Sunday, February 19, 2012

America's Decline

To say that America is not declining is absurd. We're declining in both form and substance. Our government is in a perpetual deadlock of petulant brinkmanship and our level of social and cultural dialogue is embarrassing. This was punctuated for me on Friday in the comments of astronaut Scott Carpenter, who spoke at an event celebrating 50 years since John Glenn's historic flight, saying "There are lots of reasons behind our current predicament, but what it boils down to is the simple fact that when John and I went to work for this country, the United States was recognized around the world as a can-do nation. We have become viewed around the planet as a can't-do nation and I deplore that."

Why have we become this way? I think one of the primary factors is that the increasing complexity of modern society has rendered a large segment of our population feeling out of control and incapable of comprehending the technologies that operate this world. When a person feels out of control, he or she tends to clamp down, back up, reassess the situation, simplify, attempt to regain some semblence of control. In many cases, I believe, this is resulting in hebetude and withdrawal from meaningful social discourse.

This feeling of helplessness in the face of drastic global issues such global warming, economic collapse, serial killers, school shootings, genocide, human trafficking, environmental disasters, war and its atrocities, mass media, the 24-hour news cycle and its instant dissemination of every little hiccup, no matter how petty or grotesque, in excruciating raw detail, is causing people to react on a primal level. We are dealing with social issues that are beyond our understanding. Our primal minds cannot cope with the scale of these issues. We're treating issues that affect the whole of human civilization with a social intelligence that is overwhelmed by the nuances involved. Our primal instincts want to take over.

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