America in its Adolesence

Sometime ago I had written a post about America, as a nation, behaving in much the same way as an individual behaves in adolesence.  Lately, I’ve been reading some relatively recent commentary on American history and learned I’m in good company.  A number of historians are looking at civilizations having life stages similar to that of human beings.  They go through the “new” period where growth encompasses everything, a time of adolescent identity seeking, a season of healthy maturity and then a decline.  There are some exceptions, notably China and India which are some very old cultures undergoing a resurgence, but are they truly the same culture they were or  are witnessing the birth of new cultures in those geographic locations?

America is experiencing the following symptoms of adolesence: it is self-absorbed, it lives in the present, it is hedonistic, and it is still seeking its cultural identity.

America is self-absorbed.  One only has to look at the space given to world news in our media.  To get coverage of world news having any depth or breadth, one has to go to foreign sources.  To the average American, the world is all about us.  America lives in the present.  One has only to look at the national debt to see we have yet to develop an adult view of financial reality.  We want everything now, but we don’t want to pay for it.  We’re hedonistic in that we want the right to do as we please regardless of our own good or the good of society.  And we are still seeking our cultural identity.  We have tried one ideal after the other and haven’t yet synthesized the set of ideals we will live for.  Our latest ideal is “tolerance” which is really a very passive one and is directly linked to the hedonism we’re also involved with.  When any critical thinking is rejected as intolerant you see the adolescent rejection of boundaries.

What will happen?  With individual adolescents, either a slow exposure to reality pushes or a significant emotional event catapults the individual into adulthood.  We’ve had some exposure to reality–terrorism, the weak dollar causing inflation, a long tedious struggle in Iraq, and the housing bust.  We’re being pushed.  God forbid the nation also has a significant emotional event.

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