Reeling from five key dysfunctional behaviors, America is under a spell of apathy toward a slow building threat of an unknown future.
There is difficulty in the eradication of such debilitation as the root causes may vary, but the end results are the same: a moral recession building to a possible total collapse of our virtue and force for ability. Flashing neon signs are lit up in our faces with the symptoms laid out before us, but it need not come to an explosive head if we can curtail the slow creeping of inactivity in due time.
American dysfunction grows without government intervention. It’s as if the government is in on the gig and seeks out the end result of a semi-collapsed society too tired and morally bankrupt to challenge the status quo.
This is not about fat-shaming or an annoying call for intervention, rather a small nudging wake up call to inform that the continued growing pathway is not sustainable for our nation. It is not sustainable for you. And it is especially not sustainable for the ambient environment that surrounds us all.
In our inability to refrain we go hardest in our consumption. We are Americans after all. It is what we do and nobody does it as well.
We are all guilty. Sometimes it’s nothing more than our ignorance to the problems of others and an unawareness of their suffering. Often we are willfully ignorant and decide it’s easier to ignore the problems of today as reality is too painful. Our moral alibi game is strong and we find valid excuses for our indifference. Too busy, didn't notice, it’s all about the now and not the future.
In the blissful ignorance we survive and often short-term thrive, so why bother with being woke when everyone around you continues on without a regard for consequences? If you look through your day-to-day you find a constant imagery and noise that arrest your attention, if even for countless brief moments, and worrisome thoughts that are difficult to shake. In this is an epiphany for revival. Yet in this transformation the government will not be offering assistance. The most elusive shift in how we see the world and ourselves is the conflict in all that we do and this conflict we constructed on our own. A desire for things and relationships we often cannot possess. We want to bond with others in order to survive yet our beliefs are rooted in conflicting ideologues. We have become lost in valuing self over relationships, and individual success over societal well-being. We have hijacked our bodies through emotion over intellectual discernment, and this has devalued the core of our communal bonding, leading to a full disconnect from the buffer around us. The bonds of society are fully frayed and in this nerve damage there is a blighting for the big picture. What led us here? The evidence abounds in the end result. Consequences are dire. Potential solutions must start with you. An anemic love the new tough love, as we must seek out a revolution of tenderness that begins with self-care, then the outward projection will follow suit.
More American women have been killed by their partner than soldier deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 to present. A person is abused every 9 seconds. Suicide is the third leading cause of death. Thirty Americans are murdered every day with guns. Twenty american children are shot every day. One in six adult women, and one in ten girls under 18, have been raped. More than four children die each day from child abuse. Annually there are ten million property crimes with losses of $10 billion. We average one mass shooting per day in America. Violence costs the US economy $1.7 trillion per year. Yet American violence remains a cottage industry for law enforcement and the incarceration machine.
Americans consume eighty percent of the globe’s painkiller supply, yet we are only five percent of the world population. Seventeen million adults suffer from alcoholism and nearly 90,000 die from it each year. Drug abuse led to five million ER visits last year. Only eleven percent of addicts receive treatment for their substance abuse. Deaths from prescription medication outnumber deaths from traffic accidents. An American dies every nineteen minutes from a prescription drug overdose. Ten million addicts have mental illnesses. Ten thousand people each day try marijuana for the first time. Twenty percent of American adults are treated with prescription drugs for a psychiatric or behavioral disorder. Those who abuse prescription drugs are forty percent more likely to try heroin. Illicit drugs are used to cope with trauma, anxiety, and depression. Big Pharma runs Washington DC with six lobbyists per one politician. Let that sink in.
The obesity crisis is worsening. This is not fat-shaming, it’s just that fewer Americans are trying to lose weight. A leading factor is the extremely unhealthy American diet. Cheap, highly processed food is everywhere and easily available 24 hours. As activity levels continue to decrease, lethargy is becoming commonplace. Sleep deprivation is a culprit in obesity as over seventy million Americans, many of whom are unaware of their sleep disorders, are sleep-deprived and too tired for exercise. In the unconscious exhaustion hormones will dictate appetite for the worse. Obesity causes diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. Nearly $200 billion is spent annually tending to weight-related issues. Yet, the government continues to subsidize the junk food industry. One in three adults is obese and one in ten adults are considered to have extreme morbid obesity, while one in three children is overweight or obese. The federal government subsidizes corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, milk, and meat. What do these foods have in common? They are all main ingredients of highly processed junk food that is readily, and cheaply, available everywhere, including public schools. Taxpayers are funding the sickening of America.
Narcissism, as many understand it, lends to an inflated view of self, but the more damaging aspect is the resulting indifference to others. Those who carry the narcissist trait fail to help or assist others unless there is something in it for them. Recognition or gain, they are easily ready to trample over others to get to the top because this is where they believe they belong. In this constant seeking out, the narcissist is left an unhappy person and with that unhappiness is sure to make those in their proximity as miserable as they are. Because of this, deep bonds and meaningful relationships are impossible and society as a whole suffers. Non-narcissists are revealed in their empathy and capacity to view life from various points of view. They care about the well-being of others, and this is the much needed foundation for a compassionate society. In the immediate post-World War II America there was a togetherness with an emphasis on conformity. Individuality was discouraged and the American verve was to lift up each other, foreign countries even. Look no further than the Marshall Plan. But then the Baby Boomers grew up with an unhinged plenitude of consumerism and in this abundance vanished group think, and a new kind of self-identification emerged. This narrative of self-worth manifested in the Me Decade from the mid-70s through the mid-80s. Boomers birthed Generation Xers and Ys who continued the indoctrination of heightened self-worth that carried into the digital age of smartphones and social media, resulting in self-obsessed Millennials and Generation Z. In the self-focused competition for likes and notifications a requisite for empathy was lost. Short-term self-sufficiency ran roughshod on any long-term mutual dependence. Look no further than our nation’s first internet troll president. Whether you love him or hate him (there is no in between), he demands and receives our undivided attention at all times. Think back on your life, at family members, at memorable teachers, first loves, significant co-workers and best friends, has there ever been anyone who was so deeply embedded into your psyche and at such frequency as Donald Trump? The constant megalomaniacal assault is bad for us as it sets a misguided standard of how we should seek out attention. Lost in this is a false sense of audience within our own lives, resulting in a deep disconnect between the virtual and the authentic. The final unfortunate byproduct is the epic amount of wasted energy on misdirected attention. This suspends our development, much like drug addiction does, and maintains an arrested development from further spiritual growth. The only hope is an individual effort at tuning out the noise and accepting one’s authentic role within the virtual context of one’s life.
Disconnected we have become and in this alienation is a fragmentation that contributes to many of society’s ills. A crisis of social isolation that has decreased empathy and heightened anxiety while weakening our collective happiness, bringing about more loneliness. We are in the early stages of a Cold Civil War. Labels and names are thrown around haphazardly with people calling one another racist or sexist, homophobic or xenophobic, without any validity to the labeling. This is called a kafka trap, when one is accused of a thought crime and then the denial is used as evidence of guilt. Incels and well-intentioned gentlemen are blurred together under the label of toxic masculinity. Slut-shaming has become commonplace. Identity politics confuse party stances by being established from points of rage instead of logic. You are forced to take sides by a gaslighting mainstream media that has hijacked and polarized your own thinking.
We are losing trust in one another as the vicious cycle spins out to the further edges of a misinformed society and in the lost connections the rates of inequality explode. We strain the health systems and incarceration rises. We seek refuge in self-medicating. Most of this is by design and you cannot rest or press pause because the fire is stoked throughout a twenty four hour noise cycle. Social trust is lost to a divide-and-conquer strategy.
There are no shortcut solutions to the dysfunction, only simple steps to address the core dilemmas of our days. No longer able to recall a copacetic time in our nation, when we functioned at our full potential, we are left recalling something of a distorted dream. Our remaining option is to change through re-adaptation. These methods are not simple but, once enacted, the change will come about. Success and prosperity drive all five of these dysfunctions, so it is vital to not fall into the comfort trap. Hard work forces modesty and modesty brings about humility which in turn settles the field through non-self-centered thinking and action. Too much hubris has brought on this national crisis. Reversing our selfish and voracious ways is the only option to right the ship. Do the opposite of what you have been told. Think on your own and do not believe what they tell you. Don’t buy what they are selling you. Seek out silence in the calm of your own repose.
Tennison Long is the author of the novels Glorious Verve and When We Ran The Master Plan. Visit www.tennisonlong.com to learn more.