We’ve touched on this before, but there’s a strong sense in much of the developed world that we’re headed for harder times. Deficits increase. Unemployment rises. The benefits of the future have been unevenly distributed throughout society.
It is not just in voting patterns that you can sense malaise. You can see it in the economic numbers and in sociological research.
Here are four examples of how angst in the developed world is morphing into ominous trends that will have a profound effect on our economy and future.
Anxiety Takes New Forms
Angst manifests differently in different countries. Think of Japan:
Recent research by the Japanese government showed that about 30% of single women and 15% of single men aged between 20 and 29 admitted to having fallen in love with a meme or character in a game—higher than the 24% of those women and 11% of men who admitted to falling in love with a pop star or actor.
The development of the multimillion-pound virtual romance industry in Japan reflects the existence of a growing number of people who don’t have a real-life partner, said Yamada. There is even a slang term, “moe,” for those who fall in love with fictional computer characters, while dating sims allow users to adjust the mood and character of online partners and are aimed at women as much as men. A whole subculture, including hotel rooms where a guest can take their console partner for a romantic break, has been springing up in Japan over the past six or seven years. (The Guardian)
Is it any wonder that there is a dearth of babies in Japan? Young British women are literally 20-times more likely to have a pregnancy out of wedlock than young Japanese women. The cultural oddity of moe partially explains that fact.
Families Are Splitting Up
While looking up this topic, I found scores of just as concerning statistics.
For instance, the difference between the income and employment status of young males who grew up in two-parent versus one-parent homes is stark. Especially when you realize how fast the number of single-parent homes is rising.
Less than half of US children live in a traditional family setting, according to Pew Research.
Needles to say, what a profound impact this trend will have on US employment and household income.
Hope Is Different
In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In 1933, that wasn’t even close to true. They had much to fear. The US was already in the throes of a depression that would only get worse. War clouds were forming across the Atlantic and Pacific.
Roosevelt didn’t have all the right answers, but he did one thing very well. He gave people hope. My generation heard from our parents how FDR helped pulled them through those hard times.
Of course, he had one thing today’s leaders lack. Television, talk radio, and the internet weren’t always telling us how bad things were. We didn’t know or care about the private details of our leader’s lives.
Social Divisions Are Different
It has become clear we are breaking up into tribes based on how we consume news. We get our news from people who are often deep in the same ideological bubble we are. This only strengthens our concerns and fears.
If you think Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are taking us in the wrong direction, there are plenty of people who will agree with you and tell you so. If you think the people against them don’t get it and are distorting the truth, there are a lot of sources that will back up your thinking.
We have always had polarization in our news sources. But it has never been so ubiquitous before. Or so extreme. The news has never been so readily accessible.
Numerous “tribes” can live in the same physical neighborhood, yet hear different versions and interpretations of the problems and directions in our country and the world.
There is no unifying national experience. Just a disjointed series of intra- and intertribal interactions.
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