To be healthy is countercultural. I’m not saying that this is necessarily anything new. Historians often take a cyclical view of history, and see cultures and civilizations rising and falling – Alexander the Great, Attila and the Huns, Xerxes and the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the British Empire, and finally our own American one. Debt, social fracturing, war, and internal political conflict often mean the passing of one culture and the rise of another. When the culture you live in is disintegrating, and passing away, it is often only sensible to take step back and look at it to see what you need do to remain healthy and hold on to what’s good about the culture you came from. I believe that is the period we’re in now.
Thinkers like Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book “The End of History” predicted a long period of peace and prosperity for the world. That was to be expected I suppose, for a book written in 1992, after the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall had recently fallen and the “New World Order” laid out by George HW Bush was ascendant. In 1992, all looked well. September 11, 2001 and the 2008 financial meltdowns associated with government and private debt practices, as well as the strains of global immigration and the terrorism it is spawning have put an end to these global utopian fantasies. I’m not trying to be an alarmist, or all doom and gloom, but the fact is that our way of life in America is quickly evaporating, both from a moral, spiritual, ethical, demographic, and cultural perspective. America in 2030, 2050, and 2100 will be a vastly different place than it ever has been, because America in 2017 already is and the trend will only continue.
Our obesity rates are climbing, particularly in children. We don’t know our neighbors. We don’t walk, and if we ride a bike it’s dangerous. Our suicide, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental illness rates are climbing. Our prescriptions are increasing, as well as our health care costs. The murder rate is being kept down by a heavily armed and increasingly paranoid private citizenry, but crime is stagnant or increasing. Most major cities have no-go zones worse than some of the poorest countries in the world. I know because I’ve been there, here and abroad.
We have no respect or trust in our government, and we are deeply divided about politics. We have no ubiquitous moral narrative or vision and seem only to value anti-values. We disdain and mock religion, particularly if it's the religion of our ancestors, and we have no connection to a past of any type. Our families imply no lifelong commitment or duty. We have no traditions, and our young people don’t even understand what the word honor even means. Not only do we not know anything, but we don’t even know that we don’t know anything.
We don’t have a culture, we have an anti-culture. As Dr. Meic Pearse says in his “Why the Rest Hates the West”, no wonder other cultures and countries resent us, as we try to export this unhealthy way of life abroad. Every day, we hear about rights, and every day the rights we demand increases, but we never hear about duties. We ask for more, but we never ask what we need to do to deserve it or earn it. Men and women hate each other, and even worse they are taught to hate each other. Children are treated as an inconvenience, at best. The divorce rate is steady, at 50%, but that’s only because the poor don’t marry anymore. If they did it would be 80-90%. The wealthiest among us live like its 1950 (a vastly different culture from our own), where the men go to work while the women stay home with the kids, or they hire full – time staff to watch their kids. A stable family life like this for children of the middle or lower classes is a thing of the past, it simply does not exist. Working class and middle class wages are stagnant, and have been since the late 1960s and early 1970s, while immigration policies create an even greater downward pressure on wages.
Literacy rates are way down. Teachers get no respect, and must essentially be parents for a dysfunctional and growing dependent lower class. Our public schools are some of the lowest ranking in the developed world, even though we spend more than any other country, and increasingly they have a political agenda to taint the founders and founding constitutional principles of the country in a negative way.
The country itself is in debt by $20 Trillion dollars and this grows every day. This even though our birth rates, which in theory would create taxpayers who one day repay this staggering amount, are declining and thus burdening our children with an even greater load. We finance our entire lives and live off consumer debt. 70% of Americans have $1000 or less and 50% of Americans have no money at all. I stated earlier that our only values are anti-values, but we do have at least one value – instant gratification, which is not a healthy value.
If we do live in an empire, it’s an empire of nothing. This empire, unless something drastic changes, is bound to pass away, because it’s based on nothing, values nothing, and requires nothing. It is not sustainable. So, the question is, in this milieu, what should we do to be healthy?
If you made it this far, here’s the conclusion I’ve come to after studying health for over 22 years:
If you want to be healthy in America, you must be countercultural.
Rethink everything. Go against the grain. Re-embrace wisdom, community, learning, physical activity, family, tradition, duty, courage, restraint, and a sense of lifelong, meaningful commitment. I know this is true, because in addition to years of research and reading, I have lived this, and I’ve struggled with this culture too, to do the right thing, the good thing, and the healthy thing, just like everyone else. It's not that we need to go back to any era of the past, we couldn't if we tried. It's that we need to face the facts as they are today. Ironically, as negative as all this seems, if we face the truth we can then proceed in a constructive way.
Rant over. Now get to work!
Suggested Readings & Sources:
Why the Rest Hates the West by Meic Pearse
Amusing Ourselves to Death and The End of Childhood by Neil Postman
The State of the American Mind by Mark Buerlein
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
The Road to Serfdom by FA Hayek
Warning to the West by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Read Next: Why I am Writing a Book About Freedom