The subtleties of our social issues

Published 9:55 pm Monday, April 3, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

Newspapers and programs often include reports of Americans doing things to “make the world better.” Most of these efforts deal with staying alive or helping others stay alive. The desire to continue to live is the most basic of human motivators.

Having a “run” designed to create “awareness” is a common approach. It is rare for a week to pass when there is not such an event. Most deal with overcoming different types of cancers, other health problems, birth defects and so on. Some focus on violence and murder.

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These activities do good in creating awareness of different challenges and help participants feel good about themselves. Some raise money in support of overcoming the difficulty being addressed.

But most focus on glaring challenges. Many of our problems go unaddressed, particularly those dealing with social issues. These involve subtle factors that are hard to identify and address. To overcome our entrenched social problems, citizens must increase their understandings and sensitivities of what occurs around them.

My dad grew up in a small agricultural town in the Washita river valley in south-central Oklahoma. When I was a child, it was still a bustling community. Before the development of mechanized farming equipment, a lot of farms were small and required many “hands.”

Most people lived the rural area but came to town on the weekend to shop, see a movie in the only theater, visit with family and friends and so on. In the late ‘40s and ‘50s, the town was packed on Fridays and Saturdays.

Into the ‘80s, my parents owned one of the old family homes that they rented to young couples getting their start in life. Once, after a couple had moved into a larger house, the “rent house” needed repairs. My parents lived in it a few days while working on it.

My mother told the story of my dad deciding to go downtown on Saturday night to see what was going on. In many ways, my dad was a smart guy, but there were some aspects of understanding society he didn’t quite get.

They got cleaned up and walked the four blocks to downtown in the late afternoon. That was the time of day when, in the ‘40s and ‘50s. many would have been in town.

They waited for 45 minutes in front of what had been my grandfather’s barber shop. My dad was so disappointed. Not one person showed up. The social world had changed without my dad noticing.

Many causes of our challenges go unrecognized and unaddressed. To overcome entrenched social challenges Americans must spend more time studying the subtleties of society and history, identifying the causes of negatives, and effectively addressing them.

With available technology, studying and learning are not as difficult as before. A vast wealth of information is available to read on the internet and thousands of visual documentaries can be watched through rentals. To do so only requires citizens placing priorities on increasing their knowledge and understandings.

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