Americanism: Winning is a State of Mind

September 5th, 2012 No Comments

The state of the world has been fairly dreary and uneventful over the past few years with the exception of a few successes-Osama bin Laden Assassination, Higgs Boson….XFactor (I’m just sayin’).  Despite these few highlighted victories, I’m feeling a little down and out.  We’ve shut down NASA and we’ve experienced one of the worst man made environmental disasters in history with the BP Oil Spill.  Successes are being overshadowed by persistent blights.  It’s becoming difficult to hold out optimism for the future.  It seems like no amount of go-getter attitude or advanced education can protect the average Joe or guarantee the American Dream.  Please Note: I love my country and I do not fly a Swedish flag outside my house-and no, I do not have anything against Sweden (I love herring).

I’m sure an expert could probably explain with statistics and polling data, that we are still better off as a country then at other points in contemporary history.  I would then say, tell that to the many families that won’t go on vacation this summer.  Tell the unemployed that  they are better off.  Tell millions of college graduates waiting tables a year after graduation that they are better off.  I’m not making a political argument, I’m just sad.  So I have to ask myself:  Am I sad because all of this feels novel to me?  I’m not sure.  Sad events occur every day, but why does this socioeconomic quagmire feel more intense?  We’re not standing in bread lines or fighting each other at the pump (most of the time!), so why is there an ominous presence?  Something is still off-kilter and it’s not going away.

I just want to believe that we can do better.  I want all of us to do better, for ourselves, our families and each other.  There has to be way to build American Pride again.  Not egotistical pride, not empire driven pride, just healthy confidence.  The kind of confidence you instill in a child.  Pride and confidence that says, “If you work hard and you do the right thing, you will be successful.”  Right now it’s a zero sum game: one winner, one loser.

The rules of life keep getting tougher and more complex, with less easy fixes.  The enduring economic downturn has made all of us a bit more opportunistic, either out of necessity or culture.  Parking lots and shopping centers are a breeding ground for our belligerent behavior, à la Thomas Hobbes.  Going to the MVA can turn into a serious divide and conquer operation (this is nothing new, it just stings more).  We are less patient, quicker to argue and less likely to trust.  I don’t have a statistic to quantify such a charge, but on a human level, I feel people are becoming more guarded.

Hobbes, a famous old curmudgeon of a man, theorized that people are inherently selfish.  Hobbes would say that humans, if left in nature, would be in a constant state of chaos.  I’m not sure if I believe his argument entirely, but I did go to WalMart during the 4th of July power outages.  It was every man for himself and I recall obscenities and accusations being fired at will-very Hobbesian behavior.

The Prescription: build up your world.  Fill it with people, places and things that make you happy.  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is often equated to property and financial gain, but what if we’ve had it all wrong until now?  Maybe this age old American ethic is really an intangible mentality and meant to produce a hardy and unshakable spirit.  In short, perhaps our homemade remedy is gumption.  We can’t forget that being stubborn can foster determination, perseverance and strength-we need all of these attributes to make it through the funk that our country is in.  Enjoy the last weeks of summer, savor your accomplishments and share success with your peers.  The road ahead is uncertain, but family, friends and your American Spirit are eternally yours.

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