Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why We Hate Us - 30 Second Review

Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millenium is not I would have ever read had the cover not grabbed me (Kudos to the designer). "I don't hate me" I thought to myself and picked it up.

I was at first unimpressed, but it grew on me, revealing itself to be far deeper and more sincere than just a retread on the evils of The Media, Politics and Marketing. Dick Meyer is truly worried about why, in the entire course of human history, in the wealthiest, most successful and prosperous society ever, its citizens are malcontent and unhappy. After all, every index, measure and sign point to a clear trend that Americans are far less happy than they were thirty years ago. Americans are also less trusting, less involved, more disconnected, uprooted, isolated and restless than ever. "Why?" is then the big question, and the book does a solid job making its case why all this is. It does not, however, simply assign blame, but also explains how things came to this, drawing clear parallels from the upheavals and revolutions of the sixties to where we are today.

Among others, this discontent lays in our collective definition of "we" and "us," its in our distrust of the media, of politics, and the weariness of always being on guard. Its in not knowing our neighbors and not joining bowling leagues and moving far from home and much more.

Eventually, though, I found the book shifting tone, from being really in-your-face at the start to something softer and more human at its end, because, really, this is the author's journey as much as the reader's. As a father and a person, he is doubly concerned about the direction he sees America moving in. And in this concern, he gives gives voice to many of my own feelings, hunches and small realizations that have plagued me in my years living in America. More than that, though, Meyer suggests a number of concessions and changes that are nothing short of a reconstruction of many major facets of American society and while that is hardly possible, even the smallest changes add up.

This is an interesting, if uncomfortable, read. Still, I consider it worthwhile for every American.

Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millenium, by Dick Meyer. 2008, Crown House Publishing.

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