Change, Or Die

By Michael Goodspeed

I've been an internet-based essayist for the last 5 years, and I'm a fan of many other internet authors. One of the most provocative is John Kaminski, a staunch (and often incendiary) opponent of the Iraq war, and the War on Terror. The best indicator of a political commentator's effectiveness is not his ability to persuade people, but rather to get them THINKING. Kaminski's latest essay, "The Corpse of American Culture," certainly achieved that with me. (
Reading this piece, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotional reactions - shellshock, anger, amusement, and sadness. The reasons for this were numerous. Firstly, it is a stunning "coincidence" that on the morning I read Kaminski's piece, I was near completion of an essay of my own, entitled "America: Land of the Free and Pathological." In my commentary, I made several observations that parallel Kaminski's -- i.e. American "culture" is built on lies meant to appeal to our egos and distract us from what really matters. Kaminski offers an effective example of this in the recent baseball steroid controversy, explaining that some of America's greatest "heroes" were cheats, and her national pastime a sham. Several months ago, I wrote a piece with some fairly similar observations entitled, "The Cultural Plague of Professional Sports." (;read=18962)
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Kaminski invaded my brain in an act of "psychic plagiarism," ala Johnny Depp in the movie Secret Window. (Actually, Depp's character didn't invade anyone's brain either, but I digress). Indeed, this is not the first time I've noticed this curious phenomenon. Quite a few times, I've had to scrap or rework entire essays, because someone else has beaten me to the punch, and/or made an argument more effectively than I ever could. We are all tapped into the same cosmic wellspring, where great ideas are not so much invented, but DISCOVERED. And this isn't the first time I've read something by Kaminski and thought, "Damn, I wish I had written that."
Kaminski's indictment of American culture also aroused anger in me. This is an old and impotent rage I've felt for years, directed at no one and everyone. I can't help but feel bitter over having been born and raised in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century. It is a raw, statistical fact that America is a more infectious breeding ground for emotional dysfunction than any other culture in the history of the world. If you doubt this, consider the following:
The United States has born and raised 76% of the world's serial killers, even though we hold just 3% of the world's population; we sport the highest rate of childhood murders and suicides among the world's 26 wealthiest nations; the highest rate of obesity of any nation in the world; the highest incidence of the eating disorder anorexia; the highest rate of adolescent drug use of any industrialized nation; and the highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the Western world.
I am embittered, because like millions of my contemporaries, the poison talons of American culture did not leave me untouched. Before I'd grown out of adolescence, I'd battled an eating disorder (anorexia), depression, suicide attempts, and Munchausen syndrome (the act of inflicting injuries on oneself.) Again, it is undeniable that these pathologies exist almost exclusively in the United States, and have only fully manifested in the last few decades. I can't help but wonder how different my childhood might have been if I'd simply been born in another place, at another time. And I can't help but grieve for the millions of souls who are suffering the tortures of emotional dysfunction.
The reasons for our collective dysfunction have been enumerated ad nauseam; our hopelessly "dumbed down" public schools; our chemically-laced air, water, food, and soft drinks, poisoning our bodies and damaging our brains; our rancid and spiritually vacuous culture centered around a media that markets murder and sadism as entertainment; our bought and sold "elected" officials, who make life and death decisions based on their own financial interests, and for whom "truth" is just a matter of semantics; our economy, which is guided by the principles of "win at all costs" and "screw everyone but me"; our corrupted religions, which have been usurped by political extremists and completely robbed of all spiritual meaning; and the monstrously hideous, cement and brick, Godless "architecture" that makes up most American cities.
As I make these observations, my bitterness grows and the rage consumes me. Can you blame me? We all suffer as the result of our collective dysfunction. Consider the major news headlines of the past week: John Couey's confession to the murder of nine-year old Jessica Lunsford; the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube; and the continuing tabloid saga of the Michael Jackson trial. On the surface, these stories may appear unrelated, but Couey, Jackson, and Michael Schiavo have one thing in common: they have all intentionally destroyed innocence. They did so without the slightest twinge of remorse or hesitation. Human beings only do this when they are completely and utterly immersed in self. This is the pathology of narcissism, and it is more pervasive in the US of A than any other country in the world.
Stating this opinion does not make me anti-American. It makes me a concerned and responsible citizen who wants desperately to awaken others to the unlovely truth. The United States, while bestowing her citizens with opportunities and privileges not found in any other nation, has become the supreme manufacturer of mental illness - violent, self-destructive, and sociopathic pathologies. We are going to destroy ourselves if we do not recognize the enormity of this obstacle before us.
And herein lies an opportunity to rise above bitterness, and find hope. An interesting fact about emotional dysfunction is that it has the ability to both paralyze its victims, and set them free. People who struggle with mental illness have only two choices: they can live in denial until their lives spiral completely out of control, or they can journey inward and confront their demons head on. I speak from experience on this. I have no doubt that I am a stronger, wiser, and happier person for having discovered first hand the pathway out of dysfunction.
The first step out of dysfunction is to recognize that your way of seeing the world is fundamentally flawed. You have been programmed to believe that your interests are separate from everyone else's; that in order for you to win, someone else must lose. Remember, mercenary competition is the key tenet of every aspect of American culture. The desire to be better than others stems from the belief that you are INCOMPLETE, and in need of an elusive, future reward in order to find happiness. This constant seeking of future fulfillment blinds us to the rewards that ALWAYS exist in the present moment.
In his book The Power Of Now, Eckhart Tolle speaks directly to this taproot of emotional dysfunction. He argues that the most fundamental step toward good mental health is to stop anticipating some future gratification (a tactic the ego uses to ensure its survival), and learn to be fully conscious in the present. Tolle speaks with urgency on the threat that the "egoic mind" poses to mankind's future: "If they do not free themselves from their mind in time, they will be destroyed by it. They will experience confusion, conflict, violence, illness, despair, madness. Egoic mind has become like a sinking ship. If you don't get off you will go down with it. The collective egoic mind is the most dangerously insane and destructive entity to inhabit this planet. What do you think will happen on this planet if human consciousness remains unchanged?"
Tolle's question is rhetorical. We see the answer manifested every night on the evening news. We are going to change our minds, or we are going to die.



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