Showing posts with label Night. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Night. Show all posts

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Surgeon General to fight “epidemic of loneliness”: I’m from the government and I’m here to help

Vivek Murthy, President Biden’s Surgeon General, issued an advisory a few days ago,alerting the nation to an epidemic of loneliness. According to Dr. Murphy’s report, about half of adult Americans experience loneliness, and the Surgeon General warned that loneliness can contribute to depression, high blood pressure, dementia, and other serious medical conditions.

Dr. Murphy announced a “National Strategy to Advance Social Connections Across Society." He called for more research on loneliness, and he pledged to enact pro-connection public policies and to cultivate a culture of connection in American life.

A few years ago, Americans would have greeted the Surgeon General’s advisory with derisive hoots and catcalls. Who believes the federal government can do anything to make Americans feel less lonely? What is Dr. Murthy proposing, Americans might once have asked: A government-run dating service?

Today, however, Dr. Murthy ‘s advisory is taken seriously. Maybe a few billion dollars in federally funded research at the nation’s elite universities will reveal how the nation can conquer loneliness After all, who knows more about loneliness than a university professor?

Perhaps federal money can banish loneliness from our daily lives, but I am skeptical. Americans once looked to their churches, their families, and social clubs for social connecutiveness. Unfortunately, many Americans have turned their backs on these institutions. Do we really think the federal government can provide the social connections that our religious faith, our families and our bowling leagues offer?

Besides, a little loneliness may not be such a bad thing. Throughout history, loneliness has inspired great art, great literature, and great music. Edward Hopper’s famous painting, “Nighththawks,” for example,masterfully captures the anomie and isolation of early 20th century urban life. J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye has spoken to generations of American adolescents because it is an almost perfect expression of youthful isolation.

Country music, perhaps America’s most original art form, speaks to millions of Americans because it expresses the loneliness that most of us feel from time to time. Roy Orbison's “Only the Lonely,” Johnny Cash’s “ I still Miss Someone,” and Merle Haggard’s “Looking for a Place to Fall Apart” are so powerful because they express one of the most basic of human emotions, which is loneliness.

In my view, the Surgeon General’s assault on the epidemic of loneliness will not make us less lonely. It will just make our loneliness more banal.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A financial tsunami is coming to sweep away our huckster economy: Time to scramble to high ground

I confess I have always been on the lookout for disaster, and so far, I've never experienced one.

As a practicing lawyer years ago, I was drinking a beer with one of my law partners in a harborside bar in Juneau, Alaska.  We happened to catch a breaking news story on the bar's television about an earthquake out in the Pacific Ocean. The reporter mentioned the possibility of a tsunami hitting Hawaii or some other unspecified place.

I told my associate we were leaving the bar that very minute to find high ground. He could barely conceal his mirth, but I was his senior at our law firm, and he dutifully followed me out the door, leaving his half-consumed beer on the table.

There was no tsunami, it turned out, and I admit that I overreacted. But I had a vision of being buried under a wall of cold Pacific Ocean water pouring through the streets of Juneau. I did not want to die that way.

We know, however, that catastrophes happen from time to time. The Holocaust, for example.  Some people saw it coming and escaped before the Nazis showed up, and some waited until the goons beat down their front door.

In Night, Elie Weisel's personal memoir of the Holocaust, Weisel told the story of Moishe,  a neighbor who lived in Sighet, a Jewish village in Hungary. The Nazis arrested Moishe first be because he was a foreign Jew. The Hungarian police rounded him up with other Jews and shipped them to Poland in cattle cars. There the Gestapo took over and transported the Jews to an extermination site.  The prisoners were then forced to dig their own graves, and then they were shot one by one.   Moishe escaped, however, and came back to Sighet to warn his neighbors about what he had witnessed.

Nobody believed him. It was just too incredible.  The Nazis would never slaughter civilians wholesale, they reasoned. But of course, they were wrong.

On the other hand, some people can see the future clearly in all its horror. William Shirer was a news correspondent in Germany as the Nazis came to power.  Shirer's wife was Austrian, and she gave birth to her first child in a Vienna hospital. As it happened, she was in the maternity ward when the Nazis invaded Austria. A Jewish woman in a room across the hall heard the news and knew what it meant. She jumped out a window, killing herself and her newborn baby.

For our own sake and the sakes of our family and loved ones, we have a duty not to lull ourselves into complacency during a time when an unthinkable disaster looms on the horizon.  And we are now in such a time.

The hatred toward our President has not abated since the 2016 election. It has intensified. The Democrats and Republicans are at each other's throat, and they've turned a medical pandemic into a political event.

I don't think it will matter who wins the November election. Either way, Americans are screwed. The Federal Reserve Bank is propping up the stock market to postpone an economic calamity, but that can't go on forever. The market will crash soon,  probably in less than a year.

Then we will know who acted wisely as the storm built on the far horizon and who will lose everything. And the people who did this to us--the crooks on Wall Street and their corporate cronies--will still be living large because they know the party is over and are already taking steps to preserve their wealth.

When the economy collapses, the oligarchs will be drinking mai tais in Costa Rica. The rest of us will be scrambling to pay our mortgages--and we will be damned lucky if we don't lose more than our homes.