A recent NPR report on “All Things Considered” was titled, “Today’s Americans Duck Knowledge.”  According to a new Pew Research Center for People and the Press survey, most Americans are no more knowledgeable about current affairs today than they were years ago.

I’ve been searching for a word to describe the current state of affairs in our country.  While toying with the idea of “ignorance” and “apathy” seems to be in vogue, these seem to be too harsh, in a way.  While they certainly apply to some degree, there are extenuating circumstances.  Being fair, the very necessities of living can make even the most intelligent and caring of people less involved in political and social change than they would be under other economic or personal conditions.

Another word being used is “cynicism,” which denotes a disbelief in hope and man’s seemingly inherent ability to change.  There are antidotes to cynicism, probably more so than for ignorance and apathy.  But for a certain number of people, cynicism has become a shield, of sorts, that presents a barrier to growth and the evolution of a greater consciousness.

In a recent article by a friend, (Thank You, Janet!), a description of our daily existence referenced the idea of superficiality.  A light bulb went on and I began wonder whether this was a cause or effect of the other conditions being discussed, and a major basis of our problem.

The evidence of superficiality is all around us.  I confess that I’ve never seen anyone actually buy any of the grocery store tabloids, but they continue to be published, so they’re making money somehow.  The standard news programs and most of the pseudo-news programs are inundated with nonsense information.  For example, of what significance is the jail sentence of a tabloid notable or the current drug/rehab/hair problem of an entertainer in relation to the short and long term effects of an imperialistic and ill-conceived war?   Being generous, I might say that we need such entertainment to keep from going completely deranged with the obscenity of greed, power and ignorance of our so-called political system as well as much of our “Dilbert” business world.

Admittedly, there is comfort in just plopping down in front of the TV with a humorous or inane video, a bowl of popcorn and a Guinness draught.  It’s probably therapeutic in some way, as long as it doesn’t become an escapist habit.  As someone once said, it’s okay to want to visit Disneyland, but not to want to live there.

But at some point, perhaps we could take responsibility for ourselves and the world in which we live.  And the real issues are not superficial.

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