In my recent post “Five challenging questions for Passover Seder” I have made the same point – we in the USA have forgotten Biblical lessons of Egypt’s Exodus of Jews from slavery to freedom – the lessons for the Jews and for the entire Judeo-Christian world. As a result of lost memory, we are losing our freedoms now in the USA and quickly sliding into spiritual slavery again.
And now even Europe sees this Exodus-in-reverse movement in the USA. Below are some interesting observation on the subject made by Financial Time of London (and this news-media is rarely mistaken) which could be found at
- The US has always struggled between its impulse for freedom and a Calvinistic urge to meddle. The pendulum in early 21st-century America is swinging back to intrusion. Whether it is workplace safety, traffic, public health or social behavior, there is a creeping impulse to micro-regulate.
- Far from the freedom of the open road, today’s US offers a spider’s web of local and federal rules. Fancy bicycling without a helmet or unleashing your dog? Or perhaps opening a can of beer on the beach? There is an ordinance forbidding it. New York is trying to ban 16-ounce soda. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew would not feel out of place in Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago. Sugar is the new tobacco, we are told. How soon before we get to caffeine?
- The fashion for paternalism is driven by a growing culture of conformity. Some of it is driven by demand. More than three generations after the Great Depression and the Second World War, and almost two generations after Vietnam, there are few Americans alive who remember how hard life once was. Words such as thrift and rugged have dropped from everyday speech. People’s understanding of what is risky has expanded sharply while their resilience to setbacks has fallen. University administrators talk about “tea cup” students, who are so fragile they shatter easily. College students are so used to getting pass grades in high school for mediocre work many cannot handle the shock of accurate marking. Almost half of US college students fail to complete four-year degrees in six years.
- Food and Drug Administration said it would regulate e-cigarettes like normal tobacco. This is in spite of the fact there is no proof it leads people on to the real ones. Quite the reverse – the whole point is to help people kick the habit. Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles have gone further and banned e-cigarettes in public places. There is no evidence their vapor causes harm to users or bystanders. The sight of it alone is apparently offensive enough.
- Hordes of American children apparently now suffer from some kind of mental condition. Ten percent are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder – triple the level of 20 years ago. Many such diagnoses are surely authentic. And perhaps ADD used to be underreported. But it is hard to believe it has suddenly taken off. There was a time when chronic fidgeting in class got you detention. Now it is medicated with Ritalin. In 1992, one in 500 American children were diagnosed as autistic. Now it is one in 68. Prescriptions have rocketed.
- The same applies to adults. Last year the American Psychiatric Association produced its latest Diagnostic Manual of Statistical and Mental Disorders – DSM5, as it is known. It is the psychiatrist’s bible. Among the recent conditions is Social Anxiety Disorder – otherwise known as shyness. Twelve per cent of Americans get SAD at some point, for which the helpful folk at GlaxoSmithKline prescribe Paxil. Other disorders include “hyper-sex”, “hoarding” and “bereavement”. Some psychiatrists believe there is an epidemic of anxiety in the US. That may be so – life can be stressful in the internet age. Far more likely, however, is an outbreak of diagnostic inflation.
- Many Americans – and not just those who support the Tea Party – abrade against suffocating regulations … But the march of liberty is not a one-way street. Beneath the battles against racism and for sexual freedom, there is a deeper pull to conformity. What may once have been seen as eccentric is now liable to penalty, or prescription.
- And finally, compared with many democracies, America no longer feels unusually free. Psychiatrists keep turning up new forms of “deregulated” behavior. Legislators keep drafting regulations to address them. People’s tolerance of disorder is falling, as is their resilience to shock. Feeling unusually human today? There is a pill for that. There might even be a law against it.