In his article, “American Jerk,” Todd Schwartz claims that Americans feign civility, but that society has limited civility to only speeches and books. Schwartz’s claim is a fitting description of American society, but as much as his sentiment towards courtesy is appreciated, our problems as a society go much further than civility. “We’re too far from our food and energy sources.
Schwartz explains in paragraph 12 and he is right. Americans are so self-absorbed that we don’t know where our food comes from.
We’d rather mindlessly eat, than know how our food is processed and what ingredients are used. In high school, my chemistry teacher started class by explaining what really was in peanut butter. As most Americans don’t know and companies want to keep that way, is that the FDA allows a small percentage of rat droppings in food. So while peanut butter has peanuts in it, it also has rat droppings.
In another example of how (overly) apathetic we’ve become, Schwartz writes, “We’re all talking to someone all the time, but it’s even more rarely to the people we are actually with. Social networking sites, such as Instagram or Twitter, have supposedly provided us with all the “followers” that we need who we deem as friends. These sites encourage cyberbullying, cheating, and pseudo offline relationships. Individuals can now sit behind a screen and spout off hurtful words they wouldn’t even dare say in public.
It emboldens and strokes egos because individuals feel that everyone who clicks the follow button is their best friend. People are so comfortable with that sort of “companionship that they don’t take the time to talk to the person they are actually with. (This person is usually a close friend).
In Todd Schwartz’s essay ‘American Jerk,’ Mr. Schwartz asks the reader to decide which side of this “War” they will choose. I appreciate his sentiment towards courtesy, but our problems as a society are much deeper routed than civility. We no longer need to live a life of purpose, rather we attempt to find the easy way out. We no longer need to adventure to the Grand Canyon to see the breathtaking scenery or hear the roar of rushing waters. Trips to the library to borrow the books that we want and need are basically obsolete. After all, we have nooks and apps on smart phones for all our reading needs.
Social networking sites and Skype provide us with all the “companionship” we believe to be necessary. Eventually, we will no longer need face-to-face contact at all. Without personal interactions, we lose any empathy for other men and women because we forget how truly necessary they are. Our television watching and social networking can cloud our judgment and replace thinking with accepting whatever we hear. If we allow ourselves to cease thinking, the struggle for social change is lost.
Once we lose sight of our moral code and no longer think for ourselves, we can be easily influenced by the negativity of our society. Popular culture praises materialism, promiscuity, violence, ignorance, and self-hatred. We are taught to believe that the most successful people are those who are beautiful, who have huge houses, who have large amounts of money, and who can do whatever they want. We forget what truly matters. If we allow negativity to fill our lives and our minds, we lash out at ourselves and especially others. As the negativity builds, we lose sight of our blessings and take things for granted. We begin to feel entitled and lose our work ethic. Laziness takes a hold of our lives, and we lose the desire to better ourselves, and even, our world.
To recab, in older times, before Facebook existed, people would wish their friends a happy birthday in person. Nowadays, all people do is send over a virtual cake, text the words happy birthday, and feel that they have accomplished so much. We have the chance to make our world a better place, but we must take the first step. We must choose whether to live vicariously through technology or take that first step out our doors and see where I feet will lead.