According to Gallup America has been growing increasingly dissatisfied since 2004, when national satisfaction slipped below 50 percent it went below 40 percent in 2005, and 30 percent in 2009. Since then it’s continued to slip, now nearing the 20 percent level.
Americans used to be able to find refuge during the dark times and escape life’s troubles for short periods of time. Church events, theater, dances, radio, movies, family outings, television, sporting events or just plain old sitting out on the front porch and watching the world go by, all were geared towards what use to be called “entertainment” to get your mind off the real world events.
Taking the place of those escapes from the real world events we now have a constant barrage of “reality” TV shows, one of which most recently contributed to the suicide death of one participant over financial issues.
Times, attitudes, expectations, goals, aspirations and temperament all seems to be moving towards the extreme these days. We’re not just dissatisfied with how things are going, we’re down right frustrated, and as frustration grows people begin to take action. Those actions are showing up in every news story you come across. It’s one thing for drunken sports fans to shout obscenities and throw debris at opposing players. That behavior is not at all acceptable, but when fans beat another fan and shots get fired at an NFL event, its gone way over the line. It’s one thing for new scientific technology to discover a person whose on death row and been in jail for the last 17 years is innocent of the crime, but for a prosecutor to not look bad they make the convicted person, who has always claimed his innocents, admit guilt in killing three young boys so that he can be pardoned and set free immediately. It’s one thing for heated disagreements between political adversaries it is something else when a long time elected official calls citizens “terrorists” and a cabinet secretary publicly states she does not work for members of a party with whom she does not agree. It’s one thing for a disgruntled student to get back at a school by phoning in a prank bomb threat it’s something very different to take a gun or box cutter into school and kill teachers and fellow students. And, these are just a few of the headlines from recent events.
Unless cooler heads begin to prevail and we start realistically ratcheting down this extreme approach to expressing our frustrations, I fear our society is well down a path we do not want to be on.
In retrospect when you compare the information we were exposed to in the “olds days” of programming for both entertainment and society education value, shows like “Leave it to Beaver”, “My Three Sons”, Ozzie and Harriet” , I Love Lucy” or a movie like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” , we could laugh and reinforce valuable life lessons. Compared to what we digest today as entertainment and acceptable societal behavior, sexual innuendo filled comedies beginning at 8pm in what use to be considered the family hour, mature rated video games for their extreme violence, violent packed movies that continue to portray a realism through special effects, is it any wonder why we are frustrated when real life starts to replicates the thing we gravitate to for entertainment? When our elected leaders, sports heroes, movie/television stars act in outrageous ways and we glorify the extreme and bizarre in society how can expect to see a future filled with anything but what we digest when we are entertaining ourselves?
In years gone by we had censors controlling the information we received and we all railed against censorship in favor of freedom of expression. I’m not suggesting we return to those days, but we must realize that we are becoming a product of our own creation. We need to reacquire our moral and social compass in order to put ourselves and our world back on a less destructive course and once again find the peaceful satisfaction with the world we all share.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.