Welcome to America! Land of the free, home of the brave. Freedom reigns here, but that freedom was not free. Somehow though, in the past 100 years or so, our society has shifted from a society of people that prize their freedom to a collection of individuals who seek “Success.” There are strong personalities everywhere and those people are not just leaders, they are dominators. What do I mean by that you might ask? Let me explain it as best I can in light of history and culture.
As our country moved from a loose collection of states to a conquering powerful nation with a strong central government, we naturally tended to look up to and follow strong individuals. This quality of “fierce independence” was somehow seen as a positive thing, a quality to be admired. That attitude was equated with the ideals of freedom and the “American way.” It not only became synonymous with freedom but also with justice and truth. Those who were strong were deemed to be successful (and vice-versa). When Charles Darwin came along with his theory of evolution and “Survival of the fittest” many leaders quickly subscribed themselves to that theory in order to prove the natural order of one human dominating another.
In the mid-19th century, the Imperialists in England and most other European countries, and even in the United States, grabbed a hold of Mr. Darwin’s ideas to assert their “rights” to dominate in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world that lived in supposed “Darkness.” There had always been slavery, but now there was a theory that explained why one race should be able to rule over another. The British went so far in their desire to subjugate the Chinese population that they introduced Opium – in mass quantities – into the country. Entire shiploads of Opium were brought in and Tea was shipped out. Obviously this proves that one way to keep a population under control is to drug them.
So how did this all play out and lead to what we have today in our “Me First” society? What exactly is a “Me First” society? This country was founded on the principles that government exists to serve the people – not special interests. Special interest groups have been around in this country since before the Civil War. But, following the Civil War, however, many groups that represented powerful industrial groups in the North, and others who represented “expansionists” determined they would have a say in Congress. They started having a profound influence in political campaigns. Advertising wasn’t born then, but it started to be refined into an engine that would sharply influence public opinions. Advertisers, and academics it should be said, found subtle ways that they could influence the opinion of the masses. Thus was born the science of psychology. It wasn’t really born then of course either, but it started to be used heavily because advertisers realized the value of “intelligent” advertising that would earn them real money in return. Money is power in politics after all.
So, we have the birth of the “Madison Avenue” section of our society that gives rise to the concept that advertising can be used to influence not just purchasing decisions, but decisions relating to the running of our government (real power). Large sums of money began to be spent on political campaigns. People are swayed with these notions that a powerful person, a “Leader” is good for the country. Personality and leadership started to become more important in public opinion than did the welfare of society as a whole. “Getting ahead,” being “successful” started to be worshiped as more to be sought after than the simple life and simple pleasures (for example, raising a family, sitting at home around the fireplace engaging in family activities and so on).
These things all occurred in our society about the same time our population was shifting from agrarian (agricultural) to urban. Perhaps the two shifts are related more than we know, perhaps one naturally occurred as a result of the other. I have heard and seen that in Europe, they have a hard time now keeping young people in the country. All the youth want to go to the “City” where life is viewed as being “exciting” and there are jobs and so forth. Nobody wants to stick around and run the family business or farm and be where life is “boring.” Thus, one set of ideas naturally seemed to influence another set of ideas entirely. Now life itself is not even viewed as “normal” if there is no large crowd of people around you who all are seeking some mythical notion of “success.”
Does success really mean life in the city with fast cars and a zillion restaurants and bars around to choose from? Is it really all about excitement and over-stimulating our senses? Is life really just some hedonistic journey where we should do our best to get the most out of whatever and wherever we are? Let me give you a more personal example. I took a cruise with my wife and mother and sister and brother-in-law a couple years back. It was a cruise to honor my mother’s 80th birthday. We got on a ship in Rome and cruised around the Eastern Mediterranean. While it was quite an enjoyable cruise, I found there was just something bothering me about it the entire time we were on the ship. When I got off the ship at the end of the cruise I realized what it was: We were on this “whirlwind” tour of cities and countries trying to see all we could as quickly as we could because the cruise only had so many days in it (obviously).
But, what I realized about all that – because some people may enjoy that kind of travel – is that it’s simply not for me. I prefer the “Rick Steves'” style of travel, what he calls “Back door travel.” What he means by that is moving a bit slower, seeking out quiet places to rest and restore sanity and to get to know people from different cultures. We should be actively looking for places that not only stimulate our senses, but soothe us and allow us to meet new and interesting people as well. That kind of travel is something that seems to be lost on our generation, and again, I would argue that the reason why is because most folks out there these days just want as much as they can get in as short a time period as possible. After all – that’s getting the most for your money isn’t it?
That’s what I mean when I say we live in a “Me First” society. That attitude not only pervades how people vacation in our society, it pervades all of our society. We are bombarded by that message in advertising – constantly. We are told that you need to get all you can or you’re not a “success.” Why on earth do you think we have so many banking executives of failed banks voting themselves bonuses? They really don’t care about anyone else, they only care about themselves and what they can get out of their “position.” That’s why they’re in that position to begin with isn’t it? I equate it to the greed and corruption we all of us have seen in most Corporations, and this is not just in America mind you, but worldwide.
While much of Asia is not suffering any longer in terms of being dominated by the Western powers, Asia is consumed by this same “Me First” attitude. Even China, Communist China is flooded with this attitude! The leaders in China are jealous of their power, and guard it carefully. They care nothing for the average people, or workers. A couple years back when this latest financial turnaround hit China, they closed 20,000 factories and laid off 20,000,000 (that’s 20 MILLION) workers. Those workers were told to “Head for the hills and farm or die.” They and their families were forced to flee the cities and head out to find work on farms, or start their own farms. There were no jobs for them, no government assistance, no unemployment insurance. Pretty harsh, eh?
We have it somewhat better in this country in that we have some sort of unemployment program going for those who lose their jobs. But, does that address the reason those jobs were lost to begin with? Are we ever going to see any large numbers of people go to jail as a result of the investigations into the “Sub-prime” crisis? Has anybody gone to jail yet? Only a relatively few persons have even been indicted on criminal charges stemming from investigations into corrupt practices in lending, or buying and selling of mortgages.
Our “Me First” society really doesn’t want to pursue those guys and send them to jail. The ones with all the money and power in this country are just as culpable and they don’t want anyone to get arrested, since if one of them is guilty, they all are guilty. The legislation of “Everybody should own a home” goes back to Bill Clinton. It’s not a Republican idea, rather it stems from the Democrat / Liberal notion of “Happy Family” in that everyone deserves to be happy and own a home. I’ve never seen in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution that home ownership is guaranteed. Oh well, that’s beside the point – right? In a “Me First” society home ownership _should_ be guaranteed by the government, and that, in reality is where the “pressure” came from to give homes away to people who really didn’t deserve them or couldn’t afford them.
My real question is whether or not giving away homes to everyone is any different from the British drugging the Chinese people with Opium? Is the desired end result the same? Do they just want a large pacified population who are satisfied they have been cared for? Is it really different from a thrifty working class who realize that home ownership is an “ideal” and is something to be worked for, but who are not necessarily all home owners? There must be a balance in there somewhere otherwise it all makes no sense.
What’s really happened in our society I think is that we have shifted towards this notion of “I deserve it” or what is commonly called “The Entitlement Mentality.” This is the heart of the “Me First” attitude and the real crux of the problem. Our advertising folks on Madison Ave. have played that notion up and beat it like a drum. It’s the number one message you hear in advertising these days. It also is evidenced in our “Post Modern” notions of “New and improved.” Every product out there has to undergo a periodic renewal and / or update. Cars are probably the best example we think of when we consider this notion of every model year is better than the previous. You have to upgrade and update in order to have those newest features, the latest innovations, the best and so forth. That “Planned obsolescence” idea carries over into almost everything we buy, such that we live in this “disposable” society now where things are not made to last, rather they wear out and you replace them. Very few things are repaired any more, things are just not made to last.
But there again, that fits well with our “Me First” society that wants to constantly be updated to the latest and greatest of whatever it is out there to be had. Jesus’ idea that you should love others and deny yourself doesn’t fit with the “Me First” society at all. The way I look at it, love is a verb in Jesus’ usage. Love is not a feeling, something you seek after. You cannot “find” love in a bar, or a restaurant, or a car, or any place at all. Love is not something you experience, it is something you do. That doesn’t mesh with our “Me First” notions of “You deserve it.” Thus, I would count that as the number one reason in our society why Christians are viewed as “Out there” or crazy or whatever. The social ideas of society have turned upside down and we no longer live in a society that seeks to promote the welfare of others over ourselves, and so Christian teachings are viewed as flawed.
In fact, it is not Christianity that is the problem. Sin is the problem – same as it always has been. Our enemy, Satan, is around parading with his same set of lies: “Did God really say you don’t deserve that?” Of course God didn’t say that, all God said was that we should seek the welfare of society as a whole, and not put self-serving notions ahead of loving others. Unfortunately, what has happened is that as I said above, success is viewed in this country as on a par with freedom, and therefore is highly valued. Success, the never-ending pursuit of hedonistic pleasures and power is put above serving the public interest. Government exists not to serve the people but instead it serves that same idea of “success” though not the success of individuals rather success of large institutions (represented by special interest groups). Because, it is argued, the success of large institutions naturally derives success for individuals on a large scale – right? That whole argument is flawed however, because as we know, institutions are mostly run by people who generally only care about and serve themselves.
Our government has failed us. Our government no longer exists to serve the good of the people. Our government has been invaded by the notion of the “Me First” society. The whole “Me First” notion serves to elevate the “success” of the few at the expense of the many. This more than any other problem in our country is the basic hypocrisy that our young people realize and thus feel hopeless. This more than anything else – in my opinion – leads to rampant drug use and teen suicides and violence and so forth. If our youth look around them and think “What’s the point?” Then why should they even try to be part of this society? Why should they even struggle?
We have work to do people. We must take our government back and make it work for THE PEOPLE! We have to take it back and make it work for all the people! We have to instill again the sense of values that will give our young people, our treasure, hope. Not President Obama’s idea of hope and change, I’m talking about real hope and real change. The kind of hope that comes from a risen Savior, one who cares so much about us that He died for us on the cross at Calvary. That’s the kind of hope I’m talking about!