The Problem with the Old Civilization
we can consider the Next Civilization, we must face the current one in
its decay. This is what we have to work with, what we must
compost into the foundation for whatever comes after, which we shall
discuss in future chapters. And we must come to terms with its
failure, so that we don't try to simply continue what has gone before,
propping up a dying, suffering wreck on life support, when we could
quietly let go and devote our energy to something new and vibrant and
As evidence that the Dominant Paradigm has failed, I submit that it has created an unlivable society. As of 2010, more than 1 in 5 Americans took prescribed psychiatric drugs, in a rising trend with no sign of slowing down.[i] And that just counts the legal drug-users. Add to this roughly 1 in 10 Americans over 12 abusing alcohol and drugs, in effect trying to medicate themselves.[ii] Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death by injury in the United States, and have been rising steadily.[iii] Heroin overdoses alone have nearly quadrupled in the past 13 years[iv], and prescription drug abuse has become epidemic[v]. Consider also that, on average, six people die of alcohol poisoning every day in this country.[vi] [Since I first wrote this article drug addiction has skyrocketed parabolically in this country, beyond these statistics and in fact beyond any precedent in history, and continues to rise.]
Add to this people with defined
eating disorders of various kinds (up to 24 million people of all ages, with
25% of college age women binging and purging.[vii])
Add to this compulsive gamblers, sex addicts, gaming addicts, television
addicts, computer addicts and every other compulsive behavior out there.
(Overall statistics unavailable.) Now,
look at this entire combined list of self-destructive compulsions, and
recognize that itís not solely a matter of biochemistry gone awry but the
product of an isolating way of life that has gone viral in the worst sense of
the world, as Johann Hari has so carefully researched[viii].
Overlap makes it impossible to tally up a definitive percentage of how many Americans find our current reality unbearable, but no matter how you look at it, no species could possibly have evolved to include this many tortured, dysfunctional members and still have survived. Rather than changing our society to fit human beings, we keep trying to modify human beings to fit the system, through ultimately destructive means, and it isnít working.
Next we need to look at how we manage time. Too many Americans donít have time for adequate sleep (40%)[xi] proper food preparation[xii], sufficient hydration (possibly 75%)[xiii] or enough exercise (roughly 80%)[xiv] To top it off, in a country where we rank 26th out of 28 developed countries in child welfare, 78% of all child abuse cases involve neglect[xv]. One has to ask: What are we doing with the time we save by skimping on basic survival necessities? And is this a lifestyle that we should save at all costs?
This lifestyle has also made us fat. 80% of all American women hate their bodies;[xvi] (statistics vary for men.) 74% of all Americans are medically overweight, going beyond the historic norm caused by self-indulgence (33% in the prosperous 50ís)[xvii] ; inflated by the above-mentioned psychiatric medications, many of which cause weight gain[xviii]; and duties, as mentioned, which do not allow people an opportunity to burn calories, in lifestyles which do not allow time to prepare healthy meals,[xix]; not including the aforementioned compulsive overeaters. Additionally, we cannot calculate how many people have had their metabolisms altered by food absorbing poisons from common plastics, including those now lining canned goods. [Again, since writing this article, the statistics have worsened.]
And lets look at the people who donít make it at all. In a single night in January, 2013, 610,042 people suffered homelessness in the United States. It has not gotten better since. Poverty-related deaths in our country are in the same range as deaths from heart disease.[xx]
In October of 2013, the United States of America had the highest incarceration rate in the world, at 716 per 100,000. This would include 1) people who, one way or another, have never learned to respect other peopleís rights, 2) people who donít see any legal way to survive, and/or 3) people incarcerated for unjust reasonsóany of which count as real societal failures in the numbers described.
Lifestyle-related premature deaths number in the hundreds of thousands. To cover just three categories, smoking leads to approximately 467,000 deaths each year, high blood pressure to 395,000, and being overweight to 216,000. Our compulsions are killing us. So are the everyday psychological stresses experienced by people without any particular compulsions[xxi].
To maintain this lifestyle, we continue to use up the planet to the point where we seriously risk extinction on the Permean level[xxii] which would make no sense even if we liked living this way. (Permean Extinction: that would be the one where, for a time, fungus became the most prevalent life form on Earth. It took approximately 10 million years to recover from its ravages.[xxiii] ) We are already in the midst of the 5th largest extinction wave in geological history, with no sign of slowing down.
Even without the threat of melting the frozen methane underneath the ocean, we gobble up resources faster than they can regenerate[xxiv]. We talk about ďdeveloping nationsĒ as though they all could share the American lifestyle, but if they did, in fact, become like us, it would take 4.1 planet earths to sustain us all[xxv]. [Outdated information. At this writing, the methane has just begun to melt.]
We keep using economics as an excuse to fudge on pursuing greener options, but how can you have an economy without an ecology? In economic terms, we deplete our capital, in the form of resources. And in the process we bombard ourselves with so much air pollution[xxvi], noise pollution[xxvii], light pollution[xxviii], and food pollution[xxix] that our bodies suffer from chronic physical stress, and the once-rare disease of cancer[xxx] has become one of our most common ways of dying[xxxi].
What do we do all this for? So that we can leave great inheritances for children leading progressively shorter and more miserable lives? So that we can enjoy a lifestyle that we have to numb ourselves to endure? So that we can beat somebody else in a competition on who can race fastest to the grave? So that one of our heirs gets to be the last shivering wretch to die on a ruined planet?
Or. We. Can. Try. Something. Else!
[i] Psych drug use: Take your pick of sources, liberal, conservative, or middle of the road: https://www.google.com/webhp#q=percentage+of+americans+on+psychiatric+medication[i]