Thinking Out Loud: Are We Witnessing The Decadence in U.S. Society That Makes Disintegration Inevitable?
November 23, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry
Greed: The Root of All Evil?
While watching MSNBC on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, I could not resist departing from what was to be my next article to record and comment on some of the events on the TV program. They seem to speak with one dramatic voice, regarding the issues which caused me to write the series.
While the host was interviewing two persons, at the bottom of the TV screen read, Drug Death Has Become Top Campaign Issue For Both Parties.” One of the persons interviewed said that in one town in Virginia, employers couldn’t find anyone without a drug problem. The drug problems were also creating employment challenges in other cities. The other interviewee said, “Forty-four deaths a day result from drug addiction. It has created enormous health problems.” He related the story of a woman who had seven adult children who were addicts.
President Barack Obama is among the leaders who have turned their attention to drug addiction. He has added $100 million to address the problem. This sudden concern about drug addiction by people who have heretofore generally expressed no interest, reminds me of the drug problem in my youth to which I have already alluded. The problem did not cause the larger society any concern until it was discovered that Euro-Americans, particularly their young, were involved. In my lifetime, the Black communities have been dealing with the drug problems since the days of my youth back in the mid-1940s. It had never gained attention except as in some way to inflict pain and punishment.
As I have stated, the only treatment center was in Lexington, Kentucky. Then in 1957, James Allen started the Addicts’ Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Harlem, New York City. Now that big bucks will be flowing, I hope that those who have been struggling at the grassroots, with little or no resources, or resources from their own coffers, will be dealt with directly.
The drug epidemic created another problem – mass arrest. Hence, we have two towering problems – mass incarceration and substance abuse, which have reached the highest levels of society, even the President of the United States; the U.S. Congress; State, City, and Municipal Legislatures across the country; and, leaders in the corporate world. Let me make the point, as I have often made: there is a web which weave us all together. We reap what we sow. There is such a thing as karma. Because these problems were first generated by sociological and economic conditions, and because they benefited certain people and damned other people, they were left to fester. Like a disease, it has spread and engulfed the whole society in devastating ways.
America is 5% of the world’s population, and 45% of the incarcerated population. America jumped from 500,000 incarcerated individuals in 1980 to 2.2 million today. A 440% increase over 35 years. Let us hope that it is not too late to heal our ills.
The MSNBC reporter stated that there was a story in the Wall Street Journal which related the death rate of whites. I secured the newspaper. The headlines read, “The Death Rate is Rising for Middle-aged Whites.” The subheading stated, “Addiction and Mental Health Issues Largely Drive a Reversal of Decades of Longevity Gains.” The article was written by Ms. Betsy McKay. She wrote, “Suicide, alcohol abuse, drug overdose, and chronic diseases largely drove the rise which occurred between 1999 and 2013, according to the report Monday in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those causes of death offset declines in other major drivers of mortality in mid-life such as lung cancer, the study said.”
She quoted Mr. Michael Eriksen, Dean of Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved in the research work. He said, “Substance abuse and alcoholism are taking their toll in a way people haven’t acknowledge.” Ms. McKay continued, “No other rich country has seen a similar reversal and the trend is at odds with falling death rates for Black and Hispanic Americans in that age group over the same period,” said the authors, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who are Economic Professors at Princeton University.
While the study is not absolute in determining causative factors, it is recorded from data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that middle-aged whites have increasingly reported mental health problems and difficulties dealing with daily life. 1 in 3 reported chronic pain between 2011-2013. Another development is that the increase in mental and musculoskeletal health may explain some of the recent otherwise puzzling decrease in labor-force participation in the United States, particularly among women. The authors said economic stress may play a role in substance abuse by middle-aged white people according to the study. Another consideration put forth, growing out of economic factor, is that many people are reaching mid-life minus the bedrock of the American dream. They are making more money than their parents did, and enjoying it less. The findings illustrate the ways in which some people are responding to physical and mental pain, adversity, and changing life situations, researchers said.
The rising death rate is linked in part to prescription drug abuse. Whites leads in non-medical use of prescription pain killers. Suicide in 2013 was highest among whites and people, ages 45-64. The U.S. suicide rate overall rose from 10.9 per 100,000 in 2005 to 12.6 per 100,000 in 2013, according to the CDC data.
Mr. Bernie Sanders, Democratic President candidate, stated, “We are witnessing a collapse of the America’s working class…They are in despair.” As usual, he returned to the income inequality. To quote Mr. Sanders again, “Greed is destroying America.” (I wonder if having a Black president within that time contributed to white stress and other illnesses.)
Two more stories were reported on MSNBC. One was the bizarre story of the death of a veteran police officer. He committed suicide. However, before his death, he concocted a story of being attacked and shot by three men – two whites and one Black. After thorough investigation, evidence became conclusive that he had actually killed himself. It was discovered that he had been stealing from his non-profit organization.
The other story involves a company, Takata, an airbag supplier. Honda Motor Company, on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, severed its relationship with Takata as its airbag supplier. The company concluded that Takata had “misrepresented and manipulated test data.”
Eight deaths and over 100 injuries have been linked to the defective airbags whose metal casings called inflators can rupture violently, sending shards flying into the passenger cabin. More than 1 million vehicles in the US and millions more worldwide have been recalled. Because Takata refused to acknowledge the truth, a serious problem became a injury-ridden, death dealing catastrophe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a $70 million penalty for Takata. That penalty could increase by a $130 million if Takata does not live up to the terms of the consent order.
We have observed, and, I repeat, the issues which I have been raising in my series. They are gathered on the same plate in startling manifestations. We have the epidemic of substance abuse, pervasive sickness, and suicide. All of them are rooted in greed, which is driven, some believe, by economic factors. Takata is just one small representative of the insatiable greedy.
… to be continued.
(Originally published in the Daily Challenge on November 6, 2015.)