Sure, it could be blamed on television or movies. It could also be about fast food, preservatives, and hormone-laden chickens. Maybe it’s violent rap music or video games. Overworked, stressed out adults. Over-scheduled or latchkey kids. The end of stickball and street hockey. Not enough vegetables and too many cans of Coca-Cola.It could be any of those things, or. . .it could that my theory is true, and America is suffering from a collective, nearly all-inclusive depression. Of course, one of the hallmarks of depression is that people who suffer it don’t believe they have it – they invent other reasons for feeling lousy, or are so used to feeling lousy that it almost feels good.
However, an analysis of clinical depression symptoms with the current state of America looks something like this.
1. Changes in weight. An increased or decreased appetite. Weight gain or weight loss.
2. Impaired thinking and/or concentration. Trouble making decisions.
3. Sleep disturbances. Problems falling asleep or problems waking.
4. Heightened feelings of agitation. Easily annoyed. Irritability, restlessness.
5. Fatigue or sluggishness. Weariness. A lack of physical energy.
6. Depressed mood, with feelings of apathy, helplessness, and hopelessness.
7. Loss of interest in sex, changes in sexual functioning.
1. Growing steadily obese. 64.5% of us are overweight. 1-5% are anorexic or bulimic.
2. America now ranks 20th in the world for education. We are becoming dumber.
3. Sales of sleep-aids like Ambien have skyrocketed. Starbucks has heavily expanded.
4. Road rage. School shootings. We have become more temperamental.
5. Despite a plethora of health clubs, we’re exercising less and eating more fast food.
6. A high voter turnout in America is 54%. 66% of us call in sick when we’re not.
7. Since 1998, Viagra has been one of the most popular drugs in America.
I think a scientific case might be made for my theory of a collective American meltdown in the last decade, but the empirical evidence by itself is overwhelming.
In 2001, I was at a grocery store when I saw a sweet grandmotherly woman bend over a stroller to coo at an infant and congratulate the mother. The mother quickly jerked the stroller away and said, “I am teaching him NOT to talk to strangers!”. The child was about six months old. Teaching kids the danger of strangers is appropriate, but making them paranoid, fearful, and anxious is not.
The protection of society’s children is warped. Those who most need protection do not get it, and the public is left with harrowing stories of child abuse and murder. Meanwhile, there are far too many over-coddled children whose parents forgo discipline in favor of a “my child can do no wrong” attitude. When their children act out at school, parents are quick to blame the teachers. While teachers aren’t infallible, it does not help that classroom time is often dominated by children with behavior problems. Teachers cite defensive parents and discipline as two of their major struggles.
At the same time, many public schools have eliminated recess, and any chance for children to expend excess energy, in order to fit more learning into the schedule. Children are being saddled with more and more homework, further cutting into a child’s play time. The average backpack of an elementary school child weighs 13.8 pounds. A 2004 study found that over 64% of middle school children report pain from carrying heavy backpacks.
There has been a 500% increase in the number of ADD/ADHD drugs prescribed to children since 1991. An article published by Education World states, “According to the Congressional Testimony of Terrance Woodworth, a deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of prescriptions written for methylphenidate has increased by a factor of five since 1991. About 80 percent of the 11 million prescriptions doctors write for that medication each year treat childhood ADHD, he said. In addition, production of Adderall and Dexedrine, also used to treat ADHD, has risen 2,000 percent in nine years.”
Is it really any wonder that America’s children are becoming overweight couch potatoes who are less interested in learning and more interested in the latest video game release? We have stolen childhood away from them at every turn. We need to give it back to them, complete with free time, family time, the outdoors, and discipline.
All the Rage . . . and the Apathy
Rape is the fastest growing crime in the world, with America still in the lead. The statistics are simply staggering, but perhaps none more so than this — only 2% of perpetrators are convicted. Pedophilia is a rising crime that has actually gained proponents in the academic sector.
While people should be enraged by that, and the often light sentences handed out to rapists and child molesters when they are convicted, many choose to expend their energies elsewhere — like on the highway. In 1999, a prominent Twin Cities anesthesiologist beat up a 68 year old female driver for going too slowly. The case was shocking at the time, but road rage has since become more common. Violence and deaths caused by road rage have risen steadily.
According to Wikipedia, in the 90’s, “gangsta rap” hit the mainstream, and by the early 2000’s, rap music became one of the bestselling music genres in America. Bustin’ caps, shooting your ass, bitches, pimps and ho’s were introduced into the American lexicon, and embraced by a newly ghettoized culture of youth and young adults. A 1996-1997 study found that illicit drugs were mentioned in 63% of rap songs, compared to 10% in other genres. Defenders of rap music claim that the lyrics are fueled by reality — if the reality did not exist, then neither would the violent, misogynistic lyrics. While that may have some grain of truth, the vast popularity of rap music does not match up with the reality of most American lives, black or white, which are not dominated by shootings, crack cocaine, pimps and whores.
That such things became popularized, and that psuedo-gangs have hit the suburbs, might be attributed less to the reality of American lives than to the feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and rage many Americans, particularly young people, seem to feel. Of course, there are plenty of people who also feel apathetic — they are either numb to the world outside of themselves, or disbelieve that anything they might do would have an impact. They keep to themselves, away from the polls, and apathetically go along with the dumbing down they get from corporate-sponsored television and newspapers, while they read fewer and fewer books.
Sex: Just Not That Sexy Anymore
Pornography continues to sell, and is becoming more mainstream. Estimates of porn sales in America range from a conservative estimate of $4 billion dollars up to $15 billion. In any event, the porn business has boomed since 1970, when revenue was estimated at a relatively paltry $5-10 million.
We can now order porn into our living rooms with a subscription to cable or an internet connection. Americans no longer have to sneak out to dark theaters to get their fill of naked, copulating others. There’s freedom in that — and some socio-cultural changes that don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
American women, taking their cue from porn stars, have started shaving or waxing their nether regions to baldness or near baldness. The trend has taken personal grooming into spas and salons, where for $30-$100 women can get themselves trimmed to bikini perfection, shape their pubic hair into a thin stripe, or go all-out and get the front to back, totally bald Brazilian.
“I wouldn’t date a woman who didn’t shave down there,” said one blog commenter, “too gross.” Preferable, it seems, is a woman’s return to labial prepubescence.
While all cosmetic surgery is on the rise, labiaplasty — a particularly painful operation which involves the cutting and restructuring of labial tissues to form a “youthful” appearance — has gone from being a secret of porn stars into the mainstream of female consciousness. Vaginal rejuvenation, a procedure that actually may have some medical merit for women who have prolapsed vaginas, has become a a fashion trend, with many women seeking the surgery only to appease the fantasies of their porn-fed boyfriends and husbands. From Women’s e-News:
Ileana Vasquez is a 29 year-old Southern California housewife with four children. She read about vaginal rejuvenation after she saw an ad in a magazine. Her marriage was in trouble and she noted that her husband wasn’t happy with her sexually.
“One time he had a few beers and told me that because I had all our kids and was looser now he didn’t want me as a woman anymore,” Vasquez said. “He did say he was sorry later on but I knew he was telling the truth.”
Vasquez had the surgery and she noted her marriage is back on track and her sex life is good again. “He’s become my sweetheart again,” she said. “He bought me a house and he wants me all the time.”
Anal sex, which was once reported by Kinsey to be engaged in by 9% of the heterosexual population, is now a growing trend. The CDC has reported that 38.2% of straight men and 32.6% of women now engage in backdoor play. The sales of anal “toys” have increased dramatically in the last decade.
So have porn, waxed parts, and Greek-style lovemaking made America any sexier? Not really. An estimated 25% of American adults, a third of women and a fifth of men, have no interest in sex. Up to 33% of our adult population has gone one year or longer without a sexual partner. Viagra sales have continued to rise since Pfizer introduced the drug in 1998.
Fewer people, it seems, feel adequate anymore. Their bodies and parts don’t match the sexualized images porn has brought them, and they turn towards surgery and drugs to “save” them. Where the Kama Sutra of decades past brought eroticism and imagination to millions of bedrooms, today’s porn is selling Americans on picture-perfect vaginas, silicone enhanced breasts, enormous phalluses, and taking it up the ass.
For millions of Americans, sex just isn’t that sexy anymore.
(to be continued).