Monday, July 7, 2008

Can't get no satisfaction

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. May 21-25, 2008. N=1,505 adults nationwide
"All in all, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country

Satisfied: 18%
Dissatisfied: 76%

Nearly every week we hear that people throughout the country are unhappy with the United States. As this recent poll fro the Pew Research group, more than three quarters of Americans say that they're dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today. 

To be fair, this is a very vague question and the causes of dissatisfaction are nearly infinite. The fact remains, however, that the majority of Americans are not happy with the status quo. But I ask, what right have we to complain. What exactly is it that everyone is dissatisfied with?

Is it the fact that most every person in this country can find food on his plate at least three times a day? Is it the fact that most households have a refrigerator to keep that food from perishing? Or a car to enable them to go that food? Or is it the supermarkets, which do the job of bringing the food to us, a luxury so recent to man that most people from other parts of the world still light up like a kid in a candy store when they come to witness our unparalleled abundance.

Are these people dissatisfied with the unmatched freedom they have to live as they want, do as they want, work where they want, associate with whom they want, and need be, to arm themselves for protection from aggressors? Are they unhappy with the incredible degree of choice they have in purchasing nearly every kind of good or service available to mankind, with the exception of the those few illicit goods that remain out of reach to the law-abiding consumer? And education? Yes, that's it, they're unhappy that virtually all Americans can count on receiving education all the way up to 18, and then after that, the ability to go to some of the finest universities in the world? 

Or perhaps they resent the fact that we can count on a remarkable degree of safety from our enemies abroad (and, indeed there are many). Maybe these people who are dissatisfied are the adventurous sort and want to wrestle with militant jihadists on American soil? I hear Afghanistan is very pretty this time of year. Go, have fun, but let the rest of us keep safe.

I could go on forever. And that's because there is so much more to be so grateful for than to be disappointed with. We are victims of our own success. Our unprecedented prosperity has made us soft and unable to recognize what spoiled brats we sound like when we proclaim dissatisfaction with our current circumstances. It was not so long ago that the general plight of mankind was, 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Even today, millions around the world confront the perennial hardships of the human condition, and we, who have escaped so many of them, feel the right to complain about our comfortable conditions? Sometimes I think a mandatory stay of 6 months in a Third World country would do every American so much good. We'd be begging to come home on day 3, but when those 6 months are over, we'd kiss the ground for every single day we have to live in this country thereafter.

We have taken our blessed existence as Americans for granted. It is for this reason that 76% of Americans can claim dissatisfaction. But, this is the wrong way to look at things. Indeed, there are things to improve. There is no doubt about this. And, doing as we always have, we will improve. We will adapt. But despite our weaknesses, we have far too much to rejoice in, far too much to thankful for to be unhappy with our privileged position in the world. 

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