Ron Kaye: Down the path to mutual destruction

When the queen of upbeat soulful talk and self-empowerment gets the blues about the state of the world, you know something is wrong, really wrong.

“The world is a mess. We all know it and talk about in our private lives,” Oprah Winfrey posted on her Facebook page last week as part of her promotion for her new “Lifeclass” show on her OWN cable network.

“It's depressing and overwhelming at times to look at how much potential we have and yet we're constantly bombarded by images and information that speaks to the lowest common denominator. We can do better. We can be better. I know it's true.”

So do I.

The challenge is to figure out how we get from where we are to where have to be.

Think about this: Oprah was unseated from her No. 1 ranking this year on Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful celebrities by Lady Gaga. Justin Bieber ranked third.

Talk about LCD, lowest common denominator — it is pretty sad when you think about it, when you think about how we have allowed ourselves to be trivialized for commercial exploitation and reduced ourselves to being party to a culture that celebrates outrageous misconduct and demeans age-old virtues.

This weekend at the L.A. Convention Center — the white elephant loser that is going to be rebuilt to justify putting in a football stadium to enrich a billionaire and add to the circus atmosphere of downtown — is hosting two events: A medical marijuana expo and a star-studded porn-queen convention.

“The combination of Hempcon and EXXXOTICA is a virtual playground for inquisitive adults,” an organizer declared. “We are getting an amazing reaction from the people of Los Angeles. Our show always does well in L.A., but we are expecting even greater results with EXXXOTICA next door.”

Potheads meet Sex Freaks — what could better symbolize the decline and fall of Los Angeles?

Halfway around the world, Libyans have toppled Muammar Gaddafi from power after 42 years of his dictatorial violence against his people and his campaign of terror against the world.

Thousands of people are dying in the streets of Syria to end the repression that has kept them in poverty for so long, just as the people of Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab lands have risen up against their oppressors.

Yet, here we are whining about just about everything but doing nothing about it — at least nothing constructive.

The Libyan freedom fighters were not alone.

NATO provided thousands or fighter aircraft sorties to help break the back of the Gaddafi military. Arab nations like Qatar sent in Special Forces units to train the ragtag army of civilians whose heroic struggle has captured the imagination of the world and inspired the down-trodden with hope.

None of that would have happened — nothing ever happens — unless someone takes the first step, unless someone stands up for what they believe in, unless others line up with them.

For too long, we have taken our freedom and our affluence for granted and looked the other way as both our freedom and our affluence withered away.

We have allowed ourselves to be drawn apart by political sideshows from greenhouse gases to illegal immigration. Some of us are fighting against all forms of taxation while others demand that we keep on spending the public’s money in ways that don’t solve our problems.

It’s not the world that is a mess, it’s us. We can do something about it, and we don’t have to take up arms to restore health to our society, balance to our political institutions and bring economic fairness for rich and poor and everyone in between.

The greatest threat to America isn’t from al Qaeda or the toxic air, water or food supply. We won’t fall into chaos if those who have a lot pay a little more to help those have little, or if we have to give up some of what we have to get our government agencies back on track.

“You can learn from my mistakes, and I can learn from yours. We can grow ourselves forward,” as Oprah suggests.

Or we can keep going down this path to mutual self-destruction.

RON KAYE can be reached at Share your thoughts and stories with him.

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