One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).
Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:
- 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
- 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
- 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
- 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
- 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
- When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).
When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.
From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:
Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.
These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!
But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.