Crisis Perception vs. Reality in America Today

To watch the news or look at Social Media today, you see that the United stated appears to be crumbling under our feet and our way of life and our society is irrecoverably bad. But how do the facts measure up to the perception.

Our “Standard of Living” is a measure of the level of wealth, comfort, material goods, and necessities available to us as a society along with the negative things that affect our well-being.  I have looked to see where we stand historically in key areas that are used to measure our living standards.

Income

Median household income in the US has increased 19% (adjusted for inflation) since 1981

Hunger

Calorie consumption in the US has gone from 2,880 to 3,600 per person since 1960

Americans spent 17% of their income on food in 1960, 9.8% today

Life Expectancy

doubled since 1800 from 35 years to 72

Violent Crime rate

From 1991 to 2015, Murder down 36%, Rape down 11%, Robbery down 59%, assault down 30%, gun crimes down 51%

Disease

The top three killers in 1900 were Pneumonia, killed 202.2 per 100k population, today 34 per 100k population.  Tuberculosis killed 194.4 per 100k populations, today none.  Heart Disease killed 140 per 100k Population, today 864.7. You will see that heart disease is the new killer, this is because we are now living long enough for it to be a problem.

Poverty

The percentage of Americans living in poverty has gone from 10% in 1960 to 4% today

To look at these numbers, you would see that we quite possibly may be living in the best time to be alive in America.  For most Americans, our needs are being met and we are living longer and healthier lives, but to look at how our media portrays our current situation, we are at the brink of destruction.

Where is the disconnect?

Our system of communication both mainstream media and social media, has allowed the overreporting of incidents to our population that allows us to see bad things happening all over the world instantly which are reported with a passion that incites us, scares us and feeds our curiosity for the gruesome and horrible. 

Bad things that happen thousands of miles away are received with the same gusto as things that happen in our own towns and we show an equal care and fear for both. 

The Sky is Falling!!

Identity politics reporting is dividing straight from gay, black from white, poor from rich Democrats from Republicans meat eaters from vegans and many others by inflating real issues and creating new issues. Reading these reports is like reading the book “Chicken Little” and stopping before you get to the end to realize that it was just an acorn and we are all going to live. 

Recreational Outrage

 People actually crave and seek out new things offend and outrage themselves, it is a fact of life that many people crave drama and will create it for themselves if not enough drama presents itself.

Traditional needs and Maslow’s Pyramid

There is an old psychological model that I learned in College called “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” that Ranked and categorized our basic to advanced needs as human beings.  It is expressed as a pyramid shown below:

The more important needs are at the bottom and the theory was that each level of need must be satisfied before going higher.

  • Psychological needs – food, clothing shelter etc.
  • Safety needs – Personal, emotional, financial and health security
  • Love and Belonging needs – Friends, family, relationship
  • Esteem – Recognition, status
  • Self-Actualization – Realizing our potential

Some people in developing countries and refugees are operating solely in the first two tiers of the pyramid, as we progress, we work our way up the pyramid, mastering each tier until our basic and advanced needs are met.  Very few people in America are truly working to meet our basic survival needs although there are people who choose not to work to meet their own needs, but that is for another discussion.

Our journey up the pyramid goes from “Am I going to eat”, “what is safe to eat”, “Who am I going to eat with”, “where are we going to dine” to “Let’s take a class on how to make sushi”

I think that most of us in America should be in a position to be working on the level on the top of the pyramid, perusing our goals and improving ourselves, but information from Social and Mainstream media are reporting on issues that convince people that these first world problems are threatening their well being on the level low level needs. 

Threatening the survival and safety of a population is a great way to control that population, history has shown us this time and again. Introduce a fear gives people the perception that they are in danger and then present a solution to that fear and people will follow you.

As individuals, we are all products of our on decision making, that is why it is imperative that we choose real facts to influence our decisions.  It is up to each of us to fact check everything we read, check the source to see why it was written ans then decide for ourselves the weight that this information has in our decision-making process.  If we do this, we can properly rank where each threat interferes with the needs and wants of our survival.

So next time that you see a meme, article or news report that makes you feel threatened, try to figure out where on the scale of needs it threatens your survival before you make decisions or help circulate information that information further, recreational outrage is not healthy for anyone and it skews our perspective on what really is important in our lives.

Sources:

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Real Median Household Income in the United States

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEHOINUSA672N

Our World in Data – The Visual History of Hunger and Food Provision

https://slides.ourworldindata.org/hunger-and-food-provision/#/title-slide

Datasets – Life Expectancy at Birth

https://datasets.iisg.amsterdam/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=hdl:10622/LKYT53

Disaster Center – United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2017

http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm

Center for Disease Control – Leading Causes of Death, 1900-1998

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf

Our World in Data – Extreme Poverty

https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty

Classics in the History of Psychology – A Theory of Human Motivation by A.H. Maslow

http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm

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