I think it happened during the Reagan years. It was around the time of power ties and the advent of cellular technology. That was when the i in America became more important than any group pronoun such as us, we, our, them. When self-interest became an ideology was precisely the moment that the we as a nation became a dirty word. America’s current woes stem from an obscene degree of entitlement, a self-indulgent morality, and a despicable depth of greed; the sum of which creates an environment of distrust which is fed a diet of impossible promises by leaders (edited and misrepresented by news outlets (who themselves have self-interest)) and the disintegrating pride to be a citizen of the United States of America.
It’s not a coincidence that the dawn of the internet was cloudy at first; mainstream America had little use for its content. But what ignited the web’s wildfire was the moment that disparaged and isolated men and women of many sexually divergent activities discovered each other through unmoderated global chat rooms; next to stumble through the door were the curious; then, like Alice following Rabbit, children handily navigated the new technology (like a game) and dropped dead-smack into chatrooms like raw meat tossed into the cages of nasty predators. Adults indulged their reputations too long; their admission of ignorance and thus training in the technology of the internet might’ve invoked authorities to act, to infiltrate and prosecute, to protect; but it took adults way too long to grasp who exactly their thirteen year old sons were meeting at the arcade. It’s an example of self-interest both on the part of the child predator and the narrow-minded adults.
The introduction of wickedly-fast download speeds, the steep decline in popularity of “graphical user interface and proprietary software” (think AOL), the advent of simple on-ramps to the internet cable or DSL, and of course the introduction of Yahoo! and CompuServe’s email system provided accessibility to a font of information and instantaneous communication. All this access produced a phenomenal sense of urgency, a global reach, and a sense of self-importance which exponentially exploded once Facebook emerged and quickly became the equivalence of your Christmas Card List. Overnight America went from millions and millions of nobodies to millions and millions of nobodies with friends. And friendship is oft borne by common interests. And conversations around common interests tend to illuminate injustice. Voila! Self-Interest is born.
But what happens when no one outside of your common interest group gives a crap about your injustice?
Deadlock. Lame Duck. Non-negotiable. Blame. Intolerance. Even insurrection, anarchy, bloodshed.
Unfortunately we’ve become a country of individuals corralled in to two political parties neither of which we feel particularly expresses how we really feel. And there we sit, millions of disenfranchised voters waiting for November to express our citizenship by voting for one of two people (our right to vote coerced like a false confession), but neither really represents me.
But maybe, maybe it’s not about me, maybe it’s about us, us with common interests like freedom and liberty and a free market and rights and that once cherished but now forgotten or a provincial joke, the American Dream. Our America will collapse if its forced to support millions and millions of fractious self-interested citizens. We’ve got to agree to disagree; to stop feuding; to reconcile our differences; and to stop the pettiness of self-interest.
We’re in a disaster and we need everyone to come together; it’s called brotherhood.