It is only possible to understand American society if you comprehend the bipolar nature of its culture. That is the topic of this post and ones to follow. Since most people are not aware that our culture is characterized by this condition, I would urge you to share this and the following posts with as many people as possible. We can only help our nation as we recognize the nature of our national pathology.
Bipolar disorder constitutes a very serious condition. Those afflicted by it live in a depressed state for a time, being plagued by symptoms of depression such as a melancholy mood, listlessness, lack of appetite, and so forth. Then they will switch to a manic phase at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. They experience an emotional high (think 20 cups of espresso) that skews their sense of reality, making them feel invincible, and freeing them to practice risky behaviors and spend money irresponsibly, without concern about the consequences. Of course, consequences come, and they and their loved ones are left to pick up the pieces. Ultimately these persons move back into the depressive state, with the disaster they have inflicted on themselves and others giving them all the more reason to be depressed.
As we will see, American culture includes both a depressive and a manic component. Understanding our culture requires that we develop a working knowledge of both of these aspects of our society and how they feed off of each other.
The depressive component developed first in America, so we will discuss that one first. It stems from the belief that no God exists, but instead that existence is exclusively matter and energy. This perspective gained substantial momentum in America and elsewhere after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, which engendered the belief that the theory of evolution provides a naturalistic explanation for origins. Therefore, belief in God was viewed by many to be a prescientific fairytale.
This perspective does not constitute pure science since science should be free to go wherever the facts lead. If the evidence supports the existence of God, science and should be free to embrace that conclusion. However, in general, those advocating this position eliminate God from the outset, asserting that only the material universe exists. Therefore, a good name for this position might be materialism, which should not be confused with the use of this term to describe an inclination toward buying things.
This perspective became the majority opinion on most college campuses and the standard biology course content for high schools. A large majority of people in news and entertainment media advocate this position. Therefore, this perception has exercised a powerful influence in shaping American culture. Up until the 1960s, it competed with Christianity for dominance in molding American culture.
At one level this perspective might be viewed as anything but depressing. Based on the evolutionary teaching of survival of the fittest, we can feel good about ourselves as the achievers, the overcomers, the most gifted, the smartest. We claim the highest rung on the evolutionary ladder. Consequently, by excluding God, materialism in effect assigns the role of deity to humanity.
So what is there not to like about this arrangement? A closer look reveals a truckload of devastating negatives. It reduces human beings to matter and energy, leaving them without a soul. This deprives people of any distinctive value. In robbing humans of their souls, materialism only differentiates humans from animals in degree and not in kind. In fact, some educators began referring to children as “little animals.”
Based on this reduction of humans to materialistic robots, behavioral psychologists such as BF Skinner asserted that humans possess no capacity for nobility or dignity or self-determination, but rather concluded that our behaviors were merely products of programming. If you think someone loves you, you are naïvely mistaken. Think of the implications of this theory for marriage and other relationships.
By assigning our very existence to a series of accidents in the natural world, this perspective deprived life of any meaning. Materialism also deprived human beings of any life after death, limiting whatever purpose that we might envision to our earthly existence. All of existence is ultimately purposeless.
By eliminating God, materialism left humans with no help beyond ourselves. During tough times we have no one to pray to or from whom we can seek help.
We see then that materialism leaves us in a drab, cold, lonely existence. Who would not be depressed if they actually bought into this perspective of life? Therefore, it is no accident that the hippie revolution of the 60s found its impetus on college campuses where people took this perspective most seriously. The next post will discuss how this depressive materialistic view of life catapulted the American manic phase into existence.