The Master Trend
a book by Cheryl Russell
(our site's book review)
The title of the book is deceptive—The Master Trend sounds like another Hitler has surfaced. But it’s not about that at all. It’s about the main trend that baby boomers have been following, and bringing others along as they do so, and that trend of trends, to Russell, is individualism. She considers “free agent” an even better description of the trend. She says the balance of individual rights and community responsibilities has shifted so seriously that she warns that the disintegrating society can only get worse if we don’t put these things back into balance. She says that “Americans must find a way to endow free agents with a willingness to solve community problems.” (She’s right, of course, but the MC movement answers all of her concerns with ease. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
She ridicules the pseudo-solution of returning to the traditional family, which is obviously unfeasible. Instead, she would have us build support networks for the new dominant family form: the matriarchal family. Using her knowledge as one of our country’s top demographers, she uses statistics to make her case in this and many other areas of concern.
Russell says that as the free agents begin to lead the country, they must reverse the disintegration or risk collapse of society at its core. “They must find a way to take care of one another once again. . . . Free agents must see how their self-interest and the needs of the community converge. Then they must put their self-interest to work for the community.” This was all built in to the Founders' assumptions and worldview as they designed our republic. Individualism was balanced with community due to its survival value—people truly did need each other. The context of 21st century lifestyles has changed, but balance of individual rights and community responsibilities is even more essential than ever, and one ignores this at his peril: look at the indicators of social degeneration.
The U.S.'s Founders' assumptions and worldview for society expected a balance of individual rights and community responsibilities
In spite of such cogent understanding of turn-of-the-century American society, she suffers from superficiality in some of her analyses. She naïvely states that poverty and divorce are the parts of single-parent families that hurt them, and that the lifestyle has no other main flaws. In truth, sociological research has conclusively shown that it is the lack of human resources and connectedness that make them so at-risk for dysfunctionality.
Divorce rate in the US from 1935 to 2010
The poverty and divorce she cites are stress factors that a single parent family with an effective social network of close friends and/or relatives can deal with. But, lacking these resources, such factors can spell misery for single-parent families. (According to the Single Parent Success Foundation, a national nonprofit that encourages educational opportunities for single parents, 63 percent of suicides nationwide are individuals from single-parent families, 75 percent of children in chemical dependency hospitals are from single-parent families, and more than half of all youths incarcerated in the U.S. lived in one-parent families as a child.)
More than half of all youths incarcerated in the U.S. lived in one-parent families as a child
The most superficial analysis of all comes when she dissects loneliness and friendships. She mistakes attitudinal surveys for tools that reveal accurate in-depth psychological realities. They are nothing of a kind. They reflect the conscious attitudes people either have or feel they should have and the defenses people use to cover inner realities. They reflect people thinking of the number of Facebook "friends" they have and not the closeness of these friendships. Such things involve quantity, not quality, network connections, not bonds.
When Russell dissects loneliness and friendships, she comes to erroneous conclusions
She’s written a good book with a wealth of useful statistics, but this misinterpretation of the meaning of her numbers means that she stumbled into an area that was over her head. When people say they are satisfied with the number of friends they have and the closeness of these friendships, she needed to search her soul for the memories of all the times when she experienced actual empirical knowledge in this area via real human contacts, and then compare this to the attitudinal surveys. How many of us truly know lots of people who have all the friends they want and have the right amount of closeness with and who are really the people they want to be with? Most of us have never met such a person! (Statistician heal thyself.)
Surveys are great marketing, sociological, and demographic research tools
In truth, people cope when they cannot have what they want or need. When the only people they know aren’t people they really want to get close to or be with often, they settle for being with them only when they’re unusually lonely and are willing to settle. They convince themselves that this is all they want and need, and watch TV to make up for what’s lacking. The incredible number of hours Americans spend watching bland, superficial, escapist boob-tube fare is blatant testimony to the truth of these words.
People want much more, cannot find it, and learn to settle, cope, make do and believe their own cover-ups. Russell would be shocked if she actually investigated the people she knew who said they had lots of good, close friends. Such a thing can happen, but she isn’t likely to meet many people whose claim in this area is actually true—nor is anyone else. For one thing, American lifestyles haven’t enough time in them to support all that TV viewing as well as jobs, hobbies, sleeping, shopping, Internet surfing, and the pursuance of all those "good, truly close relationships." It can’t be done.
How often do you, your kids, or your friends simply plop down in front of the boob tube since it's easier than relationships?
As our website says, "Think about it—how often do you, your kids, or your friends simply plop down in front of the boob tube or play video games or check out YouTube videos simply because trying to deal with the logistics of getting together with one or more friends for real, old fashioned direct social contact seems like too much of a bother? How many parents, or adults in general, say they're too busy to pursue friendships? How many kids are too busy playing video games or watching TV or texting or updating their Facebook page to pursue f2f (face to face), irl (in real life) relationships and how many of their parents are seriously concerned about this social opt-out?"
When Russell encounters a statistic that says that only 10 percent of people are often lonely, she needs to look deeper into what this means. (Keep in mind that these statistics don’t come from shrinks who actually do in-depth work with people and find out the truth about people’s loneliness, but from superficial attitudinal surveys that represent defenses, denial, and self-deception as well as simple attitudes.) How could people cope with life if they consciously felt desperately lonely much of the time? The lonely person drinks, uses drugs, keeps busy, denies, rationalizes, takes antidepressant pills to feel better, overeats or gets eating disorders, and—most of all—watches TV. So these things are the lonely person’s experience and memory, not loneliness.
Depression is often merely the failure of an individual’s defenses to keep loneliness and unhappiness repressed adequately
Depression is often merely the failure of an individual’s defenses to keep loneliness and unhappiness repressed adequately. (If all this sounds either cynical or pessimistic, it isn’t really. For it is in the acknowledgement of the truth of a situation that we take the first step in doing something transformative about it—in this case, curing the problem completely with the starting up of an MC comes to mind, obviously.)
Our public school system is still producing assembly-line workers for an industrial economy, not Third Wave workers
Like Alvin Toffler, Russell points out that the public school system is still producing assembly-line workers for an industrial economy, when it should be producing information workers, service workers and symbolic analysts for the Third Wave. The jobs that need filling require computer-literate, cooperative, problem-solving thinkers, not heroic individualist, muscular, obedient assembly-line stiffs and yes-men bureaucrats. For those who can’t or won’t learn and become Third Wave, there will always be low paying truck driving and burger flipping jobs.
For those who can’t or won’t learn and become Third Wave, there will always be low paying truck driving and burger flipping jobs
But Russell sees a very dark future for us if the personalized economy cannot make room for the disadvantaged. If we continue to leave whole segments of our population behind, then America will develop into a feudal society with armed, walled and gated enclaves separated by dangerous areas filled with chaos (brigands, skellums and highwaymen?). All citizens will have to buy protection from the local gang, and bullet-proof cars will become common.
She sees people becoming paralyzed with the constant media onslaught of distressing news, to such a degree that they become apathetic and alienated. (See also: Your Children Are Under Attack.) People give up and inertia dictates a reliance on the status quo, regardless of how things are working. She points out that child immunizations save lives and money and yet the nation has let these things slip as if it cares about neither saving children nor saving money. Another example: Head Start has been a godsend to many disadvantaged people—helping them to become productive members of the society and part of the solution rather than part of the problem, as well as saving lots of money in incarceration costs. But funding on this has slipped as well, as if people just don’t care anymore. (Granted, it would be much more productive to have MCs so that the Head Start programs wouldn’t be needed, but without MCs, Head Start is one of the best programs around.)
“It is fruitless to pretend that free agents are altruistic when they are primarily concerned with their own well-being. . . . the nation’s leaders must develop a system of rewards and punishments that will harness the self-interests of the free agents and move society forward.” However cynical, she has a point. Unless the baby boomers can be made to see that it is in their own interests to support the infrastructure of democracy, government, community and neighborhood, they will not do it. They’ve been brought up in a win-lose climate of individualism and intrinsically win-lose steep-gradient nurturance, both of which teach us to compete, covet and envy, not cooperate, love and give.
Americans get taught to compete, covet and envy, not cooperate, love and give—their character structure is win-lose
(It is the essence of the MC that it not only teaches people the great personal benefits of cooperation and compassion and empathy, but it also helps evolve in its members the character traits whereby they needn’t obsess about what’s in it for them anymore, and they can begin to naturally love and cooperate and not focus on how much it’s in their “self-interest” but, instead, understand at a deeper level just how much it’s in mankind’s and Earth’s interest.)
For people are not selfish and win-lose because they want to be, but because they were brought up in a deficient manner that did not lead to security, autonomy and self-actualization, but to insecurity, suspicion, and struggles to try to get various personal relationships to make up for what they feel they didn’t get as children. Such upbringings de-genius people and put an unnatural glass ceiling on people’s potentials, as they pursue self-destructive and hopeless neurotic goals for indirect self-acceptance in which, since they cannot find much to like about themselves, they hope to find others that can, like in The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society, by Putney and Putney.
(If people are given a chance to avoid all this dysfunctionality, via MCs, then win-lose free agents will be replaced by win-win free agents who, although free and individualistic and healthfully looking after Number One, will be not merely autonomous and self-interested but also very interested and active with regards to loving and understanding others, cooperating with and helping others, becoming great win-win parents or nurturers of friends’ kids, developing benevolent and moral character in self and others, supporting community and friends and neighborhood, helping make the world work, and becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem. See Why Register for an MC?.)