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Monday, December 17, 2012

Deadly Selfishness: An American Epidemic

People wonder just what's wrong with America, why we have such a disproportionate number of mass killers. It's not just the presence of guns here, as some countries have gun laws and distributions similar to ours with far, far fewer gun deaths. Guns are murder facilitators, they are not the instigators. What is the toxic element driving so many of our people to senseless violence?

I have a theory about what's wrong with our country. It has a lot to do with how we're raised by our parents and outside societal factors those parents fail to filter. It may be controversial, as it may hit a little too close to home.

Our culture of ego cultivation and urge indulgence is, if not ultimately to blame, at least a huge element in What Is Wrong With Us. We're told all our lives that we're entitled to what we want, and encouraged to pursue those desires at all costs. Think about that for a minute: Everyone is told they should have their way, despite the fact only a few of us ever will. Meanwhile, things like empathy, reason and critical self-analysis seem to be less emphasized. The word "responsibility" is bandied about, but typically applied to people the speaker doesn't like, much less often discussed as a personal quality one should cultivate. So often, people don't consider their desires in the light of reality and how they might affect others.

Building self-esteem is a worthy goal, in fact it's clearly essential to a happy and successful life. But when you feed a child's sense of importance, and keep indulging it without applying any sane checks to its growth, there's a point past which it stops being self-esteem and becomes a cult of ego -- an edifice in which a monsters can quietly grow. When this line is crossed, that person's selfishness and feelings of entitlement eclipse all other concerns. I can pretty clearly see this at work in politics, in religion, in the business world, in the media, and in how many people conduct themselves as individuals. We have millions of emperors and would-be gods out there, with no kingdoms for them to inherit... and more are bred and inflicted on us every day by indulgent parents unwilling to curtail their special snowflakes in any way.

The end result is an invariable conflict between the real world and our own overindulged desires. And the real world tends to win such battles handily.

If we're not properly prepared for this disillusionment, something has to give. Sometimes we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and adapt to reality well enough. Even if not given the tools to do this by responsible parents, we can develop them on our own later in life. And this is the ideal result. But many results are not ideal. Sometimes our dreams are crushed and we retreat into self-destruction -- either an abrupt death or slow erosion of the self through drugs, abuse and self-scourging. And sometimes, if our egos are too strong and we snap a certain way, we can't handle the dissonance between the way things are and the way we insist they must be. And we lash out at the world for not bending to our egos. Nothing is is important beyond how it supports our Empire of Self, after all, and anything that does not serve that function must be excised or punished.

In short: Along with a lot of good and selfless people who would never think of hurting someone, much less raise monsters that would do so, America is also full of spoiled children of all ages that can't deal with losing. And sometimes their tantrums sometimes take the form of mass shootings, hate crimes, fundamentalism, and countless other social ills. And it seems these malignant people are growing in number, and have fewer effective checks on their destructive behavior. They are either inadvertently cultivated by parents that are weak, overly indulgent, or inattentive, or are purposely crafted by ego-worshiping parents who feel this is the proper way to ensure the success of their young. This must stop or everything will continue to get worse.

My theory, anyway.