Why are Americans so violent and unhappy?

Every time I turn on the news I hear more bad news. It might be hyperbolic to say humanity is sliding towards an apocalypse, but there are plenty of statistics and examples to build a case the world is not as it should be.

Divorce rates are hovering around 50%. Shooting sprees and terrorist attacks are fashionable. Depression, unemployment, homelessness, drop-out rates, road rage, domestic violence, excessive consumer consumption and drug abuse are epidemic, and all of these problems are happening in first world countries.

Every day I hear more excuses for why these social ills are happening, and at this point I’ve heard it all: violent video games, angry music, the waning of religion, insanity, laziness and personal irresponsibility, etc.

If you made a list of society’s problems, and then made a list of all the causes of those problems, and then tried to find common denominators across all of them, one of the most common factors you’ll find is stress.

You don’t need a psychology degree to see this. Look at any individual who snapped and caused some terrible catastrophe in society, and I guarantee you’ll find that person was crushed with stress. The only question is where the stress came from.

I’m not saying everyone who does everything bad should be allowed to just write off their actions as the by-product of stress. If individuals have even the tiniest sliver of free will, then we have an obligation to personal responsibility, but society also has a responsibility to the individual. So the call to action here isn’t to let individual out of their obligation to society, but to hold society responsible to its obligation to the individual. As it stands, the institutions humans have created to serve society have not achieved their mission. On the contrary, they’re stressing individuals to the breaking point, and they need to stop doing that.

Take for starters the high domestic violence and divorce rates. The biggest cause of domestic strife is money problems. People in debt are more worried and stressed out about the future than people with savings. Debtors have less disposable income to alleviate stress, and they have to work longer hours. Plus, they have less time and disposable income to spend on the schooling/training they need to get a better job that pays more and will allow them to get out of debt.

Families who are in debt are constantly walking a tightrope, and every time they fail at anything, the consequences are catastrophic. Even if you can walk that tightrope, you can only go through life with a gun held to your head for so long before the stress wears you down and makes you impatient and grumpy. If you stay impatient and grumpy for too long, you forget life was ever any other way, and after you’ve accumulated a lifetime of memories of being impatient and grumpy, then your memories shape how you see reality for the rest of your life.

Go to any super-max prison and you’ll find that the majority of prisoners there had the most mind-shatteringly abusive childhoods possible. Most of the adults in regular prisons, and the teens in juvenile detention, all have life stories of being abused and abandoned. The most dangerous members of society are always those who have experienced the most stress.

In some ways the prospect of succeeding in life is more stressful than the prospect of failing. At least if you die or go to jail, it relieves the fear of knowing you’re going to spend sixty years working at a job that treats you like a commodity by paying you as little as possible, working you as long as possible and giving you as few breaks or benefits the entire time, and in the end, you won’t have a pension or any savings. The smaller the light at the end of the tunnel, the bigger risks you’ll take to get off that train.

College graduates might be able to eventually get promoted into a position with a pension, but the only reason they get that perk is because they have leverage. Entry level workers without a degree have no leverage. So they’re completely disposable. Employers can work them to the breaking point, throw them away and hire a new, unbroken kid to replace them every few months.

To make being disposable more stressful, employers expect employees to celebrate being treated like second class citizens. When you tell someone they deserve to be treated like a disposable punching bag, and then them treat them like one, and then they realize they’ll always be a disposable punching bag… they get really stressed out, because they know their lives have value; it’s just irresponsible for them to expect to be treated like it. So they’re forced to use cognitive dissonance to justify their own mistreatment to themselves, which is psychologically traumatic.

To make matters worse, when you stress out and beat down dumb people, they find dumb solutions to cope with the abuse and hopelessness you’re heaping on them. So when you punish dumb people for being dumb, then you create a downward spiral.

Yet that’s the world we live in. Most of the problems going on around you are caused by the stress of how inhumanely smart people have designed the social institutions we’ve created to help us fulfill our potential. As long as those institutions remain unchanged, society will continue on the downward spiral of stress.

 However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Police and the Law

Occupy Wall Street


One response to “Why are Americans so violent and unhappy?

  • mister bots

    your work is great and very enlightening,wished to have had a teacher who’d teach us to see society how it’s really constructed by the rich people.

    Like

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