Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's wrong with America, according to a blogger

This is a blog by a guy named Mark Manson, a US expatriate who apparently lives in Colombia, as I do.  He sets out ten ostensibly "hard truths" that he deems it his responsibility to break to his compatriots in the US, I guess in the hopes that they change their ways.  While I can't argue factually with many of his ten statements, I didn't like his tone.  If I understand him well, he is trying to set straight the entire population of the US as if it were an alcoholic brother that needed a serious talking to.  The problem is that that's not how widespread social problems are solved.  Our dilapidated healthcare system, our generally uneducated populace, the obscene economic inequality that plagues us--these are not simple failures of individual or collective effort or willpower.  They are complex social issues that need complex solutions, and I don't think that scoldings or scorn from condescending expats are going to figure very heavily in these solutions.  In that respect, if Manson is really concerned about these problems he has identified, I think the nation could use his presence and his help to right its ways.  If on the other hand he limits himself to commenting snarkily from the sidelines, then he might as well keep his thoughts to himself, because I don't see how his detached critiques help anyone very much.

This may seem an odd position coming from me.  A friend of mine recently rebuked me for what she saw as my own condescending, mean-spirited tone in this blog.  If that is how I come off, then it is surely in part because I have long felt, somewhat unconsciously, that the US failed me in terms of providing me an opportunity to perform honest, respectable work in exchange for a decent standard of living.  I got out of college some 8 years ago and was not able to involve myself in anything that would allow me to maintain myself even humbly, except at the expense of other people (ie jobs at agricultural commodity oligopolies, ag input suppliers that try to squeeze farmers for all they're worth, or the general financial fraud circus that characterized the early 2000s US economy).  So maybe I've felt spurned and burnt by US society, but I'm getting over that.  At any rate, I don't intend on this blog to come off as a condescending asshole rebuking the US with no intention of doing anything concrete about its problems.  If I comment on negative developments in our culture or our body politic, it is with the intent of pointing out and helping to change these trends.  And on that note, I am more and more looking forward to returning with my family to the US in the next year or so, and hopefully contributing something to our society, to the resolution of these intractable problems that we all know we must act on (obesity, hunger, apathy, consumerism, and above all lack of honorable jobs).

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