Monday, February 24, 2014

The American Manual by Citizen Number 139,138,337

The American Manual by Citizen Number 139,138,337 aka Citizen Lee Berger has authored a book with simple step by step instructions of everything you need to know to be a responsible citizen.

The intriguing, simple yet futuristic cover art is certain to draw in the reader.  The anonymous nature of this work which is written by a cryptic nameless author, known only as Citizen Number 139,138,337, makes a powerful statement about the lack of individuality.   (The author is indirectly identified via a reference to the cover design and web site ) The lack of identity on the cover itself,  implies that in America, we are in fact faceless, nameless citizens and the point of this book is to be a step by step guide to the successful  impersonal assimilation required to be responsible members of American society.  It is ironic that the cover is both retro, yet futuristic at the same time.  Perhaps this reflects the duality of opinion as expressed by Citizen Lee Berger.  It is an undeniable fact that much of the opinion represented in this book is based on traditional, mainstream ideas and common sense- sprinkled with some modern, "enlightened" or revolutionary ideas of government, social responsibility and the environment as well as a bit of  conspiracy theory on the side. 

Retro- styled cartoon illustrations at the start of each chapter, depict vague representations of humanoids. One can also imagine this to be a manual on citizenship 101 to educate unassimilated or alien life-forms as well as immigrants with a basic elementary insight into modern society. What makes this book accessible is the fact that Citizen Lee Berger writes his ideas in a simple to understand style that any reader regardless socio- economic status will understand.  Most political science commentaries and books are elitist in that only political scientists, politicians and college graduates have the ability to grasp the concepts.  In contrast, this book is written for the masses in that a college education is not required to understand the concepts of this book.

This book covers absolutely everything.  Just about every issue imaginable in modern society is covered in brief detail- everything from exercise, the environment, the role of government, racism and even spirituality.  This book is a handbook- a literal manual in that it gives a step by step guide with simple instructions and advice with respect to each topic covered.  For example, in the chapter "Moderation", Citizen Lee Berger offers helpful basic advise about eating and dietary choices as well as tobacco usage. In simplistic terms, he uses the word "treats" to cover any non necessity that has the potential for abuse which includes anything from sugary sweets to coffee and cannabis.  In moderation, cannabis is depicted as acceptable, while hydrogenated oils in any quantity is equated with poison. Some mainstream readers will find this point of view challenges that of their own traditional views.  I think many readers will differ with Citizen Number 139,138,337's opinion that hydrogenated oil or refined sugar is more harmful than occasional, moderate cannabis usage.  In this sense- one would imagine that Citizen Berger is a political liberal or libertarian.  Citizen Berger's concept of "Moderation" is equated with the concepts of "Virtue" and "morality" and in a sense becomes a religion in of itself. 

 The author attempts to appeal to every reader without alienating any specific religious or social belief system.  The ideas of "God" and "nature" are used interchangeably. The chapter on God is basically an opinion about the problem of hypocrites in contrast to advocating one religion or another.  He uses the chapter as a springboard to share his opinion in that belief in a specific deity or religion is not as important as a general sense of goodness, integrity or honesty.  Nevertheless, even with regards to morals, there may be some disagreement about what is a moral standard and what is not- and he does not address the issue of relativism.  One would almost feel Citizen Number 139,138,337 believes in an objective standard of morals, yet he does not go into any discussion other than some generalities of traits that a responsible member of society should follow.  While no one would disagree with the need to be honest or good, various religions and belief systems have their own ideas of what constitutes integrity or goodness.  In his attempt to avoid confrontation in this area, and avoiding the need to define these concepts,  he will gain the support of moderate, non religious individuals and agnostics but will alienate the passionate religious fundamentalists and believers, as well as the staunch atheists.

The following statement taken from the chapter "Information", suggests the idea of a conspiracy theory and a general distrust in governments and institutions.  "There are already laws being passed to squelch the obtaining of public information by the public.  What do those who have passed these laws have to hide? We should also ask ourselves what these people are afraid of and what events do they want to hide?" Page 141  While many will most likely agree to this without hesitation, nevertheless, I found as a reader wanting to know more specific evidence to back up the statement such as examples of specific laws in place which restrict the dissemination of information. 

At the end of every chapter are selected quotes from various well known historical personalities: political and religious figures as well as an eclectic mix of other famous names as well.  Not only do the selection of quotations give this book a universal appeal it is an effective tool in which the author shows the reader additional support for the various opinions and perspectives he shares. In the end, the author presents himself as an objective, well adjusted, balanced citizen - not too na├»ve with just the right amount of skepticism, who desires to share his ideas and knowledge informally with the reader.

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