City Living Today
A major characteristic of cities today is the very high costs of living, including rents, which necessitates a well-paid, full-time job to stay ahead. Of course, jobs are no longer secure, not all of them are highly paid, and an increasing proportion are part-time, or even casual, and many jobs cease to exist at the whim of economic conditions, which have become increasingly volatile. Workers’ rights have been declining, and many are now working substantial extra un-paid hours. There is usually no provision for paying workers’ entitlements if a company employing them closes down. Much of the work/life balance, so carefully worked out and implemented over much of last century is gone. About a third of the workforce work excessive hours without paid overtime, and a third are underemployed and part of the working poor. Lower income people are an increasing proportion of the workforce, and are falling further behind in an increasingly inequitable society.
Very little saving actually takes place by a large proportion of city inhabitants, and increasing numbers of people are falling into serious, chronic debt. Today, as never before, the economy is floating on the indebtedness of consumers. House loans, personal loans and credit card debt have all reached record levels, at a time when many people can easily lose their jobs and subsequently, their house, car and everything else. Personal and family indebtedness is at an all time high, both in absolute amounts, and as proportions of family income. As interest rates rise, many people will find themselves in dire circumstances.
The current housing shortage, and corresponding high rentals is worst in more than half a century. Mortgage stress affects the majority of persons repaying mortgages. Presently, the level of failure to repay house mortgages is increasing rapidly, because of current interest rate rises, making it too difficult for some people to repay their mortgage, and causing them to lose their house. Many McMansions are being sold cheaply to the already rich, by banks foreclosing on mortgagees, to the original owners’ disadvantage. House prices are falling and rising interest rates and the credit crunch is ensuing that there is neither a buyer’s nor seller’s market.
Failing Medical System
Hospitals have become so expensive to run, that whole wards are being closed whilst waiting lists are getting longer. Privatization of hospitals has induced many cost-cutting measures that risk endangering lives, while medical insurance continues to rise. Hospital doctors and nurses are complaining about stress and sleep deprivation. Some doctors can no longer afford indemnity insurance and some hospital procedures have become uninsurable. Many previously eliminated diseases are re-emerging in more-pernicious strains. New contagious or infectious, potentially fatal diseases, such as hepatitis C, are considered unstoppable and becoming widespread. Aids is mutating and picking up again. Antibiotics are losing effectiveness, and Australia now has diseases including strands of golden staph that are no longer treatable by antibiotics. Asthma, obesity and diabetes are now considered epidemic. Trends are worsening, not improving.
Medical drug creation is the exclusive province of global corporations, which dictate the entire range of the chemical medical system. They cannot patent natural products, and so cannot make high profits from natural based remedies, so they un-avail themselves of remedies that could drastically improve health, provide cures for ‘incurable’ diseases, and reform the failing health system. The current spate of TV programs showing the miraculous cures that are 5 years away smacks of desperation and should be viewed in the context of the promises about a cure for AIDS being 5 years away since 1985. Being of the wrong paradigm, money is being made out of sickness instead of health. In ancient China, where they practised preventative medicine, people paid their physicians to keep them healthy, and stopped paying when they became ill, until they were well again. That would reorientate the industry towards embracing preventative medicine.
Television and Media
Television has now become the opiate of the masses, and a major contributor to the problem. News is syndicated, and the same footage of the same news items with the same voice-over can be seen on all commercial channels. News has become notoriously inaccurate about major issues and offer no explanation or apology for getting it wrong and misleading the public. Crime and violence proliferates during peak night viewing hours, and soapies teach oppressor/victim psychology. Many TV advertisements operate on the assumption that unbalanced people respond best to loud, obnoxious advertisements. Children’s programs are mostly fragmented escapism, surrounded by an intense, force-fed diet of junk food advertisements. TV gives the values that determine peer pressure values. In the 1960s, peer pressure was towards honesty, decency, fairness and dignity, in an atmosphere of acceptance and openheartedness. For a time, it changed the world, in a small but key way. Today, we are subject to a commercial culture that has lost those higher-level values, by valuing competition and exploitation instead, which now permeates and down-grades family life.
The advent of personal computing was expected to unleash a new wave of creativity, enable individual and societal research into societal and global difficulties, to explore as-yet unimagined areas, and to deepen, intensify and globalise the trend towards a better society. Instead, they have become overwhelmingly tied to the universal quest for accelerated, short-term commercial success – complemented by computer games of mindless violence, often involving virtual wanton killing without compunction. This latter represents a significant shift from the post-war Hollywood cowboy ethic of the good guys never initiating violence, never fighting somebody smaller or weaker, never using more violence than necessary, never throwing the first punch or drawing first, and never shooting anyone in the back. This is now passé, and we seem to be training a younger generation in violence and warfare for what appears to be a coming era of wars. Just as television destroyed home conversation, digital connectivity has pre-empted human-to-human contact and group human contact. What had been so nourishing and uplifting just decades earlier has degenerated into many solitary individuals having superficial virtual-contact. Most high-tech products today are part of the entertainment industry, including the more powerful desktops and notebook computers.
The gradual transition towards whole-brain education has been reversed and redirected towards greater emphasis on an intensified, left-brain orientation. Homework hours increased to impose doctrines of diminishing relevance, as the education system subordinates itself to an obsolete economic paradigm that seeks to increase competitiveness between students and all other members of society as a mythological path towards excellence. Competition destroys out-of-the-box and right-brain thinking, as competition takes place inside the left-brain box. This is failing many students, especially those who have greater right brain activation, leading to dropping out by many students who lack an abiding interest in learning more of what is perpetuating the problem. The bleed through of competitiveness into people’s personal lives has contributed to the destruction of social capital throughout society, which is built upon co-operative, trusting relationships. Emotional, many youth today resemble their counterparts in the early 1950s, pre-rock-n-roll, ‘James Dean’ era.
Health and Fitness
The cumulative effect of computing, schooling and homework, e-games and TV have turned the youth of today into a sedentary generation, fed upon a proliferation of notoriously unhealthy junk and fast foods. This has produced an obese generation whose average health may be the lowest since the great depression or before.
Boredom and Escapism
A large proportion of the younger working generation are unemployed with nothing to do, at the time of having a serious skills shortage. The younger generations have never been so bored, despite a huge entertainment industry, much of which requires passive watching, or is based on ultra-violent escapism, and all of which are money driven and expensive. For an increasing number of unemployed and low-income people, the quality of life has seriously deteriorated, life has never been so meaningless, and the outlook so dismal, while for those well off, life becomes an endless distraction of electronic trivia to be entertained by, instead of living a fulfilling life.
There are now many severely impoverished people in cities, and the numbers are increasing. Homelessness is huge and continues to rise, and we have now moved beyond street kids, to street families. Welfare agencies have been substantially defunded, are not nearly coping, and the problem is getting worse.
Drug Addiction and Mental Illness
The brutalising and depressing effect of dismal social decline has led to the dramatic increase in the use of narcotics to induce emotional numbing as a way of dealing with the increasing emotional pain being suffered today. This is a temporary fix, and enables emotional problems and pain to increase, making them intensely addictive, completely self-defeating, and creates a vicious downwards spiral circle. The illicit hard drug industry is now huge and expanding, with numbers of addicts increasing, along with all of the associated problems of crime, suicide and other forms of fallout, increasing social degeneration. Severe depression and other forms of psychiatric illnesses have increased markedly in recent years. The number of people in the population suffering some form of serious psychiatric illness is one in twenty, with the majority of “street people” affected.
The ethic of working to live, with plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour has now been replaced by the ethic of living to work. Australia transitioned from the land of the long weekend to the land of the lost weekend with many people working extreme hours, unpaid overtime, unprecedented levels of personal debt, and no time to enjoy life. The notion of building a nation and developing a society has been forgotten as people now seek greater individual gratification in lieu of fulfilment. Depression is at an all time high.
One outcome of decades of social deterioration has been a declining birth rate and population decline in advanced economies for the first time in their post-industrial history. This has been caused through: young adults staying at home longer and marrying later; the postponement by many working women to have children because of work and career commitments, often until it has become too physiologically late; reduced male fertility; couples choosing not to have as many children due to economic reasons. The concern now is that there are not enough children being born in the west, to be able pay enough taxes when they become of working age, to repay the superannuation owed to the post war generation of govt workers who are nearly due to retire, as it has already been spent. A concern postponed by raising the retirement age by five years.
Fuel and Food Crises
The increasing price of oil has led to a food crisis as every step of the food industry is heavily dependent on oil, and much grain production has been diverted to the biofuel industry. The fuel crisis is now impacting every aspect of civilisation.
We have effectively given away creating better family relationships, ever-improving societies, nourishing lifestyles, uplifting social relationships and better environments, all in exchange for a boom and bust economy of materiality, that is not highly conducive to family life, diminishes social well being, creates poverty, encourages ecological destruction and pollutes with abandon and does not plan or prepare for the future. Social Capital, human capital and environmental capital have all fallen dramatically, and are continuing to fall. Remote Aboriginal people transitioning to cities can expect in most cases to end up at the lower socio-economic level of the above.
All of the above problems are part of the severe social degeneration that has arisen since converting back to marketplace economics. For many people the recent genuinely better times have come and gone, and have been completely forgotten, as if they had never existed.