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A Crisis of Goodness in America

A Crisis of Goodness in America

No society could survive—let alone thrive—without maintaining a minimum level of goodness. Unfortunately, there is evidence of a crisis of goodness, at least in the heavily industrialized and digitized West. We live in an egotistic moment in history where we seem unable to effectively train our children in restraint; where narcissism and entitlement are rampant and concern for social approval is at a record low; and where stress and anonymity are pervasive and deeply problematic .Our current culture has been chasing the elusive pursuit of happiness to no avail. We are the most affluent culture in the world and yet according to The World Health Organization have the highest rating of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and overall stress. 43% of American adults suffer from the adverse effects of stress, with the cost of anxiety disorders to our society estimated at 42.3 Billion dollars. Our collective mood is worsening despite five decades of becoming “better off”.  According to the World Happiness Survey Bangladesh is the happiest nation in the world with the United States sadly ranked 46th. The findings of University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, director of the World Values Survey, indicate that overall happiness is related to benevolence and expressions of gratitude, while also being factors that possibly extend life. Other sources tell us that we have one third fewer close friends than 20 years ago and Americans trust in their fellow citizens has dropped 15% in the past 15 years.

These indicators of course do not amount to an entire picture of today’s state of goodness in the U.S., but they are proof of a malaise. Quite simply, we suffer from a deficit of goodness. In our egocentric and narcissistic society feelings of entitlement thrive and the disregard for other people’s claim to comfort and contentment is endemic. A recent study at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that college students today are 40% less empathic than they were in 1979, the largest decline coming in the last decade. It is all too commonplace for stress, anonymity or both to contribute to verbal and physical violence at home, on the roads, and at work. The quality of life in the schools has reached a point that news of rampant bullying finds us inured. It takes a bullied youngster taking his or her life to make us pay attention and express some dismay and consternation. Not only can on line verbal exchanges be dismally mean-spirited, the web’s low interaction standards are spilling over into the off line world. But there is hope: within this bleak landscape we perceive encouraging signs of a counter-tendency. A movement of rediscovery of goodness has begun in the United States. Today’s crisis of goodness is what prompted me to start the goodness renaissance project.

Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D.



    Great article! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thanks!

  2. Nancy says:

    I am studying Substance abuse and from the epidemiology to what tools are effective of assisting individuals in their treatment process. I agree with what you said however you did not mention the we (US) incarcerate individuals at an alarming rate, then expect that individuals being able to return to society with no skills or resources to help them survive or progress. Our human service ancientness are can not keep up the demand and resources are limited. We failed miserably when closed the mental health facilities and many of these same individuals ended up in the correctional system with little to no treatment. We have to refocus our priorities and find solutions to our problems that we are facing as a country.

  3. docapc says:

    Your point about the lack of resources for those incarcerated is of grave concern Nancy and yes also a significant contributor to the lack of goodness in our culture. Thank you for your input.

  4. docapc says:

    Thank you Bajeerao, glad you found the article useful.

  5. Elesha says:

    So I do have a question for you. So if there is a crisis of goodness – where does the crisis begin? I wouldn’t assume that it begins at birth, but perhaps maybe by mimicing parents. But do you think that there may be something which we as a culture are not triggering which isn’t getting us out of the egocentric kind of stage(4-7). Or are our national goals of individualism vs a collective like culture providing road blocks? Yep I get the detachment style of the various types of communication systems which have developed, but education and discovery can be built in to their use as well. Can you tell I am a grad student? I am seeking my counseling degree to work in the schools and this is the VERY reason I have chosen this path – to begin a bit of a push back on my own.

  6. docapc says:

    Dear Elesha: I think our culture as indicated in the blog has become more self centered and focused on achievement at the cost of developing character. I wrote Performance Addiction a few years ago as I found that more and more people were fixated on appearance and gaining status than on developing healthy relationships, driven by the mistaken belief that money and physical beauty will bring love and respect. We have lost our way in that regard and I think more and more people are realizing how misguided we have become. Thank you for your response and I wish you the very best in your graduate studies.

  7. Elesha says:

    Thank you! I will look for your book. It does seem to be that I am finding the theme of relationship building everywhere. And those relationships take time…time that just is not given on a regular basis. hmmmm

  8. Outstanding Arthur! We have become a nation divided and not united. Those, such as you that are trying to educate people so they understand the damage that is being done are ridiculed and marginalized, because people refuse to accept the damage that is being done. The level of narcissism in America is astounding. As someone with your education and background, it must be shocking that others cannot see it.

    The amount of “cyber bullying” would be almost eliminated if parents would monitor what their children are doing online. Facebook says that you need to be 13 to have a page. Parents are letting children as young as 9 and 10 to have pages. What are they thinking? And they will defend their child’s right to it, amazingly.

    Arthur, I encourage you to bring together some of your peers from the leading Universities of America and create a Congressional panel that works with the FCC to begin to limit some of the abuses that are occurring online.

    As you know, in my book, “U ~ Who Are U?” I revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which most of your followers know focuses on human behavior and motivation. There is a natural bias in almost all human beings to distance from those that are “different” than them out of fear of the unknown and trying to fit into their niche, clique, gang or pack. “Bullying” and “Cyber bullying” is an increased and unreasonable level of abuse that spreads faster and is easier to alienate and humiliate other human beings with a few key strokes. We are taking the amazing power of the Internet and allowing it to be used for bad, not good.

    And because we seem to no longer be able to communicate in a civil way, there is mean spirited accusations and insults that prevent people, Americans, from working together to solve these challenges for our children. Someone forgot to tell some of these parents that we’re the adults and yes, it is our job to say “no.” We are responsible for the ethical and moral development of our children. Today, that includes taking there electronic devices from them and determining what they are writing and where they are going on the Internet.

    Arthur. You know I am a fan. Keep going. Lead the way and help create the change that will lead our children in a different direction than they are currently going and being the shining light for adults and parents that have forgotten their responsibility.

    Lead on Arthur!


  9. docapc says:

    We all need quality relationships to grow and thrive Elesha and yes in order to maintain close ties we need to go against our current cultural trend and make the time to be truly present with those close to us.

  10. joel horner. says:

    This was interesting.You mentioned that Bangladesh was the happiest nation.I am just curious if nations who have a history of colonialism and slavery are now the unhappiest ? Its possible the
    extreme perverse brutality somehow got ingrained in to our collective consciousness or “archtype” and as the unacceptable was effectively legitimised by institutions such as the state and church so people became socialised into a more destructive mindset.

  11. docapc says:

    Very interesting point Joel, when brutality is legitimised it breeds a mindset of conquer at all costs. Thank you.

  12. docapc says:

    Thank you Kevin for your most thoughtful and accurate reply. I am with you all the way and I know we will both, along with many others strive to teach goodness and restore it’s critical place in our society.