The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The U.S.A. : An Adolescent Dying Young ?

“ I don’t understand why the world seems to hate us - us, the greatest country in the world.” How many times have you heard variations of that question ? And how many times have you heard the questioner make any attempt at self- examination, either on a personal or national level ? Or how often have you witnessed any attempt to view matters from the perspective of others ? Not often, I suspect. And of course there’s no clue to the hubris. People from every nation of the world are presumably supposed to be delighted that they are appreciably less great than the great U.S.A. How humble of them. And dare to criticize our American “great one” for his or her presumptuousness and you’re lucky to get out in one piece. The degree of defensive aggressiveness that can manifest is astounding.

And by the way I’m not just talking about “Joe Six- Pack.” I’m referring to Americans in general, including intellectuals, “political analysts,” and high- ranking politicians, not excluding presidents. Americans as a nation are simply not sufficiently self- reflective or sensitive to the viewpoint of others. And now more than ever we need to be because the direction we’re taking appears to be problematic , to say the least.

The picture that has been presenting itself to my mind of late when I think about this country is that of an unruly adolescent brandishing a big gun. World allies who criticize us or who express disagreement with us are ridiculed and their points of view cast aside. And enemies are given the silent- treatment- communications are barred and negotiations precluded : “We’re not talking to you and we’ll do what we want.” Sound familiar? Anyone who has tried to reason with a particularly resistant adolescent will understand my comparison.

The problem is that the world is much too complex- and much too dangerous - for adolescent thoughts, perceptions and actions, particularly on the part of the last remaining “super- power.” The stakes are too high; and there are too many other nations- and factions- which have or which will soon enough acquire “big guns” in the form of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Armageddon is looking more like a horrible upcoming reality rather than a scriptural fantasy.

Americans have to grow up fast on a personal, national and international level. But the prospects don’t look good in terms of the likelihood of a nascent maturity. If there is one earmark of immaturity it is probably the predominance of narcissistic self- interest. Take a look at the current national scene : The profit motive- fine in itself when there are appropriate “brakes” on it- has degenerated into a kind of perverse national religion- really the true religion of the nation when all is said and done. Everything is now subordinated to the god of maximum profit - everything- whether it be national security, environmental protection, public health, education, individual rights, the security and well-being of working people- and so forth. Everyone and everything bows to the deity of unlimited profit. And decency bows to him. Honesty bows to him. Compassion bows to him. Courtesy and respect bow to him, as does common sense and restraint. Narcissistic greed is the unquestioned standard of society; and if perchance you don’t buy into it, well then you’re an outcaste- “un-American.” God help us.

How can a society survive intact if it becomes merely a vast collection of obsessively self- interested operators ? If the sense of a cooperative community is sacrificed to personal or group advantage, then where is there a society in any real sense of the word ? And how can such a collection protect itself effectively against destructive forces, internal and external ? Are we on the way to becoming an adolescent dying young ? I hope not. Is that what our founders established us to be ? I don’t think so.