Some countries have moved more and more toward a government that takes care of its people. As taxes go up, so does the number of benefits citizens receive for doing their part. They may not have perfect systems, but we can’t deny that our own could definitely use some improvement. As our taxes go up, our military gets bigger; funding for social programs dwindle away or get cut completely, while countless dollars go into constantly asserting our dominance through violence or the threat of it.
Corporations get caught in the middle of all this, and have more demands placed on them as the government feels like doing less. Many civilized countries pay for their people’s healthcare and holiday time, which makes the companies in these places able to thrive in ways they just can’t here. Somehow a lot of Americans have bought into the idea that their employer should pay them even when they aren’t working, and that they should provide healthcare in a system designed to turn pain into profit. The rest of us are just glad someone is doing something about these issues; clearly the people in charge have a different set of priorities.
Anyone looking closely could see the direction things were going a long time ago, here in the United States; even if it was a slow turn, we quite clearly did an about-face when it came to military policy. As the people in charge changed what defined us as a country, the amount of money needed to complete this metamorphosis kept going up year after year. A lot of this shift could be implemented incrementally, and was; but some swift changes were pretty big, and had an equally sizable and immediate impact. For example…remember awhile back, when they let out all the crazy people?
We can blame the guy who was in charge at the time they opened the doors on mental institutions, and a lot of people do. The rest of us see Reagan as a puppet, engaged in the final stages of his acting career; no matter who had been in office back then, they would have followed much the same path. We might be able to criticize Obama for threatening anyone dating his daughter with a drone strike; but we can’t pretend he invented or designed or built the drones himself. A lot of people are involved in making America’s military the biggest of all time, and the person at the top can no more stop the ship than they can cause it to change course at this point.
Way back when I was a kid, everyone knew what happened to people with serious mental problems. Part of the taxes people like my parents were paying went into creating and maintaining mental institutions to house and care for these folks. The system was far from perfect, of course: thorazine and electroshock therapy were administered pretty regularly, even when they weren’t fixing the problem; and everyone knew most of these places practiced neglect and abuse like they were supposed to be practicing medicine and compassion. Even so, very few people did anything about it. Instead they took comfort in knowing there was somewhere for folks plagued by such problems, and most of them allowed out of sight to equal out of mind.
Then the government realized this was really just a big money pit, and no profit would ever come from it. They cut funding to mental institutions, and decided the people who needed this kind of care would only get it if they could pay for it. Naturally, few folks with severe mental disorders could pony up the cash; and in most cases, neither could their families. So they opened up the doors to these facilities, and let the crazy people out en masse.
To their credit, they didn’t let out the criminally insane in most cases. This may be due to the fact that prisoners can legally be treated as slaves, while mental patients are not named in that law along with their caged counterparts. When one population can be worked with little or no pay and the other can’t, the only way to increase profits is by stuffing the prisons and emptying the mental institutions. So that’s what they did, to the point that there are now both more slaves and more homeless people in this country than ever before.
We might have a debate at this point, over what the best thing to do with mentally imbalanced people may be. I can’t say having my brain cooked regularly by electricity would be worth a warm bed and three square meals a day, any more than I can say I would welcome living on the streets. Both scenarios are far from ideal, as is putting these folks to work for no compensation. Americans have had the current situation shoved in our collective face for some time now, and no one has implemented any kind of lasting solution.
Even if a lot of us would like to roll back military spending in favor of social programs that might help, we aren’t the ones in charge of writing or cashing the big checks in this country. We can vote in the candidates that say they will do this sort of thing, but we don’t bother trying to replace them immediately when their campaign promises turn out to be so much fluff. Instead we shrug our shoulders, admit this is just the way of things these days, and get back to doing our part to keep the system going. If anything, the shocking number of homeless people we encounter on our way to work serves as a constant reminder: if we stop working, even if it is due to medical or mental issues, we will be cast aside as immediately and as completely as they were.
There may be a few people with enough money to deal with this situation for a while, but that money would run out more quickly than you might think. A billionaire would have trouble sustaining any solution that didn’t produce some profitable result, no matter how many billions they had. The most compassionate solution would probably cost the most money, and at some point the billionaire would face living on the streets themselves if they didn’t cut spending like the government did so long ago.
As much as wealthy people have been painted as the bad guys in our nation’s paradigm, they really don’t have any moral or legal obligation other than themselves. They certainly don’t have access to the creative financing options the government has. Maybe no one has the funding required to address this problem with a compassionate and lasting solution, and all that possibility does is make this issue one that is painful for anyone with a heart to consider at length.
Not talking about the problems facing modern society doesn’t make them go away, however; and neither does not thinking about them. I like to do my best to insert a little humor into these subjects, but sometimes the laugh is hard to find. Nonetheless, this is definitely a thought that hurts to think. That means it gets covered here, even if the only benefit you and I might see from it is our ability to agree that some aspects of the world we live in are undoubtedly messed up.
Whether we approach it from a chemical or psychological perspective, all of us are just one imbalance or tragic event from permanent mental incapacitation. Maybe that’s why I can’t chuckle as I write this, and why I refer to these folks as crazy people with as much compassion and respect as I possibly can. Some people suppose that the modern condition is creating more and more insanity, and I’m not one to argue with their conclusions.
Most of us have been programmed over time to live with the way things are, but that doesn’t mean the conditioning works for everyone. At some point even the strongest will breaks under enough pressure, and the possibility that our collective mind cracked a long time ago has been considered by people way smarter than me. Someone might find a solution to this problem one day, but they may just create a bunch of other thoughts that hurt to think in doing so.
And that’s okay, because apparently that’s just the way things work here on Earth. Personally, I’m having a great time doing this thing we call life; even if I’m often confused by how others choose to undertake this great endeavor, that’s just another sensation I’m privileged to experience. I do so hope you’re enjoying the complete range of scenarios and emotions this thrill ride is offering up to you. I also hope you come back next week to watch me act like I’m handling it all with a cool and calm demeanor, while I grip the safety bar with knuckles long since gone white from terror.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,