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America's Youth: Lost in Cyberspace

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in love and war

On his campaign trail for the U.S. presidency, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani told listeners at a rally that they should expect future terrorists attacks on U.S. soil. It's like my mother who suffers from manic depression. When in the manic state of her disease she is terribly annoying and does lots of crazy things. But just through the natural progress of her disease, she will eventually burn herself out and move into a just as severe, but for others less disturbing, state. The so-called nation state of United States of America, which is run like a giant corporation using its resources for profit for its puppet masters, will eventually burn out all the human and natural capital inside and outside its borders without which it will deteriorate and fall apart. There will ultimately not be enough propaganda or manufactured consent to keep the most powerful puppet able to play in the world. It will fall apart under the pressure from domestic problems caused by the lack of attention to such things as health care, social security, an over-worked adult majority and an abandoned youth, a majority of the population too trapped in a form of nation-wide depression to produce any real wealth for their society, and too many too focused on their immediate and personal survival to act or feel as a part of any community at all. Sadly it will most likely cause some severe damage before then. There are several factors that has led me to this bleak outlook on the future. Maybe the most severe is my perception of the lack of a youth seemingly interested enough in improving their society to become the societal "class" most capable of changing things that it historically has been. I used to think that the youth would be the source of societal change here in the USA. But it seems that portion of America is to a large degree occupied by escaping the very same reality I hoped it would try to change. It is mentally absent, physically weak and emotionally numb. In my own childhood in Sweden, kids played the first version of the fantasy tabletop role-playing game - Dungeons and Dragons ( that was before the need for saying "tabletop" had become popularly spread as any alternate way of playing). There was much concern for a while that such games would become too real to the young and susceptible minds - especially after one boy killed himself after his Dungeons and Dragon character had died. Today, it seems the option of alternate realities offered through the use of computer technology is attracting such a large number of young adults that it would not surprise me if they simply fall for the temptation of just substituting reality rather than try to change it by acting within it body, mind and soul. I suppose a great deal of the causes for the mentally absent, physically weak and emotionally numb youth must be placed on the adult portion of this population - mainly parents but also adults who are their "significant others" in that they have an influence on children by means of being role models, teachers, confidants, public figures etc. Parents seem to me too be also physically absent to a degree not seen before Second Life is a virtual reality community in which you create an identity, meet people, buy land and build your own objects. It is a "massive multiplayer online role playing game" (MMORPG), but one that offers users total freedom to create and interact as if they were living another life. Some see the space as a utopia free of real-world constraints, where they can build their vision of a perfect realm from scratch. It's a place where denizens can reinvent themselves as a supermodel or a rodent, own an island or fly. As the population grows, early denizens are learning the truth of Jean-Paul Sartre's observation "Hell is other people." To someone whose perception has grown attuned to sensory input like that of Second Life, Sims, Warcraft or any other "virtual reality" game played on- or off-line, do images and reports of distant wars and suffering caused by acts in some far-away land seem more "real", or are they processed mentally the same way the deaths and suffering in the reality-like worlds in which they spend more time than they do in the distant places they see and hear about in the media? When the media becomes reluctant to show "graphic" images of death and wounds, and alter their reports after the critique of undermining the public moral by telling to much of an ugly reality, the result is that there are video and computer games presenting more blood, gore and the ugliness of warfare and human behavior than the public gets to see in the real life version of them. It is said that by undermining the public support for various military actions undertaken by the U.S. government (and by government I mean the figure heads and profit-puppets of both bought branches), the badly defined enemy of the equally badly defined "U.S. interests" and "national security" would manage to put an end to those military actions. However, as several polls have shown that public support has not been there for some time and the military action seems not to miss it too much. Even the support of the very troops for the motives they perceive to be deployed to risk their physical and mental health for, seems not to be a prerequisite for the military actions to continue. Why? I would say that the mental escapism and emotional distance of especially - but not only - the U.S. youth is part of the reason. It just doesn't become worth it to flood the streets with torches and demand the government to come out and face the gathered crowds when the dying and suffering is not any more real than the fake three-dimensional figure on your flat computer screen. I have a suggestion - for each casualty suffered by ANY human being during the War on Terror there should be a 30-minute national Internet blackout. At least then the reality of the war might affect the generation most able to make lasting changes for the better. I also want to factor into my argumentation the deterioration of the experienced overall well-fare for young ones (A new UNICEF report on children's well-being in rich countries found that the UK and the U.S. are the worst places to grow up ) - at least if one is to believe the various reports and surveys indicating this.

"The level of children's well-being was assessed through measuring six factors: Material well-being; health and safety; education; peer and family relations; behaviors and risks; and self-perceived subjective well-being. Although northern European countries like the Netherlands did well on the overall score, "all countries have weaknesses that need to be addressed," said David Bull, director of UNICEF UK. "No country features in the top third of the rankings for all six dimensions," he said, referring to the factors considered. There are, however, clear losers. "The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed," UNICEF said in a summary of the report. Britain got the lowest overall score and ranked worst in family and peer relationships -- measured by single-parent rates and the frequency of family meals -- and behaviors and risks"

UNICEF report Feb 2007 Furthermore, in such a commercialized country as the U.S., the economical resources of ones' family or oneself determines so much of an individuals' opportunities to acquire good mental, social and physical resources (such as growing up in an environment that offers safety, good living standards, good education, positive inspiration and activities and time to enjoy this). That makes the findings that the divides in economic wealth between income groups is becomes both larger and more difficult for individuals to overcome, much more damaging in their consequences. A good summary of the nature and some of the consequences of this siphoning of the wealth to those who already have on the expense of those who have little or none is made by Lou Dobbs in his book "War on the Middle Class". "We're creating tomorrow's poor, people who once saw themselves as part of the middle class but financially can no longer make it there," said Elizabeth Warren of the Harvard Law School.(link ). There is also a further division of the people of society into economically unequal groupings as there is also an economic divide in this country between whites and people of color. Race still continues to play a significant role in the success of Americans, from jobs to education to housing. Racial stereotypes and attitudes heavily influence the job market, with African Americans at the bottom. So - a larger than ever and probably continuously growing percentage of the kids and the young ones will find themselves growing up in environments offering low-quality education, health care, "bad neighborhoods" with low rate of moral guidance and encouraging examples but heavy on bad role models, parents having to work hard to make ends meet or lacking a job - in either case risking personal and economical frustration and problems undermine their ability to be there for their kids as the primary source of love and security. True, Americans generally have many more possessions than in the past. But that results from all the household adults working and usually longer hours on the job and at home than in the past. So - more young ones are likely to experience a discrepancy between what they could have and should have on one hand, and what they actually are offered on the other. But more young ones are also less likely to experience and learn of things that makes them believe in their ability as individuals and as a collective to make a change. A lack of perceived ways to make a change, or a lack of awareness of what to target, or a lack of belief in ones' own ability to be of any significance in the way things are - any one of these circumstances deprives individuals of both the ability and their desire to act to change society and not just react to structures already in place only to make a living, not to make a change for more to get the chance to live better. If individuals believe they have little or no influence over society at large, if they have seen no encouraging examples they can identify with of such influence, then they will most likely focus on the society in small - look out for their own immediate and short-term survival. Add to this also the documented decrease of "social capital" - different networks of people cooperating in various ways that fosters trust, skills of and belief in cooperation as a way to achieve societal improvements - there is even more a risk of an increase in Individuals seeing little and experiencing even less of successful collective efforts aiming at improving life for more than just the own person. A youth of frustration but too few dreams and visions that can channel the wills into collective efforts - falling apart into increased individualism and "dog-eat-dog-world" thinking. Such a world of constant competition and constant fight for survival encourages escapism - what can not be changed must be endured and/or escaped. There will be lots of new residents for the virtual worlds.

 

I am a Political and Behavioral Scientist with Psychology as my main subject and people as my main interest. As thoughts are the source of all human accomplishment I hope to be part of the exchange of them Also (more...)
 
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