It’s a hell of a struggle for a guy like me, who for years has been reading the outpourings of dissent about their own country from intelligent American observers, most of them academics, journalists, or rabble-rousers, to avoid coming to the conclusion that the United States is a nation that is irrevocably coiled in massive corruption, arising from its nature as an oligarchic seat of inequality, combined with a heartless lack of compassion towards anyone who has stumbled along the way.
To tell the truth, I came to something like that conclusion in 1956, following my first visit to that wonderful land, and I’ve never really learned anything to justify changing that opinion. But there has always been a little voice inside my head urging caution: after all, whenever the greatest educational institutions of the world are graded, American universities --- Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and so on --- are always among the top half-dozen. So, if that is true, could the host country of these great establishments really be so bad?
Every seeker after the truth about the United States must have had the experience of finding himself up against one shattering fact after another. Even in the area supporting my residual hope, for example, the incorruptible universities, recent studies --- carefully hidden from the populace for years --- have thrown grave doubt on their probity. Presenting themselves to the world as pinnacles of democratic virtue, as those “shining lights upon the hill,” the great universities have been unexpectedly revealed to give prior entry to what are called “legacy students”, by which are meant from families rich enough to give generous grants, or students enrolled under athletic scholarships, the academic qualifications for which are usually found to be almost nil, but that bring in lots of money to the athletic programmes.
One investigator says that 40 per cent of all student entries to Harvard are covered by those two categories. Beyond which facts, the great American meritocracy --- “you can get there, son, if only you work hard and use your innate talents” ---- seems to be just another American boast come crashing into the dust.
Well, let’s try to forget the picture, drawn by those investigators, of bright-eyed teenaged girls whose places in the athletics team had been gained in spite of the fact they had never thrown a ball across a room or run a race, but were simply looking forward to university life as one big party. Their places were gained at a cost of several million dollars in parental gifts. But I guess that’s America, so let’s just move on.
How about his one, revealed to me by an article in The Guardian Weekly, a British publication:
A new University of Farmington was announced, located just outside Detroit. The university president sent out international emails, describing his institution as “a nationally accredited institution authorized to enrol international students.” Some 600 students were enrolled, most of them from India. When the place was raided by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who apparently suspected that the students were trying to use their enrolment as an illegal way into the United States, 120 of the students were arrested, while eight other people were “charged with criminal violations, and were accused of helping enrol the students in exchange for cash, kickbacks and tuition credits,” reaching ahead for the next two years. When the government of India inquired as to the whereabouts of the arrested students, their consular officers discovered that they had been distributed around 36 different detention centres in the U.S.
As a result of this activity, it was revealed that this was a fake university that had been created and built, by the Department of Homeland Security, and that all its staff, far from being academics, were in fact undercover government agents who were trying to sniff out illegal entrants to the country. In other words the whole scheme was run by an agency of the American government: an absolutely mind-blowing level of corruption at the level of the US government. Imagine how we would feel if it were revealed our government had created a fake university with the sole intention of attracting phony students who might be trying to enter the country illegally! It turned out that this was not the first fake university created by the Homeland Security department (which, you will remember, was established after 9/11 as part of the “war on terror”, a war that has immensely increased the amount of terrorism around the globe.) It really doesn’t bear thinking about. Such shenanigans might be expected of private enterprise crooks, but of government! I can’t help but think it proves the corruption of the government to a really remarkable degree.
Okay, let’s turn the page. Another Guardian Weekly story touches on the U.S. government’s bewildering trade relations with China, which the Americans have turned into a war that appears to have the objective of destroying the up-and-coming poorer nation as a possible competitor. I began the article eagerly, but it was not about what I expected. Instead of learnedly discussing the trade war, it was about a serious decision recently taken by China to no longer accept the mountains of American waste that they have been dealing with in recent years. Of course I had always known that the Western nations, by far the major creators of garbage, had long used impoverished and economically backward countries as dumps for our garbage. But I had not realized that China had been taking 80 per cent of US recyclables, until 2018, when U.S. exports of such stuff fell off 92 per cent.
Not to worry, simultaneously exports of garbage to Thailand shot up 2000 per cent, as did exports of U.S. garbage to Malaysia and Vietnam. We, in Canada, with garbage production levels higher per capita than any other country on earth, including the U.S., are complicit in this level of corruption: we have for several years been sending Toronto’s garbage to Michigan, where its handling is cheaper and more efficient than in Canada.
It begins to seem that the whole world will eventually be choking on the gazillions of tons of garbage --- in the US it is estimated at 250 million tons a year --- from all countries, but with particular reference to Western economies like ours in North America. The Chief Sustainability Officer for the company that runs a huge incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, told The Guardian Weekly: “In the United States, when people recycle, they think it is taken care of, when it was largely taken care of by China. When that stopped, it became clear that we just aren’t able to deal with it.”