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The Candid Conservative: Is America going crazy?
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 11:24
By CARL MUMPOWER
Special to the Daily Planet



“Looks like what drives me crazy don’t have no effect on you – but I’m gonna keep on at it, till it drives you crazy, too.” 
— Langston Hughes


The Problem

Don’t look now, but America is getting nuttier by the minute. We’ve always had our silly phases, but today we’re arguably struggling with more lost souls than any time in history.

 Sorry to disappoint, but it’s got next-to-nothing to do with our current commander-in-chief or failure to surrender to the left’s “socialism will scratch your itch” fantasies.

 America’s extended stay in crazy town tracks to a simple cause – the greatest of all determinants of the human condition – personal choice. More and more people are making a conscious choice to pursue destructive life scripts. It’s not going to end well.


Identity confusion

 In a complex and hyper-stimulated world, it’s easy to understand why people suffer confusion on who they are or should be. It’s easy to lose both in the bustle of a social firestorm that’s strong on distraction and low on character.

In the ‘70s, my profession was trained up on a diagnosis called an “Identity Disorder.” It was commonly applied to those struggling to jell their sense of self and was helpful in clarifying the uncertainty associated with navigating a complex world. With time we regrettably discarded the reference – today we’d be handing it out like candy.

With a fragile sense of how we fit into the world, it’s reasonable to seek ways to prop ourselves up. There’s a natural temptation to reach first for instinctive identity builders. Most of them work and require no training. Without exception, they easily become toxic.   

The five instinctive paths to personal identity can be counted on one hand – resistance, control, anger, selfishness and distraction.

 If these behaviors sound familiar, it’s because they’re skill sets commonly associated with two-year olds. It is not a good thing that they’ve fast become the life scripts for a growing percentage of adults.

 If you have an interest in preserving your sanity – or that of your culture and loved ones – the following may be of value.



Resistance

 Nothing defines a two-year-old better than their instinctive capacity to resist.

 “Tommy, put on your shoes.” “No.” “Tommy, stop feeding the dog your supper.” “No.” “Tommy stop hitting your dog.” “No!”

Resistance is the more common ways children begin to separate their identity from their mother’s. Nothing wrong with that – unless it becomes a habit.

In a permissive culture, we frequently place our children at risk by teaching them resistance as a long-term life script. It doesn’t work well in the real world and thus we are usually forced to eventually try something else. Wisdom is not always applied to that transition.  



Control

Ever noticed how children who can’t change their own diaper want to rule the universe? This desire for control is an instinctive attempt to feel safer in a scary world. It’s natural to imagine that the more one can control their environment, the more one is likely to survive the challenges of that environment.

The problem is that external control is helpful only to the extent it supports learning how to control ourselves. Self-control is doable – mastering the universe is not. Those who get stuck believing that external control is the answer to insecurities are doomed to fail. We must then press on to a more meaningful growth path or retreat deeper into baser instincts.




Anger

No one needs to be taught how to get mad. It’s in our DNA as a natural defense.

 It makes us feel stronger whenever something comes along that makes us feel weaker. The problem is that anger is a power emotion designed – like adrenalin – to be triggered sparingly. Without caution, the temptation to run from powerless emotions like hurt, fear, loneliness, and sadness to the power emotion of anger can become habitual. The more one goes there the more one will want to go there. Angry people become addicted to a drug they can self-produce.

But there’s a problem – every ounce of anger we carry comes packaged with a matching ounce of depression. Angry people tend to become depressed people and are thereby forced to seek other ways to prop up their identity. Seeing a pattern?



Selfishness

Remember little Tommy? Everything was about him – what he wanted, expected or demanded. Teaching a child to believe they are the center of the universe is a terrible thing to do.

Once that instinctive selfishness button is unleashed and rewarded, it’s hard to turn it off. Being selfish provides a temporary sense of safety and satisfaction – sort of like a big bowl of ice cream. All too soon that comfort wears off and we need a new fix – an even bigger bowl of ice cream.

The darkest place in the universe is inside ourselves. The more time we spend there, the more miserable we become. Selfish people increasingly become self-absorbed empty people desperate for comfort. They find it – temporarily – in the next word.




Distraction

One of the reasons little Tommy’s spend so much time being booger bears is that they get a hidden reward for their mischief – temporary distraction from internal fears, worries, and insecurities.

A certain measure of distraction is normal. Kids play is a form of distraction, but it helps to hone life skills. Problems occur when distraction moves from being a piece of life to the goal of life.

We live in the Golden Era of Distraction. Technology has created a world where we can evade reality, relationships and responsibility with unchallenged infidelity.

Unfortunately, all distractions eventually become boring and leave us feeling empty. When humans fail to grow in abilities, wisdom and skills – we grow miserable – and eventually run out of distractions.  



Today’s America

 You’ve just been exposed to a short-course on why so many Americans are growing crazier. Too many of us have become dependent on childlike instinctive sources of identity development that are temporary, destructive and addictive.

 You may have noticed that each of these behaviors is playing a central role in today’s political landscape. Though the thus aligned are doomed to failure, the question astute culturists have to ask is how many of us are going down with them – and what can we do to resist the slide?

 Here are a few suggestions.



A better way

The antithesis to an instinct is a skill. The former comes naturally – the latter has to be learned.

There are five antidotes to instinctive approaches to identity development that create a constructive foundation for identity development. Those wishing to avoid slaughtering themselves or their culture can find hope in love, morality, productivity, learning and gratitude.

Love explains itself. When we seek to uplift our fellows, we naturally leave inner darkness and become a source of support, value and problem-solving to the world. That’s really all that love is, but that’s a lot and it’s a great foundation for personal identity.

Morality finds us with an ethical compass that can guide us to good places in a not so good world. In contrast, running on instinct gets us lost.

For many, a better path to developing and retaining a moral compass is found in the pursuit of faith. Having a positive relationship with God provides an inimitable source of personal identity.

Speaking of responsibility, that word is intertwined with another personal identity superfood – productivity. Being productive is one of the greatest sources of personal power and meaning. Those finding ways to make the world a better place have a fast-track to self-worth.    

Want another positive path to a good identity? Get busy learning stuff. Education and the wisdom are two of the few things, once acquired, that can never be stolen.

Last on our top five positive paths to identity development is a soft but extraordinarily powerful word – gratitude. The grateful are also naturally more positive, optimistic, generous, considerate and other good things that help expand one’s sense of self. It’s not possible to have an angry, negative, selfish or otherwise miserable countenance and be grateful at the same time. Gratitude is a widely discounted magic elixir.

In a hard world we are all faced with a clear challenge – rely on the simple, deceptive and short-lived successes of instincts or the more complex, demanding and effective challenges of learned life skills. It’s a choice few people make consciously – so instincts tend to win. America is busy reaping the fury of that error.  

 We’re debatably already at a tipping point. Choice – not color, age, gender, advantage, or luck – will determine the ending point….
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