First World Problems

Philosophy, Politics, Religion

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.


Entertain Me


I love baseball. But to a point.

I’ll usually watch the first two games of the season. Maybe I’ll sit through a Saturday game here and there. And I catch some of the World Series. I’ll watch enraptured if the Yankees are in it. I hate them and enjoy seeing them lose.

When I was a kid I played Little League and then pitched out of the bullpen for my private high school. A middle reliever I liked to call myself. Actually I sat on the bench most games. I only got called in when there was little chance we’d win. The coach just didn’t want to lose by a fat margin.

Sitting through the game tonight, I also thought about the election. There’s a neck-and-neck race for the White House and here a good portion of Americans are watching a bunch of grown man slapping a ball around with a wooden stick.

It’s entertaining though.

As I get older, I am beginning to see that things like the World Series, Superbowl, American Idol, Jersey Shore and Mario Brothers really are affecting our productivity a lot more than we can tell. Hell the Internet has wasted so much of my life that if I’d invested it into writing, I would have authored a novel collection to rival Stephen King.

Marcuse. Postman. They’re right. We focus so much on mass culture that we lose sight of what’s wrong in this world. If we focused less on amusement and paid attention to poverty, politics, social reform and civil rights, things would likely be better. The Internet was created to increase communication among educators but it has since only served to be another source of distraction.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my baseball. Those memes can be funny. Bloggers do have good points once in awhile. But there’s always a nagging thought in a corner of my collective subconscious that something’s wrong with how much time we waste on unproductive culture.

Some historians argue that the beginning of the end for the Roman empire began with a rising number of colosseum games. They spent more days out of the year watching gladiators cleave appendages off each other than they did working. We need to pay attention to that, especially now that we’re in the days of cable TV, the Web and professional sports.

Our lifestyles have become unsustainable and we’re taking more from the world than it can give. It’s creating problems with people in other countries. Civil wars. Somali Pirates. Starvation. Energy shortages. It’s only going to get worse.

This is going to bite our collective asses if we don’t turn off the game once in awhile.