Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant that affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. As I sit back, examine and assess our American culture, I see a real need for this nation to get a dose of Ritalin.
I remember being a young Army Captain stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, and seeing a new show featuring a family of little yellow cartoon characters. I was entertained by “The Simpsons,” but never thought they would still be around all these years after debuting in December 1989 – the same month and year I got married. The reality TV show “Survivor” debuted in May 2000; who would have ever thought it would still be around. Consider all the various iterations of Real Housewives and other reality shows and adult cartoons that dominate the television scene. The result has been a degradation of the ability of the American public to be deep, insightful thinkers. We have become a nation that embraces the soundbite; and has very little lasting attention for critical matters and issues.
With the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and the same for sports programs, we are constantly bombarded, running from item to item. We possess communications devices that keep us in a constant respond-and-react mode when it comes to information. As well, we have now figured out how to shorten our language into a new code system.
Why is this detrimental to our American way of life and society? Our lives are dominated by slogans and poll-tested schemes and messages.
What if you hit the streets and asked people what was the GDP growth percentage for the last fiscal quarter? Hint, it was less than 1%. Or what if we were to ask Americans about the relationship between the unemployment rate and the workforce participation rate? What would happen if you asked Americans the difference between a progressive, flat, and consumption-based tax system/policy?
Don’t get me wrong; I am not looking for a nation of policy wonks who can articulate the problems with quantitative easing. However, the danger of what is happening in America is that through the media and other cultural sources we are constantly racing from one thing to another. We do not stop and take the time to comprehend and understand pressing issues – or perhaps we just do not want to? If the latter is the case, it is a very precarious place for us to be as a nation. We open ourselves up to being led like sheep to the slaughter.
As I look at what is happening in Venezuela, I must ask the question: how can someone openly declaring to be a socialist achieve electoral success and have a patronage? After all, it does appear that the message of “free” eventually leads to economic ruin. And in our institutions of higher learning we do not even allow for the free and open debate of ideas and varying principles of governance. We have heard about these protective measures such as “safe spaces” being proposed to prevent the fair and equitable exchange of thought. When that occurs, it only serves to erode critical thought – and the immediate impulse for some is to attack anyone thinking differently.
And the attacks come in many forms, as we have seen with the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, Claude Walker, who wanted to issue subpoenas on policy research that challenges assertions such as climate change. And in the State Senate of California, they attempted to create legislation that would punish those who did not embrace that message. It is because we have been so bombarded with images, optics, and soundbites that result in a hyperactive reaction instead of spurring us forth to have the honest debate and study the issue.
You have to ask, would the prevailing attitude in America today have enabled us to create this great Constitutional Republic? If those Americans back then were just too busy to ponder great theoretical issues like freedom, liberty, and taxation, where would be we today? Is it possible that someone in America today could write a document such as the Declaration of Independence? Are we still the same nation that can produce such insightful thinkers who could develop a document such as the Constitution of the United States?
Heck, those two founding documents are far more meaningful, and shorter, than the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that is collapsing under its own weight. Somewhere along the line we have become more verbose, yet less visionary. We have become busier, but are we are productive? We have become more adept at having more information inputs, but are we critical thinkers, able to analyze all that we are receiving?
We need to calm down, slow down, and think objectively once again as a nation. We need to have a focused discussion on principles that will provide for our success and prosperity. We are pinging all over the place. We have become pinballs, bouncing all over the place and off everything. We believe that we are racking up big points, but in essence we are just being knocked around.
We must stimulate our minds so we can continue to be citizens in a Republic, not disinterested, ill-informed, disengaged and disaffected subjects.