It’s time for a rant. This will be a rant in several parts. I begin to believe that our society suffers from a spiritual and intellectual bulimia. When I Googled the phrase “spiritual bulimia,” most hits seemed to pertain to binging hollowly on religious ideas. I use this phrase a bit more broadly. Middle-class America’s insatiable desire for quantity, convenience, and entertainment mirrors our simultaneous purge of effort, discomfort, and complexity. We seek comfort with the blind rooting of infants, confusing excess with nourishment, wallowing in the accompanying guilt and subsequently flogging ourselves for any deviation into pleasure or individuality. In our frantic quest for validation, we have jettisoned the trait that could save us.
Common sense has become an endangered species in almost every facet of middle-class American life. Food – do we really need books to tell us that food is fresher and tastes better when it hasn’t travelled thousands of miles by airplane? I’m fresher (and probably taste better) when I haven’t been bundled into storage and shipped, too. Health – how many “experts”, books, and videos does it take for us to learn that the only way to lose weight is to expend more calories than we consume? Politics – seriously, when did “they started it” become a platform for debate? Raising children – you mean we can’t make the world a magical, safe, pain-free utopia? Damn. Gender roles – Haven’t we reached the point as a society where we no longer care who earns the money or keeps the house just as long as there are clean socks? The environment – does anyone actually want the earth to undergo catastrophic meltdown? During lunch a couple of years ago, a good friend of mine compared modern America to the Roman Empire in its last days: a military superpower, a society bent on the pursuit of pleasure and distraction, as the empire disintegrates. Looking back, this comment appears to have been not only insightful, but down right prophetic.
In our emulation of the infantile decadence of fallen empires (ancient Rome, the Ottomans, the pre-revolutionary courts of France and Russia – have we learned nothing?), we have created a society so polarized and hypocritical that we are no longer able to function. Our relentless binges have broken not only our national economy, but that of the world. The world is too complex and much too small for humans to be governed by our own greed and fears. Our failures to behave as adults threaten to destroy the planet. The rant will continue over the next several weeks. The wheels are coming off, folks.