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COLORADO and the DECLINE OF AMERICA

24 July, 2012

I received, and responded to, an e-mail from an old supervisor and friend.  It occurred to me that the conversation might be worth sharing as a post.  His mail precedes my answer:
 
Hi Gerry…just touching base re: your take on the latest mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado…you have seen and worked with many types of personalities during your professional career…has the US become a culture of totally “bat-s**t crazy” off the hook 7/24/365? …the mass casualties in Aurora are comparable to one bad drone strike in Pakistan or Afghanistan that hits a wedding party and things just continue on unabated…we now watch the Kabuki theatre of the courts, politicians, business men and talking heads pontificating about what happened and what we can do as a society to prevent or forestall similar occurrences in the future… or is it simply the juggernaut of Karma catching up with the US as an entity?… note that the backdrop is a country where tens of millions of middle-class folks are spiraling down and out economically with no help in sight…I would appreciate your thoughts…Chuck 
 
MY ANSWER:
 
I firmly believe that the overall mental health of the nation is, and has been for some time, in decline.  Back when I was working in mental health and was in the midst of my research about sexual abuse, I recall a colleague asking me what I thought the percentage was of parents who were not qualified to be such.  I reckoned it at around 50%.  My colleague said she thought it was more like 70% … and I think she was right.
 
Not all poor parenting leads to such tragedies.  Much of it just leads to lives of dysfunction and misery, amplified by a society which is, collectively, sick in its soul.  However, that high percentage raises the odds of producing a monster like the one in Colorado.
 
For a very, very long time I, on observing people sitting at a traffic light or queued up in a market, have wondered not that we function in a reasonably orderly fashion as a society but that we function at all.  To me, the simple sight of people in a line is a marvel.
 
I do believe the nation is going to hell in a handbasket, and the handbasket itself is rotting.  The vicious beast of entropy is gobbling up our society, our culture, our morays … and there appears not to be any opposing force for holding it together.  Entropy is a natural fact and force which requires constant and vigorous intervention to hold it in check.  There ain’t none.
 
Just look at the pool of supposed cream-of-the-crop politicians vying for the presidency and other positions of power in government.  Where are the statesmen; the thoughtful and intelligent leaders who should be lurking somewhere among the 312,780,968 citizens populating the country?  The terrifying thought is that not even a four-place decimal fraction are such.  I do suspect there are a few there but either get run over by the greedy, neocon, corporate machine or (aside from their qualifications and genuine concern for what should/could be their historic destiny) have no stomach for taking on the cow flop mess.
 
In sum, I do believe we are in serious and perhaps irreversible decline as individuals, as a people, and as a nation.  Dogma suffices for thought, greed is good, and the now age old puritan ethic has run full rampant.  If you are not succeeding, it is because you are not right with God.  Moral therapy and victim blaming are the order of the day.  Not only have we not transcended that poisonous legacy, it has somehow thrived and grown over, now, hundreds of years.
 
What’s the phrase?  “Be afraid … be very afraid.”
 
I’m old enough that I won’t see the final tipping point of entropy’s work but I do, in the abstract at the very least, fear for the future.  It is true, I think, that the U.S. is (or least should be) the ethical ideal around which the entire world turns.  I think as well that as we sink into a fetid pool of rot that the world will follow.
 
Sometimes I attempt tempering how my own cultural legacy might affect such an outlook.  In Norse mythology, evil triumphs over good and the best one can hope for is to make it to Valhalla where one fights on throughout eternity against the forces of evil.  That’s a rather dark backdrop for thinking of such things.  Still and all, I’m reasonably rational and reasonably smart … and I see no facts weighty enough to suggest I’m missing something.
 
Entropy, I fear, will rule.
 

 

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