Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Epiphany

I finally figured it out.

That's why I came back to this blog after over a year. I had to write this down.

I was in class. Yes, I know... I'm going on to become one of those 5-year seniors pretty soon. So, I have to finish a Japanese literature class, in order to finish a minor, in order to graduate next May.

My professor is a wise old Englishman. In fact, I'm fairly certain he is the Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man In The World". When he's not giving me the worst grades on quizzes and tests I've ever received in my life, he's introducing some clever new insight.

We had been reading ancient Japanese literature, which is filled with a fair share of sordid sex tales. On the topic of Japanese men getting a lot of action, Prof. Pennington chimed in: "Of course, nobody gets with each other in America, because nobody really likes each other in America!!"

That was it. I figured it out.

Americans are not anti-social. That's not it. Americans are quite social. For instance, I took a hike today at a popular trail in Tucson, and I passed about 11 people who happily greeted me with "Hello!".

The problem is that Americans don't really like each other.

Our relationships are more surface level than anything else. Our real priorities are in personal monetary success. Not everyone, of course. Just many of us. Especially in suburbia and the vast reaches of mainstream American society (delving into alternative culture may lend differences).

There is no NATURAL sense of comradery as I feel when I am in certain parts of Europe or hanging out with foreign students. When I am around people from other cultures, I'll meet a guy and find there's an instant 'brotherly' connection. Or, I meet a girl that I am attracted to and discover an instant sexual chemistry that doesn't require strain or effort to maintain (such as running "game" or trying to constantly demonstrate alpha behavior.)

I don't experience this among my fellow Americans, and this is what's led to my general dissatisfaction.

I have some good friends, for sure, and I do meet new people fairly often. But, it just requires so much more effort than it should. It's as if to be spiritual and inter-connected means to flow AGAINST the stream. And in a society built on foundations of materialism and selfishness, this makes sense. Furthermore, so many of us are deluded into believing the USA is "the greatest country in the world" (statistically, it absolutely isn't), so it does not occur to the xenophobic masses that America suffers from drastic social problems, leading to what I believe is vast unhappiness for most Americans.

In the wonderful, cliquey world of being at a big Pac-10 university, MANY people are impossible to know on a personal level. Here at the U of A, there is a pandemic of students who don't really think for themselves. You know them as the roving bands of guys and girls--all dressed the same, talking the same, and sharing no real bonds with each other at all. Some may have fraternities or sororities in common, or they play the same sports, but it's rare as gold to find people happily interacting with each other and enjoying the human experience. Even the romantic relationships are generally surface-level only.

It's like these people are so self-consumed they don't even stop to become aware of life outside of their heads. And, they always have that vacant stare on their faces. I can't accurately describe it, but it's their mouths are just slightly agape, eyes lethargically slanted, as if they are sedated to the world around them.

Is this a problem for me? It isn't. I immediately filter out people who are infected by this pandemic, and I gravitate toward the real and authentic people. I'm so used to this that I barely noticed these fake people until last semester, when it occurred to me how much I feel sorry for them. Do they have any true friends at all, besides that bottle of Jack Daniels? (It's true, I think half the students on this campus have real alcohol problems).

After college, enter Suburbia. Same problem, different environment. Fake neighbors, fake friends, fake careers continue to haunt you long after high school and college. "American Beauty" was a great film to satirize this, especially when Kevin Spacey's character comments that his wife is treating their children like employees. Again, in a country built on materialism, children are taught the virtues of ruthless self-success, Darwinian capitalism, and how to be apathetic and without compassion. The cycle continues.

In summary, this is what's going on. Americans are disconnected from life, love, and many things. Are you one of them? Do you live in a shell that makes you afraid of the world around you? Do you cling to familiar people and surroundings to avoid anything that will rattle your boat? Are you afraid to express yourself personally? Do you regard other people only for what you can get out of them? Do you lack real friends? Are you terribly frustrated because there is no grander purpose to your life? Do you drink a lot of alcohol, and eat a lot of food, to numb the pain?

If you do, it's possible you are a victim of a culture with a social disease. On one hand, yes you must work these problems out and discover some kind of inner-realization. On the other hand, recognize the cogs of the machine that create this culture, and then take some time off to visit other lands, and meet new people. Discover the amazing contrast. The entire world isn't the same.