What most of us already know, but don't want to admit.
Click for AUDIO version.
As you get older, you discover there are fewer shades of gray in life. As you gain experience, you tend to see things more in terms of black-and-white. You now possess an appreciation of what works and what doesn't, which is why people ask for your advice. Some would say you become less tolerant of others but the truth is you've simply been down that road before and don't want to revisit it. From this, you learn the subtle truths of how the world works.
The United States is a beautiful concept; the land of opportunity founded as a Constitutional Republic. I have been fortunate to see many different systems around the world, but I believe we have it better than just about everyone else. However, we are not without faults, ugly truths about who we are and how we operate. It's what makes us tick and provides insight into the American psyche.
What follows is what I refer to as the ugly truth of America; things we all know are true but don't want to admit. Consequently, we have learned to accept them and adapted our lives accordingly.
1. Yes, Americans are not really happy with their lives. I tend to believe this is caused by the tension we are under, both financially and politically. Norway is considered the happiest country on the planet. The USA isn't even in the Top 10; currently we are at #14, having dropped one point from 2016. Americans seem to be most happy when they score a personal victory, not necessarily as a team. For example, an individual will relish a job promotion even if the company is struggling to survive. Strange. As an aside, I didn't see too many smiles during the recent holidays. Shoppers all seemed to be resigned to their fate and wore sour pusses on their faces. If you happen to greet someone pleasantly they typically look at you suspiciously.
2. Yes, there is a privileged class in America. As much as we would like to believe the law serves everyone equally, this is simply not true. Money and celebrity buys influence in this country and puts people above the law, if for no other reason they can purchase the finest legal minds in the country. Rarely are such people jailed. This also means America is a politically charged nation where advancement is based not necessarily on performance, but who you know and how you know them. We see this in companies, both commercial and nonprofit, as well as in government.
3. Yes, America embraces a drug culture. The country recently recognized opioid drugs as bad, but we somehow see no connection to marijuana. The reality is, America wants to remain high all the time and, as such, is the #1 consumer of drugs. To prove it, see how far you get trying to recall legislation regarding recreational or medicinal marijuana in this country.
4. Yes, Americans are addicted to technology. Even though it stunts our maturation process and empathy for others, our sense of humor and communication skills, and our ability to socialize, Americans cannot live without their personal technology. Then again, neither can most of the world.
5. Yes, Americans are historically ignorant. When you compare the USA to other countries, Americans are grossly in the dark regarding the past. This leads to misunderstandings regarding the principles of government (the Electoral College is an excellent example), and dooms us to commit prior mistakes repetitiously. It's interesting, in an age where technology affords us 24/7 news and info, most millennials are ignorant of our past and how their country works. As the famed American historian David McCullough observed, "We are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous."
6. Yes, the American public is sheeple. Most use limited brainpower in their daily affairs and, as such, are weak willed and can be easily manipulated by the media. This is likely related to their addiction to drugs and technology. Due to changing values, Americans today lack common sense. They do not want to know the truth, preferring instead only the news and information corresponding to their way of thinking. This is to be expected as the media is unable to offer the American people factual news, only spin.
7. Yes, the system is fixed. Donald Trump hit a hot button when he first brought this subject up in the 2016 election, but it is found not just in politics, but in just about everything else; e.g., job progression in companies and nonprofits. This explains why there are so many suck-ups in the land. Americans have been taught to lie and cheat at all costs to attain goals. Instead of living in a "win-win" environment whereby both parties can achieve prosperity together, we now live in an age of "win-lose" meaning we can only win at the cost of the other party losing.
8. Yes, Americans are reactionaries, not pro-active planners. We prefer allowing our opponents to knock us down before we are stirred to action. There are many examples to illustrate the point, e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Pearl Harbor, 911, the USS Maine, etc. This is a severe weakness we possess, something the rest of the world is cognizant of.
9. Yes, programmers control everything, be it our televisions, automobiles, communication devices, business equipment, etc. But know this, programmers will only do what is best for them, not the end-user. What is intuitive to the programmer is not so for the rest of us. Most useful tools are designed by accident, not on purpose. As such, they control the mindware of the public.
10. Yes, most Americans do not know how to drive. The USA is #1 in terms of automobile accidents, head-and-shoulders above everyone else. Because of self-absorption, we are preoccupied doing everything else other than driving cars in an alert manner; e.g., People texting and talking on the phone, eating, doing drugs or drinking, applying makeup, etc. Electric cars will likely cure this over time, another sign we are losing our freedom and independence.
11. Yes, American morality is in decline, representing a sign of decay to our culture. For example, loyalty is in decline and can be purchased by the highest bidder. Interest in organized religion and patriotism are also in decline. We also tend to lack empathy for others and consequently are self-absorbed. Our sense of right-and-wrong is split along political ideologies, thereby denoting the true division in the country.
One thing we are not is a nation of racists. We are a melting pot of people living in a highly competitive society. I cannot think of another country with as many different types of cultures, a true heterogeneous society where each group tries to outperform the others. Some respond positively to competition, others do not. I do not believe we are devoid of racism completely, it is inevitable in a mixed racial society, but there are probably more racists outside of the United States today than there are inside. I find the use of the "racist" label in America today is more of a diversionary tactic for political purposes as opposed to possessing any true substance.
Some will say America is a land where you cannot win. This is simply not true as the Constitution was deliberately designed to provide the individual with certain unalienable rights, particularly opportunity, yet there are no guarantees for success. This is the bedrock of capitalism.
Some will also accuse me of being a pessimist in my assessment of the United States, but I am not, as Twain would suggest, I am an optimist who hasn't arrived yet.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Tim Bryce is a freelance writer and management consultant in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST