"When the supply of information is no longer controllable, a general breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose occurs. Without defenses, people have no way of finding meaning in their experience, lose their capacity to remember, and have difficulty imagining reasonable futures."
-- Neil Postman from Technopoly
Americans, and especially American parents, we failed not because Trump won, or because Clinton lost. We failed because we bought the hype that this election was historically significant in a unique way. That became a self fulfilling prophecy. It has become uniquely significant because we have become hysterical and irrational, and as a result we have further divided our society.
We failed because many of us are not capable of finding meaning in our everyday lives and in our immediate surroundings. We have lost touch with ourselves and what, and who, is actually around us. Instead, we are consumed with what is behind the little glass screens we carry around.
When the information stops coming, we feel like the lights have gone out. We feel like the sun has disappeared. Instead of realizing that we need to sleep or rest, and that it is a great opportunity to do so, we panic.
We are so used to being awash in information that we don't know what to do, or who we are, without it. As a result, we push to have more and more, and we push to have it be ever more exciting and important. We want the hype because it keeps us from getting bored, from running out of 'information' to consume. We are addicted. That addiction strikes at the core of each one of us because without that information we no longer know who we are or what our purpose is.
In reality, we are not getting more information that we did 10 years ago. We are getting more trivial data, meaningless facts and misinformation. We are getting more uninformed, poorly formed and exaggerated opinions and analysis.
As a result, we are spending less time on the actual information and well informed and carefully though out opinions and analysis that happen to find us. This makes us less informed, less able to make decisions and always close to collapsing from 'information' overload and decision fatigue.
We also take less time to understand the actual information we get. We take things at face value as they are given to us and let our habits of comprehension (our biases) shape them without being the least bit conscious of it. We don't dig deeper and check the facts or the context. We don't understand; we simply react like we are getting hit on the knee by a rubber hammer.
In reality, we can't check, dig or understand because there is too much coming at us, and we are too obsessed with getting beyond what is here now and getting to what is coming next. We are so afraid of missing something that we actually make ourselves miss what we already have in front of us.
With all of that going on, it is hard to remember anything because nothing sinks in. If you don't take the time to understand something on a deeper level or wider plane, you are less likely to remember it. We only remember the sensational and that is only remembered largely out of context and without detail.
With all of this going on we don't have the memory, attention span or accurate information (especially not about our self and our actual immediate surroundings) to imagine a realistic future. We grasp at far flung utopian or distopian visions of the future that are almost certain to disappoint because they were never realistic in the first place.
We wonder why politicians, salesmen, etc. make us promises they don't keep... but the reality is they can't keep them because they are not possible, at least not in the terms and time frame they give them. They may know that they are impossible, or they may not. The real problem is that we don't seem to notice at the time that the promises are not realistic. We crave the new, the special the spectacular so much that we want to believe. It is a symptom of our addiction that helps to plunge us deeper into the addiction.
We have failed because of who we have become, what we do, what we expect and what we have come to rely on. Trump can't fix that, and he can only make it worse if we let him: if we continue to use him as an excuse to indulge in our bad habits that make us more delusional and more divided. Clinton couldn't have fixed it either, and thinking so is simply another one of our strong and comforting delusions.
We have failed because we not only believed the hype, but because we have become dependent on the hype. We may not be amusing ourselves to death, yet... But we are amusing ourselves into greater delusion and deeper division.