calls themselves “the greatest show on earth.”

The final point to address is the impact of this new phenomenon. The bottom line is we want reform without actual reform. The Democrats and the president want to please everybody without actually wanting to lead. The Republicans want to stay, in the words of Princeton economist Paul Krugman, addicted to Bush by liking his policies, just hating the fact that they were so unpopular. We must man up and take the consequences of having reforms will mean change. Wanting change is one thing, but not having the cajones to do it is another. Change involves risk, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. The decaff coffee machine will only work for so long and the taste might seem sweet now, but eventually, it will turn sour.

To read more commentary by John Stang check out his blog called “The Independent Internationalist.”  His opinions do not reflect those of the Brackety-Ack