A nation in decline – 12 Apr 2023
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2021 almost 60 percent of girls encountered depressive sadness, and one-third seriously considered attempting suicide.
Child labor — and particularly labor in dangerous conditions — is rising rapidly among immigrant children.
Child poverty, which had declined as a result of spending programs during the Covid crisis, is again increasing, in the richest nation on earth. Sometimes we are so concentrated on specific large issues — Ukraine, global warming, racism — that we ignore the largest dimension of what is happening around us: What is happening to our children, who are the nation’s future.
The United States of America is in a state of perilous decline. Our young people can no longer cope adequately with the lives they must live; they are increasingly ignored by our laws and corporations; more and more, they seem unworthy of our collective spending.
When large-scale phenomena, indicators of the health of a society, point toward a difficult future, people should pay attention. But we do not.
There has been substantial commentary on why the young are so depressed and hopeless. There are good reasons to believe that contemporary forces have propelled this rising incidence of depression and suicidal thinking: the rise in social media (and its capacity of bullying), the huge and seemingly uncontrollable forces shaping our society and planet (global warming, racism, sexism), the lack of social cohesion (the decreasing importance of schools-as-communities, the erosion of cultural mores about marriage and sexuality), the decline of community values in a time of concern about individual freedoms.
But lost in these discussions of causality is the simple fact of greed. “If it makes money, it is good.” Superficial economic values — individual wealth — have subsumed all other values, be they the good of the community, long-term economic growth, or even long-held ethical concerns like honesty, justice, compassion, and generosity. Greed dominates every consideration. The driving force is always whether a policy will make money for someone. And meanwhile, we drift from strength to weakness, from building a future to undermining it.
It is simple and yet difficult to figure out how to respond to the crisis of an America in decline. Simple, in that making decisions that take ‘health’ rather than individual gain into account is, in fact, simple. Difficult, in that we all disagree about how to go about making such decisions.
Should we pass legislation to require that Facebook and TikTok and Twitter do not allow harassment, bullying, and sexism? Should we limit gun sales and aggressively pursue those who push drugs, including pharmaceutical behemoths? Should we really, aggressively, try to prevent global warming and the proliferation of racial and sectarian hatred? Should we rethink schools, and how they work and what values they inculcate in their students?
There is much to prevent us from moving forward. The anti-vax campaigns, with their successes, show that all too often individual autonomy is more important than communal well-being, that the needs of the individual trump the welfare of the community. The move to limit educational initiatives against racism and sexism, now so highlighted in Florida, show that many are unwilling to limit their boundless autonomy in order to provide dignity and justice to their neighbors.
Excerpted: ‘A Change in Values to Reverse a Nation in Perilous Decline’.