The distracted, happy Americans

Published 8:50 pm Monday, February 10, 2014

By Joseph L. Bass

Americans are distracted and happy. As free citizens of a democratic republic, this may lead to our ultimate demise. Our downfall is slow but certain if we continue the way we are.

Our media is full of diversions that make us temporarily happy. To stay happy, we seek more and more diversions from the realities around us.


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On “America’s favorite game,” the guests always have perfect spouses and wonderful children and pets. On another show, the guests demonstrate that Americans are smart and well educated. On many game shows, people win fabulous prizes and vacations through simplistic, mindless activities.

Popular magazines keep us informed about movie stars. We hunger for pictures depicting these glamorous people; we have to know every detail of their personal lives. Many popular fictional programs depict warm, feeling, smart law enforcement officers racing in with drawn guns to shoot the bad guys and protect the public.

The news is always about the economic recovery based on government actions. And it seems we cannot do without a steady stream of sports programming. All of this keeps us happy and distracted.

How much of this happiness reflects the realities around us? Last fall, the federal government shut down for several days over government borrowing and spending. The news told us that if we did not continue to borrow for government spending, our economy would collapse, with results worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Eighty billion dollars a month is borrowed and pumped into our economy, and the news continues to report an economic “recovery.” A recovery based on continuing to borrow and spend doesn’t sound like much of a recovery to me. It sounds like we are a “house of credit cards” nation that eventually will come crashing down.

In our society, we have many challenges that are not being addressed, mainly because Americans have diverted their attention away from the realities around us. We continue to seek more and more fictions to keep us distracted and happy.

I have a friend who is a serious community activist. I have great respect for him, and we both strive to take positive actions to bring about improvements in our community. We agree that one approach to improving society is through civil, public dialogue between people of differing views, which almost never occurs in our media.

But that is about all we agree on. We see the same realities, but our views about the actions that should be taken are totally different.

Several times through the years, we thought we might stir up interest in public dialogues between us dealing with the sensitive issues of our time, including race, poverty, welfare, education, crime, deteriorating communities and more.

How much interest did we stir up? None. Truth is often inflammatory and the distracted, happy Americans do not want to deal with our challenges. It seems our challenges are too sensitive to talk about in public, or they might make us unhappy.

How can we successfully function and address important social issues if we are unwilling to recognize our challenges and civilly seek positive approaches to addressing them?

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at