First World Problems

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

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If it’s one thing I can’t stand to hear from someone is how some particular thing is “destroying our nation.”

Whatever it is, no it’s not. Our country is just fine. Lately every single politician, political movement, religion, atheist, communist, socialist, fascist, congressman, president, governor, mayor and the Post Office is destroying our country.

What exactly is so bad that some sort of harbinger has been unleashed declaring the end of the United States? Are we slugging it out in the streets for a top spot in bread lines? Do we face some kind of energy crisis? Are armed guards kidnapping random people in the night? Do we wake up to assault gun fire and mortar shelling every day like they do in Syria? Any genocide going on?

No. None of that is happening. We don’t have any REAL problems. We bitch about the political fighting in Washington, tax breaks for the rich, lazy people on food stamps, etc. But, I’m sorry, those are not nation-destroying troubles. Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra scandal, George Bush’s recession, Bill Clinton’s philandering, George W.’s warmongering and Obama’s fight for his healthcare plan have not destroyed this country and none of it will.

Do we have problems? Yes, we do. The government spies on everything from our phone calls to our top scores on Angry Birds. Politicians on both sides lie about facts and use fear and anger to generate fervor among their electorate. Our economy at times seems to hang by a thread. The public denies scientists when they don’t like what scientists have to say.

But by and large, these things ARE being held in check. We still have our smartphones and our memes. We still drive our gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs. We still have McDonalds, buffalo wings and Pizza Hut. This Sunday our nation will sit collectively for five hours while we enjoy our annual descent into junk food and beer during our beloved Superbowl.

Can things escalate to the point that our country will be destroyed? Of course. But we’re nowhere near that point. The fact that we’re so much in arms about the NSA, political discourse, climate change, economic regulations, welfare costs and healthcare shows that we do at least care about what’s happening even if we keep electing 90 percent of incumbents in Congress who do nothing about it.

And I won’t lie, sometimes I get caught up in the drama of it all and join in the chorus of doomsday. But I think enough is enough.

I’m not saying we should never be worried. I’m saying stop it with the histrionics. Let’s keep our eyes on the realities of our world. There are countries with genuine war zones, food shortages, widespread disease and genocide. But it’s not our country. Our issues are, at the end of the day, first-world problems.

It’s the deep paranoia and the actions that people take based on that paranoia that can cause serious problems. But even then, that won’t be the end of us.

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Packaged Deal

Philosophy, Politics

 

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You go to McDonalds. You don’t order a Royale with Cheese and then fries and then a Coke anymore. You order a number one. Apparently we don’t like to think about putting together an order of food. Listing three separate items is just too much for us to handle these days. We need it packaged into a neat, ideological box.

This mentality is beginning to spread to everything. College course plans. Vacation travel deals. Cell phone contracts. Boxed meals at the grocery store. We buy everything prefab now.

Like many things in marketing and commerce, it’s derived from convenience. It keeps us from having to sort out what specific items we want and/or need. It’s much easier for us to select from a list of pre-installed plans than to make the plan ourselves.

Of course when we do that, we sometimes get a few features that we don’t really like or that don’t fit with what we need. We’re willing to put up with those annoyances because it’s nothing compared to the time saved from not having to creating our own order.

While this isn’t much of an issue with food (because you can always sub fries for onion rings) it is when it comes to things like education. There’s a huge push to get students as young as eighth grade to begin plotting out their careers. When I was in eighth grade, I was more concerned about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than I was about my future profession.

Educators and business leaders want these students to choose early so they can be prepared to enter the workforce once they get out of school. And they want them out of school earlier too.

While it’s always a good thing to know your way before you take the first step, that isn’t always the best option. When I was in eighth grade, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Had I chosen some predetermined course, where would it have left me once I discovered that organic chemistry was a hurdle I couldn’t jump?

Doors have to be left open. Like a fast food menu, we need to be able to make substitutions or to scrap our order all together.

My biggest fear is that we will get so entrenched in boxed thinking that we won’t consider that there are alternatives. We’ll forget the benefit, or necessity, of creating our own unique path.

The pitfall is that in the long run, we become incapable of thinking outside the prepared list of options. It not only becomes difficult to make changes to these plans but we get out of the practice of doing so and we stop considering alternatives.

It limits thinking. We all know how I feel about thinking.