The best is yet to come….REALLY???

cheerful and happy

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,

Kenneth



Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

57 replies

  1. I don’t drink coffee, Kenneth, but I enjoy these cups with you, every morning. Thanks!

  2. That’s a great post, I say.

    But, if as you say, you are getting ‘turned off’ psychology because you see a completely different cause for the issues viz. cultural imbalance ( like that term!), do you not see a great opportunity by taking a stand? Why this inclination to ” run away”?

    Cheers

    Shakti

    • good question; not necessarily ‘running away’ but reevaluating the best way to truly begin helping Western Culture deal with the problems that we face….

    • And, if I may ask, what inspires you to provide this help?

      Imagining you have reached the point where you are able to do it, what would it do for you?

      Shakti

    • hmmm…now THAT is a tougher question. I’ll give you two sayings that I hold close to my heart;

      Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return

      “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?”

      hope that helps :0)

    • Great thoughts there and I can see where your yearning lies. But as you think of that, do you see other ways of reaching that goal?

      Shakti

  3. I’m wondering after reading that if you aren’t beginning to delve into the realms of ‘oneness’? If you are you are not alone. Imagine . . .

    • i’m not sure what you mean by oneness; dictionary search says ‘divine simplicity…god is without parts’?

    • sorry . . . As I was reading your post the thought came to mind .

      Oneness is more a way of looking and moving through the world than a definition . . . I am an individual and about as independent as an old man can get, not religious at all, but I live my life in oneness.

  4. Being an individual isn’t a bad thing. But like an individual drop of water we all need to work together to become strong as an ocean.
    We need to rethink our thinking, that much we know and that is what you try to provoke with your writing, in no way is it complaining.We simply asking a question.and make people think

  5. Even in small tribes where people share everything , etc. it was found that those people are resentful and have negative, even hateful feelings for each other. They are forced into communal behavior in order for the tribe to survive and when asked they will admit this. I think your ideas are nice but unrealistic. I don’t believe that sharing and caring is our natural way of behaving. Cave people didn’t gather together but lived in small groups. In times of great crisis people work together but when the crisis ends they go back to their normal behavior. Lions live in prides, most animals live in groups, but they don’t help other lions and their pride’s. It’s not what we are. So you may dream that caring and sharing would make for a lovely world but that’s a fantasy because we are not wired like that, at least on the whole. There are always exceptions of course. The reality is that people start to resent other people, even people they love, and see them as a burden, if they are too needy or ask for help too often. Sibs fight over who is going to visit dad this week. We don’t even trust each other. We have a government who is elitist, greedy and out of touch. Neighbors fight, neighborhoods fight, sports teams fight, Springfield hates Chicago, schools fight each other. We are competitive. Even those in “caring” professions don’t always care. Seriously, since the first human- like creature threw a stone at the next guy for getting too near his cave..we were off and running. Con men/ women count on the kindness of strangers…that’s why no one trusts those who ask for help. There are articles written on how much people who beg make each year/month. The things you are saying come from your heart but nice as those ideas are…it’s never gonna happen. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “nice” people taken advantage of time and time again. I can give you one example after another. Kindness attracts nasty and abusive people like honey to a bee. I don’t think people are a nice as you think they are. The woman you spoke to in the coffee shop was a thief and took her child’s outfit…she could afford to pay but decided she shouldn’t have to do that. People are not honest or nice. They are what they are and I certainly don’t think our culture is the only one like this. When I was in Paris last year, there were old women sitting on the street begging. They sat quietly. I asked a guide if they were just begging to beg and she said no. The women are poor and need food. Tourists were the only ones giving them money. I gave them money (probably a LOT of money LOL because some of them were holding on to my hand crying..I had no idea what the money was worth so I just handed them stuff). The French people just went to work and walked by the old women without looking at them. Too much need. Overwhelming. Never ending.

    • what I see is a realistic view point of the human condition. What you say IS what is, . . . . the best duality can offer us is balance. . . . the question is: Do we have to remain in duality? Who says so?

      Oneness is merely coming to the awareness that we are not only called to be our brothers keeper . .. but we ARE our brother. . . . pie in the sky to a realist perhaps, but and absolute to a dreamer. . . we are not all that we can be, not even close. . . One man sees God as an individual entity, one man sees God as a state of being.

    • I agree with u that whether communal culture or individualistic culture;conflict always occurs…..

      However, among individualistic cultures there definitely appears to be higher rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

      Communal cultures have their own share of psycho-social-economic problems……but what I’d like to aim for is a balance between the two 🙂

  6. My mother in law was heavily medicated for thirty years. I suspect initially she developed post natal depression which spiralled into drug abuse, all prescribed for her. Eventually the family agreed to seek a change in psychiatrist. She was in her late 50s. She was admitted and taken off all meds. She had counselling as did her husband. Prior to this she had spent approx 9 months of every year in hospital. Now twenty years later she has never had an admission since! I get what you are saying.
    However I have seen many people recover and live good and happy lives after counselling. So a good counsellor (maybe you?) really makes a difference.
    Great posts. I always enjoy reading.

  7. I’m not for “oneness.” I like individualism, but as all things in this world are corrupt I expect people to take things too far. We do it in everything (including drinking vast amounts of coffee–haha). Convenience wasn’t always a bad thing–it’s why all tools were invented–but again taking drugs to quickly fix a state of mind is a misuse of convenience (not to mention a very profitable one). I would say the culture is swinging more to a oneness in thought and action brought on by a collective worship of celebrity and a system of education that certainly doesn’t value individual uniqueness. The loneliness and sadness could possibly come from people knowing deep down that there is something special and God-given to each of us but we are constantly being kept in a prison of group think. Churches screw things up too, but scripture teaches that each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made–you’d never guess it in our culture.

  8. Agreed! The current situation puts me in the mind of FDR- “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We’ve learned to fear each other. It’s not an irrational fear, either. It seems the only way we can learn to trust is to become more trustworthy. The last decade has been a crisis of faith in humanity for me. As individuals, we must all see our place in the big picture, and act accordingly. Bottom line, the government cannot be trusted (big business, pocket), and our country was founded on the principle that we ARE the government. Henceforth, we can’t trust US. When we relearn to adhere to the golden rule, we will learn to trust again!

  9. I have often pondered on this very subject. Human nature, at its core, is all about survival and so people will act how they act because they perceive it to be the best way to survive. In our modern world where large beasts are not chasing us through a forest and cold temps are not freezing us to death we have to look to our society for things that are a threat to us. People will scam others to assert dominance and gain financial assets because they see it as the easiest way to survive. If the situation appears to be out of their control than people will work together, but because other humans remain our major threat to survival our very nature is constantly whispering to us that other people are not to be trusted. Too often we have seen other people be taken advantage of, been hurt by those we trusted and hear stories of people hurting/killing other people. Enough of that and it would be illogical not to mistrust other humans. That being said, the minute we all give up the hope that we can do better and be better than our nature is the day there is no more hope for humanity. I wonder if humans are the only species on this planet to actively go against their own nature and try to change it? We evolved from animals and the only way we will continue to evolve is when we can tell our mistrustful/fearful/selfish nature to shut the heck up and choose to provide ourselves the opportunity to have faith that we don’t have to be alone to be safe.

    • I’m really glad u specifically mentioned “human nature” because that is exactly what so much of the issues within our culture stem from; our true human nature

  10. Great post! hitandrun1964’s comment illustrates well the sensitivity nerve you touched.

    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.

    You are complaining. 🙂 You may as well admit it. Because we all suffer, we all complain far too much. We forget to be thankful. We fail to remember we have the gift of salvation, that we just have to accept it.

    As John Donne observed “No man is an island.” Nevertheless, we are separate beings. Therefore, community is not something we can legislate or demand. We can only have it by loving our neighbor.

    Why is it so difficult to love our neighbor? What we want from a sense of community. Is it not affirmation of our self? Don’t we seek proof we are worthy? Because we are each sinfully selfish, no human being can give us what we want. Because salvation — the forgiveness of our sins — is of Christ Jesus, whatever peace we have is a gift of God, not man.

    Why is loving another unselfishly more than we can do? We still look to this world; we are still full of envy and strife. But there are those who strive to love unselfishly. These look beyond this world and this life.

    If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. — by C. S. Lewis (quote from here)

    • I definitely agree with u that community cannot be legislated, it needs to involve sacrificial living on the part of those interested

      I’m one of those “wacky Christians” who feel compelled to live in the here-and-now and while I definitely look forward to whatever the future holds, I take seriously the Christian concept that pure religion is helping the widows, orphans, the poor, etc…. 🙂

    • Helping the widows, orphans, the poor, etc….is about storing up treasures in heaven. No?

      How do you define individualism? Why are we individualistic?

  11. Hmmmm. I can’t remember if I told you about my health situation or not, but because of it I became really depressed (suicidal even) and was referred to a psychiatrist, who is HILARIOUS but also has me on a couple of medications…I mean they are helping (I don’t want to DIE anymore) but I am sort of becoming “awakened” to who I actually AM

    I’m not afraid to BE that person either. My only real fear is if I get OFF of the meds will I go back to being who I was prior??? Or has what I learned during my awakening enough to keep me sustained and healthy.

    I’m not expecting you to answer all of these questions; I am actually just venting.

    As far as the faith part of it, I get you there. I guess I would say I am a “Spiritual” Christian not a “religious” one…there are too many flaws as a collective for me wanting to be classified or grouped in.

    So maybe my individuality is healthy?

    Because despite the residual physical pain. I seem happier.

    Or is it the drugs? LOL

    Thank you for reading my ramble. If I didn’t have to go to the Laundromat, I would have some more coffee myself. 😀

    • One of the positive aspects of medication is that it can help calm us enough and give us the opportunity to truly work on the issues in our life that need to be addressed. A best case scenario is when the med’s are used until the time that the individual has learned necessary coping skills so they wont need the med’s anymore when the various trials of life come….

      Some people may need med’s for life but it is difficult to truly know who those people are because more than 70% of society is on med’s and it’s a big mess at the moment

    • understood, thank you so much for replying

    • Check out my blog, please. I am a Buddhist who loves communicating with Christians who think this way!

    • consider yourself followed…but question think what “way”?

  12. Great post, and I get it. What’s interesting to me is that you have to state things like: “Hey, I’m not trying to say I’m some kind of loon who hates the United States and the Western World……”

    What’s interesting, or rather maybe sad – is that there are so many people who would come to that conclusion. I can understand what you are saying and I have no reason to believe you are against the United States or the church or anything. I get it.

    Sadly, even though you have explained yourself, I’ll bet there are plenty of folk who are going to read only what they want to read out of your statement. Those are the folk who write such nasty comments to you. Oh well, say what you gotta say and hope for the best.

    Thanks again for thoughtful posts that get me thinking about things.

    PS – by the way, you are still a counselor/therapist – holding up the mirror for us to look at ourselves.

    • Totally agree with this! Sad day when we have to put disclaimers for everything we say. Tsk tsk.

    • Rhan, I’m beginning to think “u get me” lol….yes, I make a lot of “caveat” introductions to the things I say because readers extrapolate the strangest things from my articles.

      I’m always dumbfounded that a week can’t go by without some Christian writing me an email or making a public comment accusing me of being anti-Christian….its strange to me because I’m so passionate about my faith…..but because I’m not dogmatic (in the sense that I’m not trying to ram my faith down people’s throats) I guess it is offensive to certain religious folk

      One of the strangest days occurred recently when I was accused by one person of being a socialist/communist and another person accused me of being a radical republican capitalist…….both in the same day!

      The truth of the matter is that I’m a very moderate, middle of the road person when it comes to my view on life and I like to look for compromises where we can all try to live together without killing each other

    • Consider.
      1. Everything is relative. What we see depends upon where we choose to stand.
      2. We take the measure of others from our own point of view.
      3. We have a personal bias. We see our own needs first.

      As an act of pride, some people will label themselves as “extreme.” However, what such people generally mean is that others cannot measure up to their personal standard.

      In our hearts most of us think ourselves as reasonable and “moderate.” Thus, when find someone who disagrees, we have no problem castigating them, particularly over the Internet.

      Why is not using the Bible as our standard, instead of our own point-of-view, dangerous? We don’t know enough. If the Bible is of God, then it provides God’s viewpoint, and only God has a point-of-view that encompasses all the relevant factors. Only God has the wisdom to decide what is good and what is evil.

  13. I, too, love this comment: “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.” It is in the remembering that we yearn for a better place, work towards a better place. Thank you, once again, for your thoughtful post!

  14. Cultural imbalance – interesting concept. I agree with what you’re saying of course. Things just seem all out of whack. How to get back in balance is the question. Once so far down a certain road can you turn back or do you need to find a new balance if you will? Will have to see.

    • “cultural imbalance” I could be wrong but that could be the first original term I’ve ever come up with…..everything else im sure I’ve borrowed from books, authors, friends, mentors, etc……although, if I think about it long enough I’m sure someone used that term before and I liked it so much I started using it……hmmm….maybe I just won’t try to remember where it came from so I can say its my own 😉

    • lol you’re ornery. did someone spit in your coffee today? geez

  15. The bit of your blog I’ve looked into has already shown me I probably wouldn’t agree with you on everything, but on this…the “cult” of the individual, the “me me me ME me me me” chorus, the self-help gurus…I completely agree. Completely. Churches SHOULD be holding themselves accountable for the state of their geographic areas. And by churches, I mean congregations. And by congregations, I mean people. And by people, I mean starting with ME. I grow a little more in this every year.
    So here we agree.

    *high five?* 🙂

  16. We sit inside with our TVs and separate from each other. I’m guilty, too! Europeans don’t have as much media access and are more inclined to have community. I agree with you 100%!

  17. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts of a Girl with ADHD and commented:
    good article for my readers:

  18. If you don’t complain about it, who will? By sharing your thoughts with the rest of the world-us-you give us something to think about. Everyone might not agree with you on certain issues, but that’s okay; we are all entitled to our own opinion. Great post.

  19. I am learning so much from the comments here as well as your post.

    I think individualism and collectivism can be two halves of a whole– so it seems to me in my studies of the Tao and Eastern paths generally, but problems arise when there is not a balance– like the cult of “rugged” individualism you speak of.

    I have run into the “you’re on your own” mentality at church, but usually it manifests more as “when is it going to be someone else’s turn?”, “I am overworked already”, or even “I am tired of doing all the work.” I also had to skip over immediate leadership recently, because I needed more help ministering to a family in my charge… even though the leader should have gotten a clue by now how much I am struggling with my own health issues.

    • “I think individualism and collectivism can be two halves of a whole”

      Exactly :0)

    • Do you think that we as a society will look at this more when collectivistic Asian societies, especially on the Pacific Isles, come more into their own? There’s already a bit of discussion about this as far as Asian Americans and Western culture.

    • Very interesting question.

      I’ve written in the past that Western Society values certain cultural elements that other cultures do not……that is what much of my blog is about; questioning what we value and what really matters.

      Thus, we here in the West tend to have a tendency to look at the East and other non-Western cultures as though they are ‘backwards’ or we refer to them as ‘third-world’ countries….as though they are irrelevant unless they become Industrialized, cover their cities with concrete, build strip malls, etc…..

      Until we begin reevaluating what really matters…our minds will continue to be clouded when it comes to being able to compare and contrast cultures. The great Sociologist Neil Postman is a major influence in my writings if you want to read one of the sources for many of my ideas. He was a prolific writer and his most famous books were “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and “The Disappearance of Childhood”

  20. Reblogged this on closetoeighty and commented:
    I came to the USA from the USSR and could not believe how good this country was. I love this country very much. But after 38 years of being in the West I find that you are right and that some very serious changes in all areas (culture, economy, politics, etc.) must be made.

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  1. IS IT THE CULT OF INDIVIDUALISM OR JUST THE PRICE OF SIN? | Citizen Tom

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