The tell-tale signs of a country in collapse….

We used to:

Enjoy a common identity as Americans. There were no hyphens in our names before so-called “identity politics.”

Have basic competence in reading, writing, and figuring things out. Now, we can hardly read, surely can’t write, and rely on calculators for simple two-figure addition and subtraction.

Value real-life, human-to-human connection and relationships. Now, we’re a nation of smartphone addicts, gulping down our fix of electrons every few minutes, constantly on the phone as if we were saying goodbye to our loved ones forever.

Believe that our future was better than our past. Now, the general consensus is that we’re FUBAR. Marriages, jobs, the political system, education, the environment, all are speedballing down the highway to hell.

Sense that, despite our imperfections, there was a reason for hope. This was the land of opportunity, of the ability to envision a great dream and fight to attain it, with a good chance to win. Now, unless you’re a gazillionaire and live in your own bubble of self-sufficiency, the chances of genuine entrepreneurial success are slim to none for the vast majority of people who try out MLM.

Enjoy our neighborhoods. Unless you’re part of a migrant community, there’s very little socializing “in the ’hood” these days. Between the pressures of work, of family life, of trying to keep it all together, who has the time for neighborhood barbecues, of shooting the breeze on the front porch or the sidewalk?

Have a basic lifestyle that minimized gossip or at least downplayed it. Now, it’s all about “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Real Housewives of [fill in your city of choice],” and other so-called “reality shows.” We sit on our couches, junk food in hand, while we watch a bunch of vacuous bimbos exhibit their narcissism for all to see — while they are paid enormously well to do so.

Value a commitment to something greater than ourselves. It could have been church, doing good in the community, helping feed the hungry, or a million other things. Now, everywhere we go there’s a hand out, asking for monetary contributions to solve this, that, or the other problem. For those of us with a conscience, we dig into our wallets or purses yet again and come up with yet another contribution. But with each donation, we edge closer to “donor burnout,” and lose a little of the sense of urgency that captivated us in the first place.

Believe in the possibility of a good life for everyone. We have the best health care in the world (but very few can afford it). We have great education (but very few can pay for it). We have wonderful jobs for all (except if you’re a minority, or are over the age of 45). We have the world’s greatest democracy (except that fewer and fewer people vote with each coming election). We have the world’s greatest military (except that we lost the Vietnam War, got our asses handed to us in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continue to lose asymmetrical wars). We’re the happiest country (except for the Scandinavian countries, Canada, and a whole bunch of other countries ahead of us).

Sense that we control our own destiny. American exceptionalism was our self-image in the 20th century. Now, we are led by “The Orange Crush” whose pipe dream is to become Emperor of the Universe. Tax returns? Won’t get ’em. Decent job policies? No way. Foreign trade? Gotta be “win-lose.” Immigration? If your skin is brown, you’ll have to turn around. The environment? Who gives a damn? Our billionaires and multi-national corporations sure don’t. Education? Why train people to critically think? It’ll just make it harder for corporations to keep them under control.

OR…..

We can say “enough is enough.” We can listen to the question — “I’m just one person. What can I do to make this a better country?” — and answer “Plenty.”

We can look into the many ways we can fight the apathy-inducing trends in society: put down the smartphone; talk to others (preferably, communities of like-minded people who share your concerns) who want to do something to overcome common problems; find strategies for living meaningful lives (doing things to make this a better world); leaving a positive legacy for one’s family, friends and community; being actively-engaged in being a citizen (keeping abreast of the news; fighting for the decorporatization of news channels; encouraging honest journalism instead of the “reality-TV” versions that fill our air-waves; contacting your city council; county supervisor; state senatory/assemblyman; your U.S. Senators and keeping them aware of your concerns — and these don’t have to be full-time jobs. An hour or so per week is plenty.).

There are countless organizations out there, fighting the good fight. You can join, participate at whatever level is possible for you; and create value and meaning in your life through reaching out beyond yourself and challenging the status quo. Yes, socio-political, economic, and cultural entropy are real, and the effects on society can be crushing. But active, righteously-engaged citizens can and will make a difference. There’s strength in numbers. Doing good is uplifting for the soul.

And you might just enjoy making a life for yourself.

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