Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is the world more depressed?...reflections

The question of whether or not the people of the world are more depressed today, say, that twenty-five years ago, while analysed and dissected by anthropologists, is nevertheless one that we all have a stake in the answer.
Its is from a non-specialist perspective that these observations emerge, and not from a documentation of the number of  suicides or prescriptions for depression, or even the number of family violence calls to a specific police department, or the number of students who have been 'suspended'  or 'expelled' from school in any jurisdiction, just some of the normal benchmarks for assessing the "mental state" of the population.
Television is clearly pushing the envelope on both sexuality and violence, given that behind those shows are men and women who know that they will be better able to sell their clients' products, with a larger audience that is assured through both sex and violence. Of course, writers will mix in a level of intrigue, suspense and much of the dark side of human identity, in order to put the sauce on the meal they serve. Some shows are now exploring what appears to be the dark side of the paranormal, including people returning from death, and uber-transformations, that previously would have been considered the accepted fare of the tabloid press.
Last evening, I listened to one up-and-coming country and western female singer whose song told the story of her betrayal on her wedding day, and that the only reason she, "with her itchy finger on the trigger," didn't shoot her male betrayer was that she did not look good in "orange" (prison garb) and she doesn't like picking up trash (her metaphor for the life of the average prisoner).
Verbal violence saturates social media, by all accounts, and those participating on both Twitter and Facebook, are warned to be ready for any criticism, given that they have chosen to participate on those platforms, where the public right to exchange views is unbridled. The Toronto Maple Leaf goalie, whose recent record of losses trumps his record of wins, found his wife attacked on Twitter, to the point where she should secretly stab him while he slept, so the fortunes of the hockey team would improve. Reports of the exchanges provoked a flood of positive and supportive messages for both the wife and her goalie-husband...only after the depth to which the critics had reached was made public.
Civil strife, global warming (about which very little is being done to ward off the serious implications for survival) rising inequality, rising food prices, increased apathy and withdrawal from social institutions, evidence of corporate malfeasance (both GM and Toyota have recently been found to have betrayed hundreds of thousands of customers, with their vehicles resulting in injuries and sometimes death), dangers of food additives including a serious over-consumption of the many forms of sugar that have been inserted seductively into our processed foods without our knowledge, not to mention cyber espionage, and all of the nefarious plots on the international geopolitical stage....these have to be having an impact on how we perceive our current situation, and the future for our grandchildren.
And to cap it, we have what seems like an infinite supply of negative information, so large and so overwhelming that even what used to be regarded as "national" newscasts are now running "good news" stories every evening, as a vain attempt to counter the weight of the dark side.
There is a perceived and possibly real "loss of trust" between individuals and between individuals and the institutions in which people used to have a (perhaps na├»ve and less informed) confidence. Individual lives are paraded on digital media, as never before, and public debates focus on the abuse of power by those charged with public affairs, including elected officials, appointed civil servants, and appointed corporate executives, whose earnings have grown so quickly that what used to be normal ratios to "factory-worker" wages of 10:1 are not sometimes 50:1, without a corresponding increase in the perceived quality of their performance.
Everything is under scepticism, in that there is no body of facts on which most people can and do agree. Competition both between individuals and between organizations has been unleashed, and the change is accepted as just the normal way of  "doing business" now the highest achievement of the human enterprise (another seductive lie) as what McGregor used to call the "human side of enterprise" has atrophied into the corporate balance sheet, and all initiatives must bow to the sacred cow of company profit (including the re-election of those already in power).
As you ponder these many impacts on our lives, individually and collectively, you might consider ways that together we might elevate the poetic, and the pastoral and the empathic and the uplifting aspects of our "better angels" to occupy a place in our lives that has both our respect and our commitment to affirm its worth.

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