A Race to the Gutter

By Emily Felder

Now is a very strange and anxious time to live in America, or this very world for that matter.

There is so much going on everywhere, all constantly at top speed. It’s hard to keep up, and even harder to remember. Information is so accessible that it’s nearly lost in translation. More specifically, it’s lost all significance of actually existing because something new and improved takes its place before we’ve had time to register it all. This hyperactive flow of information has caused our Western culture to be what it is today. Put simply, our culture has developed a palette for whatever is edgier and raunchier than yesterday. We now embody Kanye West’s “better, faster, stronger” attitude.

But are we Americans really any of those things?

Whether it’s in the national headlines or on your iPod, you will notice the trend of an appeal for what is the most shocking. There is a reason why candidates like Michele Bachmann and reality TV stars like Snooki are so popular. It’s not that they don’t have ‘genuine’ fans, but instead that we as a society are no longer merely interested in what is the most shocking, but rather we excite in enabling and promoting it.

There is no longer any sense of modesty in our political arena or airwaves. There is only the heated political spin amongst Republican candidates and the media outlets, even the White House, and only the sexually graphic images and lyrics pulsing through our movie theaters and headphones. And it’s all simply to grab your attention and keep you watching and listening, not to actually inform you or make you feel anything beyond your hormones. The papers subliminally scream “crisis” in bold lettering every day now, updating their feeds and tweets 24/7. Paralleled is the incessant need for watching and listening for celebrities and “artists” to be ranked as the crudest, the most stupid, the most superficial, the most bad-ass, the most deranged or the most sexually deviant. We only want to see cut-throat politics mirrored by deep-throat pop songs. Unfortunately, this will be our very demise as a functioning, educated and responsible society.

On all corners of the earth now, unlike ever before in human history, we need mutually beneficial and integrated change. Because it’s not just America and our economy – it’s the fragmented Arab world, it’s China, it’s the crumbling European Union, it’s global warming, it’s famine in Africa – and so on. And it’s not going to take a one policy fix, but an entirely and radically altered mind-set.

I am anxious. Life is going to be much harder for our generation than it was for our parents. This anti-intellectual movement among our youth isn’t going to help. I know we go to the University of Massachusetts, commonly referred to as a party school, but this is also a flagship institution supposedly educating our future American workforce, inventors, leaders and thinkers. President Barack Obama says our generation will save the world, but I’m not sure we even know how to tie our own shoe-laces without a YouTube video tutorial.

There are those of us who think and do. There are those of us idealistic enough to learn our trades and our history, and learn it well. The burden is going to be great. I am not going to live the life I thought I would live, nor will my siblings, or friends, or you for that matter. We cannot live in this non-stop party bubble any longer where we are so desensitized by the news that we’ve completely stopped paying attention. You’d think with all the knowledge we have of the natural world and flow of global markets that we’d be able to understand the concept and need of adaptation. There comes a day every four years when you turn off your news channel and actually cast your ballot. There comes a point when the sun rises and the music stops. Boy, are we Americans in for a hangover – that is, if we don’t poison ourselves first.

Emily Felder is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]