That fear only exists in countries that still function primarily on private, for-profit, deregulated health insurance companies out to screw you out of money, though. And the number of countries like that is dwindling fast.
Consider France. As far as I understand (correct me if I'm wrong), people who have chronic illnesses and/or more debilitating diseases actually pay LESS (or nothing at all) for their health care expenses. This health care system is consistently rated the best in the entire world by the WHO, and has more or less been running phenomenally for more than half a century.
You realize that they need to raise taxes to support all of the social programs that help millions of Americans every day, particularly welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, food stamps, police, fire departments, public transportation, water departments, libraries, and broadcasting.
You can't seriously expect the government to help you out without the money they need to do it. You also cannot hope that private industry would handle any of these services better than the government; they are all about price-fixing and maximizing profits while minimizing their own risk. In other words, they're out to get their hands in your pockets and make like bandits.
Letting the government run your life is not a democracy its a monarch a socialist counrtry a dictatorship but it is not a free one with people taking responsibilities onto themselves.
Do you even understand the differences between socialism and dictatorship? I ask because they are on complete opposite ends of the political spectrum, and you can't accuse a government of being both. It's not possible to be both.
Okay, now we're getting somewhere; for the most part, I have to agree with you, I simply have a few points of contention:
I suspect that if this were true, then the divorce rate would not be so high, but then, actors have not been the best role models for this one. I also draw a distinction between superficial acquaintences who talk about the weather and pop culture versus real friends who share everything and are deeply involved in each other's lives. The asymmetric relationship between the fan and the entertainer is a terrible model for the latter type.
I don't really believe there are a terribly large number of people that try to reconcile the two different relationships; indeed, I believe we are all either naturally or artificially equipped with the mechanisms we need to distinguish the two and be perfectly functional people. In fact, it seems to me that, in a way, these asymmetric relationships they form with celebrities are a way in which they enjoy learning; the tendency seems to be treating celebrities less as people and more as a subject that's continually evolving, one that their friends also find interesting.
It's funny that so many people don't seem to recognize a connection between an educational system based on rote memorization instead of curiosity and discovery, and a general population that is turned off to learning and often views it as a terrible burden (have you ever worked a tech support line?). To quote Samuel Clemens, I believe that the Slashdot crowd never allowed their schooling to interfere with their education. For that reason, they have a natural appreciation of knowledge and discovery. I believe that all people are born with this (just consider how many "why" questions small children constantly ask about the world) but often lose by the time they go through the meat-grinder known as public schooling.
So I agree with you that most people undervalue learning and education. I just see that as a product of artificial conditioning and do not view it as the way human beings inherently are. That means it is not set in stone, that people who are this way are not doomed to remain this way for their entire lives. It means it's a matter of what we value, which is something that can change, especially if enough concerned people are willing to speak about it. To think otherwise would be a defeatist attitude.
Oh, believe me, I understand this all too well. I think most of us can even see it in ourselves (I highly doubt there is a single person here who can claim they have not grown to be slightly less inquisitive than they were as a child), and it's an incredibly distressing subject. That being said, there are already a ton of people that have been turned off to learning, and we can't really fault them for it, nor can we fault anything that panders to them; indeed, it seems that it only resonates with the people who are already part of its culture and does not seem to actively draw people in. It will likely die off (or, more likely, simply scale down) if/when public schooling becomes better, but I feel it's more of a symptom than a problem. I don't feel like it's an offensive symptom, either, just an unfortunate one.
I'll say it this way. If most human beings had deep and abiding meaning and purpose in their lives, we would find ourselves in a much better world. Much of the celebrity-worship, consumerism, and politics of control are actually substitutes for a truly fulfilling existence. So are these roller-coaster personal relationships where people say they love each other, yet act in an adversarial, manipulative manner towards the other person. So is the belief that climbing the corporate ladder in order to make more money is the only worthy use of your time, that the years devoted to your formal education served no purpose other than to obtain for you a position in a hierarchy.
I agree with you wholeheartedly here, but I also feel like it's a subject that's fairly hard to talk about. There are people who spend their whole lives trying to find a deep meaning and purpose in their life, only to never find one, having wasted the small amount of time they had. Maybe they didn't look in the right places, maybe they didn't look hard enough, or maybe they should have just been satisfied with the simple, little things, like watching pop culture news. I don't know.
In short, people who are truly satisfied with their lives tend not to devise ways to control, manipulate, exploit, and dominate others. Not only do they not perpetrate such actions, they also don't consider it "normal" or "just human nature" when they witness them. Our world and the people in it suffer greatly, and needlessly, because of "fevered egos" (to quote Bill Hicks) who work so hard to do those things. Am I saying that obsession with celebrities is the root of the problem? No. I am saying that when mortal beings spend so much of their limited lives on things that are so empty and meaningless, there is no way that this doesn't contribute to both the world that we know today and their tacit acceptance of it. It ties up much intellectual and emotional energy that could be put to much better use.
Again, I agree with you, but I also don't believe it's as simple as you put it; clearly, we do live in a world like the one you describe. The unfortunate circumstance of this is that it makes it incredibly hard to change these things, and even the intellectual and emotional energy of the people you may be able to rally up will probably not be enough for this to be fixed in our own lifetime. I don't mean to say that we shouldn't try (in fact, you should try, with all that you have), but that I don't see our world improving much while I'm alive. I think we should be laying the groundwork for it, though, and that's exactly what I hope to do.
I was clearly trolling with a topical claim, but, since you want a serious discussion (or, appear to), let's have one:
I feel like you are underestimating the role of entertainers in our culture; certainly we live in a world where their importance has been inflated beyond belief, but the claim that news related to them is irrelevant and wasteful is flat-out wrong; the people who spend time watching it and absorbing it are not asocial and do not form asymmetric relationships, as you seem to be predicting, but rather use that knowledge they gather to foster their relationships with other people. Knowledge of popular culture actually helps people socialize and form relationships with other people.
Furthermore, you claim that they should be using their time to educate themselves, find meaningful relationships with other people (as I said earlier, pop culture news helps level the playing field here, making it easier to connect with new people, which is where any meaningful relationship has to start), and find real purpose and meaning in their life.
While I can't argue that their time would not be better spent educating themselves, I do posit that our own view of how valuable education is comes at least partially from the culture most Slashdot users come from; we are a community mostly consisting of people that actually like to learn things, which is a trait that doesn't appear in everybody. To the people it doesn't appear in, educating themselves is not going to make their life better, it's more or less going to be worthless.
On top of that, you claim that they should be using their time to find real meaning and purpose in their life; you seem to be assuming that there needs to be more to life than maintaining a healthy and successful social life while being a (generally) productive member of society (or at least being one of the gears that keeps the machine turning). If I'm wrong in this assumption, please call me out on this; I mostly want to clarify this point.
I've always felt that games need to adapt more realistic AI that adapts to the players actions as they go on. I fully understand that what I'm about to describe is an incredibly complicated system that would be pretty difficult to implement, but it does seem like a good guide to go by.
Say I'm playing Splinter Cell. I've been going pretty stealthy throughout this mission, and the guards should be getting more and more wary of this, paying more attention to air vents, shadowy areas, et cetera. Because of this, they're leaving the more bombastic pathways a little bit less guarded, meaning I could tear in through the front door, guns blazing, taking them completely by surprise. Or, if I have a history of disabling people in a particular way, the guards could start protecting themselves from those particular attacks.
Maybe I'm just crazy, but I think this seems entirely reasonable!
"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry