September 10, 2003

Take Two Prozac and A BiggieFries

... and call me in the morning.

Why so many Americans fat and depressed? It's not in our (j)eans, or the fact that fewer and fewer of us can get into the ones we wore last year anymore. Maybe the root of the problem is that the American Dream is an investment trap and illusion, and it is making us sick. James Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, in this curmudgeonly piece from Orion, questions the sources of American's propensity toward being 'big and blue':

Have any reporters noticed how we actually live here in America? With very few exceptions, our cities are hollowed out ruins. Our towns have committed ritualized suicide in thrall to the WalMart God. Most Americans live in suburban habitats that are isolating, disaggregated, and neurologically punishing, and from which every last human quality unrelated to shopping convenience and personal hygiene has been expunged. We live in places where virtually no activity or service can be accessed without driving a car, and the (usually solo) journey past horrifying vistas of on-ramps and off-ramps offers no chance of a social encounter along the way. Our suburban environments have by definition destroyed the transition between the urban habitat and the rural hinterlands. In other words, we can't walk out of town into the countryside anywhere. Our "homes," as we have taken to calling mere mass-produced vinyl boxes at the prompting of the realtors, exist in settings leached of meaningful public space or connection to civic amenity, with all activity focused inward to the canned entertainments piped into giant receivers -- where the children especially sprawl in masturbatory trances, fondling joysticks and keyboards, engorged on cheez doodles and taco chips.

Kunstler sees a obligatory correction in our lifestyles that could result in a resetting of our national priorities, and frankly, I hope he is right about life on the other side of the bulge:

There may be a lot of hardship and difficulty, but in the process we are going to get some things back that we threw away in our foolish attempt to become a drive-in civilization. And most of these things we get back will have to do with living on more intimate terms with other people, getting more regular exercise, eating better food, leading more purposeful lives, and rediscovering the public realm that is the dwelling place of our collective spirit. Paradoxically, when that happens fewer of us will need Prozac or the Atkins diet.

Posted by fred1st at September 10, 2003 06:19 AM | TrackBack

I have a beef with that kind of writing. For one thing, it's one-sidedly negative, and to what purpose? Worse, it's so snobbish. "Most Americans..." "With very few exceptions..." Who is he talking about when he says "We"? Himself? His family? His friends? Oh, right, it's all those OTHER people who are a bunch of tranquilized idiots.

Posted by: Fran at September 14, 2003 12:10 PM

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