The City of Dover Human Relations Commission asked me what the number one human relations issue facing our community was. My answer was unhappiness. It is at the root of racism, domestic violence, substance abuse, prostitution, school bullying, and family breakdown. The good news is there is something we can do about it.
Dr. William Glasser presented an interesting proposition. He said that
In practice, the most important need is love and belonging, as closeness and connectedness with the people we care about is a requisite for satisfying all of the needs.
Choice theory, with the Seven Caring Habits, replaces external control psychology and the Seven Deadly Habits. External control, the present psychology of almost all people in the world, is destructive to relationships. When used, it will destroy the ability of one or both to find satisfaction in that relationship and will result in a disconnection from each other. Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems such as what is called mental illness, drug addiction, violence, crime, school failure, spousal abuse, to mention a few.
An interesting assertion indeed. If he is correct, then most of our approaches are destined to fail. We are spending so much money to address so many problems by trying to attack each of these social ills without a strategy. It is America’s trillion dollar delima. We spend so much money trying to address social ills which seem to get worse.
What if one county in this nation, say Kent county, Delaware, said let’s stop blowing our money and watching lives be destroyed. We aren’t going to launch a new government spending program to add to the already bloated list of thousands. We are no longer going to pretend that government can solve all of our social ills. We are going to bring the social service leaders together and activate a new public mental health model championed by Dr. Glasser. Let’s call together a visionary coalition of the willing to wage a war against the despair of the soul. Let’s get the substance abuse programs, counselors, churches, faith based groups, schools, post incarceration programs, mental health advocates, social service agencies, and any other interested parties together to form comprehensive public mental health strategy based upon helping people gain the tools for fulfilling relationships and enjoying life.
We are going to work with the experts help the different groups find a way to implement the strategy within their existing programs and develop new ones. Imagine if we could get the state to send minor offenders to programs which help them revamp their lives. If half of them let it be successful, it would revolutionize our cities and towns. What if their were no waiting lists for drug rehabilitation and the programs where based upon highly effective models? Why do we fund substance abuse programs which get results, which aren’t any better than the person doing it on his own, and not fund those which have 85% success rates? Do we really think that jailing people for being unhappy works?
If choice theory were applied in more schools than Campus Community, how many future relationships will be saved? The social costs of abuse, divorce, erratic sexual behavior, and children growing up with a failure mindset are becoming unbearable. What if people cut back on fighting and controlling each other and started respecting and caring about each other?
Is this an impossible dream? I don’t think so. We see examples in history where the society brought along most of its people. During the Great Depression, we were able to sleep with the doors and windows open despite widespread poverty and despair. People held to a standard of morality which even withstood the worst of times. They kept those old time Judeo-Christian values of loving one’s neighbor. Crime was lower and some people were happier.
It wasn’t that people didn’t despair or worry. My grandmother worked all day to support her two young children for about 50 cents a day and had to pay 10 cents back to the restaurant to get bags of left over food to take home for to eat. My father had beans everyday for school lunch because that is all the district could afford. Then they would come home and gather wood for the wood stove work in his grandmother’s garden and pick through the chicken bones to find meat left over from the patrons in her left over bag to make a stew. They would gather watercress and dandelion greens some days for vegetables. Yet the church and extended family provided everyone with strength and encouragement. FDR gave America hope. Even the children would gather together with the adults at a family member’s home who could afford a radio and electricity to hear the fireside chats. They believed change was possible and they made it happen.
I would shutter to think what would happen if we went through the same type of disaster today. I think I would move into the country with a pit-bull (no they eat to much) and a shotgun. The cities would be full of looters and riots would break out. Crime would be through the roof. Many free standing stores would close and malls would be armed camps. Drug crazed, hungry thieves would roam the streets at all hours. Domestic violence would be so common that people wouldn’t talk about it. It would be every man for himself because our sense of community seems based only upon utility.
Of course this is a worse case scenario. Most Americans have a basic sense of decency. The problem is that it seems to waning. In a way, I think that is why young people like Senator Obama. He is saying that we can believe in not only ourselves, but our fellow man to build a community which benefits the many not the few. It is no secret that I disagree with his solutions, but at least he understands the problem. That is why I also liked Gov. Huckabee. He had both the problems and the some of the solutions down. The truth is that it will not be solved solely on a federal level. The federal government has excaserbated the problems and can help alleviate them by changing counterproductive policies, but it can not solve them.
I think sometimes we Americans are secret monarchists. We want some leader to solve our problems. The truth is we have to solve our own problems, at least the societal ones. We have to coordinate the forces for good to achieve a this transformation at a local level. Why? We are talking about changing people not just policies. To do that you have to actually touch people. You have to teach and encourage. You have to mentor and love. That can only be done one person at a time. It is a task too monumental to handle 300,000,000 at a time. We have spent trillions upon trillion of dollars trying to address these problems to no avail. Let’s stop wasting our resources and do something which can work. Let’s direct our efforts to helping people instead of building institutions. Let’s finally understand what the pursuit of happiness can mean.