Recently, I came across a line in a news report that gave me pause. “Mexican drug cartels earn some $25 billion selling drugs in the U. S.A.” (“The World at a glance…” The Week, May 19, 2017, pg. 8.) Add the profit from the Middle East drug trade and the sum doubles, enough money to fund health care for every man, woman and child on the planet. Why we, as consumers, don’t get angry with ourselves for being the root of all the trafficking is a mystery. As drug users, we destroy our country in so many ways, then pretend the problem rests with the suppliers.
The question is why are we a drug culture? One reason might be because we Americans expect more of life than people living in other countries. We’ve never had to endure feudalism or tyranny. We’ve never been conquered. We are, by world standards, a rich nation and as citizens, we’ve been taught to believe in basic human rights — one of those being the right to the pursuit of happiness. Simply put, we aren’t programmed for disappointment or failure.
Yet, given the media’s timpani roll of doom and despair, some of us have come to feel little exists in life “that is humane, gentle or life-giving.” (“Best Columns,” Michael Brendon Dougherty, The Week, May 19, 2017, pg. 12.) Despite our president’s promise to make America great again, many doubt him and our addictions are one response to that despair.
Another solution to cultural anxiety exists, of course. According to Mo Gawdat, described as one of the most interesting brains in the tech world,” (“People,” The Week, March 19, 2017, pg. 10), joy is a permanent human attribute. But like any aspect of our bodies, we must work to keep it functioning. (Ibid, pg. 10) We begin by assessing our perceptions and he has provided a formula. “Happiness is greater than or equal to your perception of events in your life, minus your expectations of how life should be.” (Ibid pg. 10.)
Americans have always imagined a “better” life. Each generation has assumed it would exceed the accomplishments of the succeeding one. In a shrinking world, with diminished resources and a burgeoning population, progress is no longer certain. Clinging to ideas that served us well in the past is no solution for the present. Nor, is finding solace in drugs.
The new century demands a different toughness than the mind set of the wild frontier. Technology can provide the tools to meet the new challenges. But we need new dreams. Hopefully, we will find a way to dream together.
(First published 5/29/17)