We are suffering from “future shock,” and we need to work together to find better ways for dealing with massive change in our lives.
Even before the Republican Presidential primary, pundits where confused about the emerging Trump phenomena. In an article published in the January 4, 2016 issue of The Atlantic Magazine there was an article title “The 8 Causes of Trumpism.” The article noted, “Both Trump and a broader phenomenon — call it Trumpism — are stronger and deeper than most veteran political analysts realized or were willing to acknowledge. They are neither immediate nor transitory phenomena. The disdain for the status quo, for authority figures of both parties and other institutions, and the anger at inexorable changes in society, are real, enduring, and especially deep on the Republican side.”
There is a recognition that our world is becoming increasingly complex and our leaders are unable to understand and adequately deal with the major changes we face in the world including terrorism, large numbers of people leaving home due to economic and social stresses, environmental degradation and famine in many parts of the world, and the impact of industrial civilization on the stability of the planet.
Further, there is a feeling that change is occurring so rapidly that we all feel like we are on a run-away train that is heading for disaster. The futurist, Alvin Toffer (who died in June, 2016 at the age of 87), warned us about what was coming our way in the international best-seller Future Shock. In the book Toffler notes that he coined the term “future shock” in 1965 to describe “the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”
He recognized that future shock may be the core illness of our time. “Unless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in his personal affairs we well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.” It’s clear that we have not dealt with the speed of change in our lives and that the rate of change has increased dramatically since 1970.
I described one of the ways this breakdown might impact men in my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. I described the irritability, anger, and depression that often occurs in men who are unable to effectively deal with the stresses of rapid change. Depression is becoming increasingly commonthese days. Yet we rarely recognize the cause as “too much change in too short a time.”
Although we are all impacted by “future shock” it seems to have a particularly strong impact on white males without a college degree, the core group that supports Donald Trump. These are the men who feel left out by the changes going on in the world, feel threatened by rise of women, and are afraid of foreigners “invading” the U.S.
Most importantly, they feel they are unable to fulfill their role as “breadwinners.” While real wages have grown for men and women with a four-year degree or better in the last 25 years, they’ve fallen meaningfully for non-college men. A March 1, 2016 article in The Atlantic Magazine noted that “Non-college men have been trampled by globalization, the dissolution of manufacturing employment, and other factors, for the last few decades. In places like West Virginia, the mortality rate for middle-aged white men has grown since 1980, despite the fact that US GDP per capita has quadrupled in that time. The causes are mysterious, but one outcome could be deep anger and political extremism manifested in Trump.”
I’m reminded of the 1976 movie Network and the long-time T.V. anchor in the movie who is overwhelmed with the news of the world and announces on his live broadcast that he intends to commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. In one impassioned diatribe, he galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout out of their windows “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
But those who may vote for Trump aren’t the only ones who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” There are a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters (and I count myself among them) who also want to see a change in the status quo that is certainly leading us down a path of destruction. One of the draws to Bernie Sanders, and to a greater extent Donald Trump, is that they offer ways to simplify the massive changes we experience. Trump’s promise to “build a wall. It will be a beautiful wall…and Mexico will pay for it” is the kind of simplifying that appeals to a very primitive part of our brain. Our logical mind knows it’s not possible, but the overwhelmed fearful part of the brain longs for a simple solution to the world’s problems.
I have no doubt that, in this election, Hillary Clinton is a much better choice to be our next President than Donald Trump. Although she is far from perfect, I’d much prefer that she have the ultimate decision about the use of nuclear weapons at a time of conflict than Donald Trump. One way to deal with feeling overwhelmed by change is to commit suicide. As a therapist who deals a lot with depression I see many who have chosen to check out.
Unfortunately, I see a lot of Trump supporters who seem to share a kind of suicidal philosophy. If they are overwhelmed by problems that they can’t seem to solve, they look for a simple solution like “build a wall” or “eliminate ISIS”. However, I worry that when their simple solutions don’t work they might just get even madder than hell and want to blow up the whole damned world.
If we’re going to survive, we have to recognize that a lot of us are mad as hell and also depressed as hell, that we are suffering from “future shock,” and we need to work together to find better ways for dealing with massive change in our lives. We can empathize and understand the feelings of overwhelm that drive Trumpism, but we would do well to resist the temptation to put our hopes on simple solutions that may cause more despair and rage in our already troubled world.
I look forward to your comments. Please visit me at www.TheEnlightenedMarriage.com
This article originally appeared on Men Alive
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