Who are we now?

Over the past few days I have read two blog posts which have led me to think about contemporary Western culture, and those thoughts have not been particularly pleasing.  The first related to the shameful lack of true investigative journalism by the American press, and the second to Ann Coulter’s childish diatribe over the American president-elect’s middle name.

At first, I was a bit embarrassed to be an American.  After all, despite my usually positive outlook on the world I do remove those rose-tinted shades periodically and look around me.  I don’t have to look far;  there are manipulative, crude and inconsiderate people all around me.

But then I recalled the Italian reality television show, Perfect Bride, where a mother picks a wife for her son.  I remember my trip in Europe last summer, where we encountered the requisite number of vapid, shallow people.  No, it’s not America.  It’s Western culture.  Or worse, perhaps it is human nature.

Throughout history, we have been thrilled by bloody victories over our adversaries.  We have been fascinated and enthralled by the failings of others; we have been the ambulance chasers, seeking the satisfaction of knowing the gory details of someone else’s misery.  We toss people from islands, and we laugh when someone cries in pain.  We engage in torture, and we feel a sense of injustice when we see another succeed.

Education is not respected, and hard work is not admired.  If I use a big word I am branded as a snob rather than a person who is attempting to describe something succinctly.  Those who put in good hours at work and accomplish a lot are branded as brown nosers or suck-ups who believe they are superior.

Throughout my life I have tried to avoid seeing the world in this way.  I have read books, been involved in music, written poetry, and tried to build a perfect and serene life.  This is not a simple task for many reasons, and inevitably, reality intrudes.  It disrupts my balance; I trip and fall.  And so the world is black and ruthless, and I’m tossed about like all the rest of the world’s restless souls.

This reality disturbs me greatly,  simply because I know we are capable of better.

When I look at the UN, for example, I see great potential.  The Food and Agriculture Organization in particular has a fantastic opportunity to influence the world in wonderful ways, by introducing sustainable techniques and site-appropriate crops and technologies.  Sadly we see predators like Monsanto descend on developing countries promising riches and sustainable agriculture, while in reality killing the soil and devastating the genetic diversity of food crops nearly beyond repair.

The answers seem so simple, really:  we take care of ourselves first, and when we create a system of plenty we are then in a position to help others.

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6 responses

  1. Thought provoking as always. I wish we would simply be better than this. Some of us are. I have to believe in those people. Its the only thing keeping me sane.

    1. Amber, I am so glad to have people in my life who have good hearts, minds and intentions. There are many people out there who share these characteristics. You are sane – you aren’t fooling yourself. Expressing disappointment in those who fail to live up to our expectations is perhaps one of my steps toward living up to my own and being a better person.

  2. I am with Amber on this one, both thought provoking and incredibly written – your style is really changing and am loving it (loved the old style tooooz)! There are more of us than we think…

    1. Hi ISF. I haven’t lost the old, just perhaps in the winterland of introspection. I suppose there are loads of people who are driven to improve themselves. Some of this sadness I have about peope who don’t live up to their potential is likely an outcome of working in an environment where I am surrounded by people who appear to enjoy the discomfort of others. It is strange and foreign to me, almost an injury.

  3. the world isnt so bad, ilegirl…though we may get tempted to think so most of the time. please watch this movie called ONCE and you will realize (as is true with many other works of art) that we are also capable of creating beauty. cheers! m

    ps: appreciate the fact that you can think so much, so deep

    1. Meraj, I loved that movie! It was so honest and innocent, and a great examination of the creative process. I do agree, we are capable of creating beauty – a good many people do so, bringing joy or interesting intellectual challenges to the lives of others. That is, perhaps, why we enjoy film so much: it’s an affordable and satisfying way to enjoy good artwork.

      There are a great many people whose lives are focussed on improving themselves and the world around them. I do wish I had the magic in me to open the eyes of those who live precariously close to the edge of reason, to show them that they can be better than they behave.

      Thanks for the wonderful comment.

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