Techno-apathy, this is the only word I can think of to describe North American culture. While this conjunction of words has no relevant meaning as its own word or as its individual parts, I feel that it aptly describes the social atmosphere of North America on this spring of the early second decade of the second millennium. As a Canadian born citizen of Native American, African American, Irish, Dutch, Scottish and French decent, I feel more than capable of presenting an unbiased view that is both a critical and fair summarization of what we have found ourselves in and why it is unhealthy.
By unhealthy, I do not mean the health of the individual. Any person, with the proper determination, can overcome their circumstance. I mean the health of our society as a whole. As a doctor places his stethoscope to diagnose his patient, allow me to focus your mind to help you see the illness that becomes more noticeable by its increasing stench as time rolls forward.
Despite what some extremists would have you believe, technology is not the problem in our society. Technology is only a tool of man, as any tool it has no purpose and is capable of no intent until intelligent control of a human is placed behind said tool. The real glaring problem is the apathy augmented and aided by technology. Apathy is obviously a gross generalization of a wider variety of problems and it is convenient if you are to view apathy as the dominant symptom of a much more complex disease. While the most simple to spot, treating apathy in the individual is much like trying to fight an insect infestation one bug at a time. We need to find the source and the reason for the infestation if we are to gain any ground.
Two major components of apathy are helplessness and hopelessness. Both of these attributes are brought about in individuals when they feel out of control and unable to affect change in their current circumstance. On an individual scale this is meaningless as any number of situations can make the individual apathetic, just as there are many who can be unaffected and driven in those same circumstances. It becomes a noteworthy problem when apathy becomes the general state of social groups and entire populations. It points to major problems in governing authority, education and culture, three elements that are indeed the core of any society. In today’s Government, it is easy to see why many people feel a sense of hopelessness.
Among its many problems, government has no credibility left with the people that it is supposed to serve. Government has been caught lying so many times that it is common place to think that lying is just what government does and the individuals that do get good service are only of the upper crust business men. With the aid of the media, government has become much like theater, in which, the character’s we are allowed to see are like paid actors performing on the stage of parliament hill while the real decisions are made behind closed doors deeply motivated by money. These facts alone are enough to paralyze the individual and make them feel utterly helpless in any hope to affect change for themselves and their families.
While I am sure that some business men conspire to get what they want from government, the ineffectualness of government itself is not some grand conspiracy. Unfortunately, you get the government that you deserve, meaning that the problems in our government are only symptoms of the culture that birthed it. A primary problem with the culture in North America is that people do not have a full picture of what culture truly is. Culture is not only history and art as our education system would have you believe. Culture is primarily how people interact with one another and the general unwritten rules governing those interactions.
As you can imagine, how people interact with each other is greatly dependent on the personal value system upheld by the people. A quick overview of your typical North American would reveal that we value the self greatly above all else and secondly the objects that service the self. While there is nothing wrong with self-pride and pride of achieved possessions, there is something to be said about balance. The nature of the human being is that we only have a finite amount of energy to dedicate to anything and everything at any given moment. How much we value something dictates how much energy we spend on any given endeavor. So it can be seen that if someone is spending an exhaustive amount of their energy on themselves and the objects that service them, then they would have little energy for other things. These things include pleasantries with others, consideration of others and interest in global/local affairs. In general anything that is not centered on the sphere of self because simply processing that information would tax the individuals remaining energy reserves. In the age of technology, this effect has compounded itself. People in business are prime examples of our self-culture, most media driven technologies reinforce the focus of self and prey off of that instilled self-focus. This instilled value is the general principal of capitalism.
Capitalism has become a great plague in our society. Since the nature of capitalism is the attainment of capital by any means necessary, it cares little for the people that it acquires that capital from. The basic principal of capitalism is that fortune and profit equals righteousness. Any value system based on this is clearly going to be very parasitic for anyone involved that is not of the super-rich or governing body and it is generally just a relabeling of the fundamental views of feudalism minus birthright inheritance of kings. Relabeled, repackaged and sold again and again. Feudalistic principals have plagued the peoples of the western nations. The reason why we are incapable of throwing these values from our culture is because they are being reinforced by an entity typically seen as separate from state government. That entity is the western religions. To understand why this is you must be able to see religion for what it is from an outsiders point of view.
At the very core of all world religions is a basic structure that guides an individual in how to interact with others in a respectful manner within the culture that they find themselves in. The religions are where a lot of our cultural values stem from, but historically this is not the only purpose religions have served. If we are to compare eastern religions to western religions we would see one core difference. The western religions are feudalistic in nature because of the enforcement of idealistic behavior under the threat of eternal wrath from some unseen benevolent lord for disobeying, while eastern religions sell their values with the human traits of honor and pride. Neither is perfect when mixed with state power because the state by default becomes the enforcer of consequence, but typically areas where religion and state are completely separate, eastern religions tend to enjoy a more balanced and free life style. The reason western religions are feudalistic is because of their heritage.
The western religions that have survived to this day were crafted by intensely feudalistic societies. Egypt in the age of pharaohs, some claim even as far back as Babylon, was the birth of many of the concepts in the western religions that would later be refined in the Roman Empire to Catholicism. All of these empires were deeply feudalistic where religion and state were one in the same. At some point during the Roman Empire it was seen as strategically advantageous to create the illusion of separation between state and religion. This provided an extra smoke screen between the people and the feudal lords because even if the people were intellectually opposed to their plans they would still have their support through their faith in the church. This all does not mean that religion is inherently bad. It just means that while religion is valuable for setting ground rules for social respect and provides an atmosphere to explore ideas of the unquantifiable, it should be kept as far away from state power as possible. Also no one should live in fear solely because of their religious choice. So change the religion, change the culture, but unfortunately in our time this statement does not ring true anymore.
As it is, religion can be thought of as more of the father of modern culture. Simply because as technology has increased, the relevance of religious belief has decreased. A much more scientific understanding of the world and beyond has led the culture to think of religion as more of a nostalgic time stamp in history than any kind of an authoritative figure in their lives. More so than ever before, the media has taken over in the teaching of moral values in our culture. Understanding why this has happened is fairly simple when you have the basic definition of capitalism.
Air time is purchased and the price is set at such a level that only large corporations can afford to advertise on the major networks. Large corporations are free to project any value they wish onto the American public without any noteworthy competition. In this way the North American minds have been cultivated to produce the best consumer possible per individual. From a business stand point it is absolutely brilliant. The demand for your products is insured because the values of the people are molded to your needs. From a cultural stand point it is complete annihilation. In general, this turns your population into nothing more than dairy cows plugged into the corporate money sucking system. You can only maintain a system like this for so long until you suck the will to live right out of the people. Capitalist America does understand this, so for your money they give you Hollywood, Music, Games and seductive entertainment. If the capitalists can keep the population distracted for just long enough with reality escaping entertainment than they can keep the money pumps running perpetually on the population without them ever noticing the true nature of the reality they live.
Think for a moment about how painful and monotonous your reality would be without any form of electronic entertainment and still having to cough up the same amount of money that you would typically spend on your day to day living and entertainment. I would bet heavily that many would go mad if they were forced to actually live and view their true reality on a day to day basis. This is obviously a major problem for us as a people. The solution is not a simple one. Our entire system of commerce must be rebuilt from the top down. From the corporations to the governing bodies, all must be rebuilt to restore health and balance to our society.
For those that think this is not a problem as life has always been like this, think for a moment about what kind of situation this puts our people in on the global stage. As a population we are weak. We don’t work well together, we are mostly all physically ill or grossly out of shape and our military is constantly abroad fighting pointless conflicts for more corporate greed. We are sitting ducks! Any formidable nation could come in here at any moment and take the entire continent with little to negligible resistance. The large corporate entities could really care less. They would just move to a new country with ease. The world is not a happy place made of rainbows and unicorns named F.E.M.A. Remaining this powerless as a people is like dumping blood into the ocean and taking a dip. You’re going to get eaten; it is just a matter of time.