By Kenneth Justice
~ I’ve been dealing with a number of major issues this past year. I’ve mentioned before that last December I took a sabbatical from the counseling profession; for much of the last decade I have been involved in various types of human service work (the county jail, the rehab clinic) or enrolled in college finishing and pursuing a number of degrees and certifications.
It was in December of last year that I began to question my commitment towards psychology and the counseling profession;
—) I became concerned with the philosophy behind the psychological help that people are getting in the United States
—) I became concerned that the psychological system is mistakenly designed to ‘keep people in therapy’ rather than to move people out of therapy
—) I became concerned that the real underlying issues behind mental illness and psycho-social problems is only rarely about genetics and is more often about negative cultural elements
Year after year I saw too many clients being given pills and not enough clients getting real help. The United States is one of the foremost leaders in the industrialized world when it comes to prescribing men, women and children medication. We are currently on a path that is set towards a future where everybody will be on some kind of prescription drug.
This concerns me quite a bit.
Every time I approached the subject I kept coming to the same conclusions; the problem has less to do with chemical imbalance but rather the real issue is cultural imbalance; problems with the way we live in Western Culture.
The Western World is full of people who are lonely. Individualism has robbed us of true community. The pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ has left many people feeling depressed because it doesn’t matter how much money and material possessions they accumulate; none of it makes them any happier.
In 2008 when the banking industry suffered one of the greatest collapses in world history; the gap between the “haves” and the “have not’s” increased which led to an even greater divide psychologically in the way each of us thinks about money and wealth.
The daily NEWS has become such a massive breeding ground of celebrity worship and jealousy that millions of Americans (and other Western countries) spend more of their time looking at pictures of movie stars and other Hollywood celebrities than they do reading good journalism about the issues that matter the most.
Religion has been another epic failure in the Western World. As I looked to Christian churches (which is what I was familiar with) for answers and help in dealing with the cultural failures of our society……I saw too many churches who had bought into the cult of individualism; too often church leaders demonstrate an attitude of ‘you’re on your own’ when it comes to finding a job, health care, babysitting, child care, and other real life issues. Too often church leaders demonstrate an attitude in which they say, “Our only job is to teach the bible, not to solve world hunger, lack of quality health care, and other social issues”.
And so I took a year off from working in human service and started blogging. I started writing about the cultural issues I believe need to be addressed. I believe the cult of individualism has led to failure in the way we think about relationships, family, economics, religion, art, and other integral components of culture.
When I read old articles I’ve written I often get a little miffed as I think to myself, “Kenneth, why does it seem that you’re constantly complaining about something when you write!?”
But then I’m reminded of the Judeo-Christian faith with which I was raised and the core principle behind the writings of the Torah which exist to remind us that; there is something wrong with the world. Religion helps to remind us that we are not perfect; we are ever in need of growth and greater wisdom. And so I remember that I’m not necessarily complaining, but rather ‘remembering’ that the world is not a perfect place.
Privately, I’ve been making a number of major life-decisions this year. I’ve been reevaluating the course I was taking and gently trying to steer towards a different destination; towards the things that I believe matter the most.
It hasn’t been easy. I have had to choose between ‘what I was told to believe’ and ‘what I now believe to be right’. We have all been taught that the Western World way of life is the ‘most ideal’. But I’m now beginning to reject that notion.
Hey, I’m not trying to say I’m some kind of loon who hates the United States and the Western World………what I am trying to say is that the cult of individualism has led us down a path that I believe needs to be reevaluated. Let’s be honest, even the colonialists who came to America didn’t share the radical individualistic ideals that we have all come to assume is a normal-way-of-life. The early Americans, despite their MANY faults, believed that success in the world depended on working together; via community, via relationships, via connections…….radical individualism would have destroyed their entire way of life.
And so as I keep moving forward in this new direction I am taking….it is scary, but I keep reminding myself that the best is yet to come.
Another coffee for now,
Categories: Culture & Society