The Disengaged American
The reason why we aren’t living our dreams
Why Americans are disengaged
We have lost our independence
Every July 4th, Americans are supposedly celebrating independence and freedom. We are supposed to be full of hope for our lives to build our American dreams. And while I don’t discount the historical actions that proceed us, I’m more concerned with America today than events that occurred in 1776. A few years ago, instead of feeling like I was living in the “home of the brave,” my reality was fear to keep my job, feeling my independence threatened, and barely surviving let alone living the “American dream.” This sentiment is not much different than that of Americans of 1817. Years had gone by since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In one of his many letters, John Adams complained that “Americans have become disinterested in their past.” His disgust led to events that eventually made July 4th a national holiday so people would stop and remember the value of that historic date.
We are exhausted
On July 4th, when we are eating hotdogs and watching fireworks, we are supposed to be feeling emotions of freedom and independence, right? So why are so many of us feeling tired, overwhelmed, and completely disengaged? In fact, some of us are so tired, the thought of traveling to a community festival to watch fireworks or a family picnic is tiring. If you are like me, I even dread going to the grocery to get the ingredients to make a simple pasta salad I’m supposed to bring to my family picnic today.
Fatigue leads to pessimism
It’s sad, in a country that is supposed to be so full of energy, optimism and hope, why are we so tired and pessimistic? Even more alarmning is the fact that “working” is ingrained in us as children. Schools conduct “work ethic award” ceremonies instilling the value of “working hard.” Check out this photo of my kids on the night of their work ethic award ceremony. Yep, there is Dad on the right and me on the left. We are working so hard, we come straight from work, not having time to change out of our work clothes to celebrate the fact that our kids work hard. Do the four us leave the ceremony full of freedom and hope?. No, we leave feeling exhausted.
Americans overworked, disengaged
My dad, 61 years old says, “I’m working harder and longer hours than ever.” To put it plainly, Americans are overworked, tired, and as a result are disengaged. We are disengaged from church, from our political system, from our community, and our work. Gallup’s data latest findings indicate that 70% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.
Americans are overloaded with noise
Not only are we overworked, we are overloaded with information. On average, we receive over 120 emails per day. There is so much noise, Americans do not have time to sift through all the information. Can you imagine it being this way on the night of April 18, 1775, when Paul Revere was riding a borrowed horse to warn that the British were coming? Can you imagine him saying, “The British are coming, the British are coming. Oh and by the way, 9 old women were burnt as witches for causing bad harvests in Poland, and in Italy 4 people were buried by an avalanche for 37 days, 3 survived and the opera “Il Ré Pastore” is produced in Salzburg.” Which, by the way, all of those events occurred in 1775.
Americans are out of community
John Adams was right. Just like Americans of 1817 were working and finding their way in a new country, they became disinterested in their past. Sometimes we need to stop and remember our past. I remember my grandmother telling me stories of our hometown back in the “old days.” She recounted this idea of “community” and all the community efforts. Grandpa started the community volunteer fire department. They had community fish fries, events and festivals. Innovation, ideas and solutions to problems were born. Because of this interdependence born out of community engagement, people felt their value and thus were happy perpetuating more giving of one’s independent talents, skills, and passions. This formula of giving of one’s independent value to create an interdependence that further advances our world, has been the bedrock of our American identity. In other words, when everyone is freely giving of their talents, together, for the greater good, we feel like we are apart of something bigger than ourselves. This drives us to push forward in hard times, to do the right thing by working together to advance our communities, our workplaces, our schools, and our churches.
Americans have lost their interdependence and thus our identity
Fewer than one in three (28.7 percent) children now have a stay-at-home parent, compared to more than half (52.6 percent) in 1975, only a generation ago. America is overworked, getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a job they hate, coming home, cooking dinner, helping with hours of homework, and then what? Go to a community meeting or school board meeting? Wrong. Both Mom and Dad want to sit on the couch, drink a cold beer, and disengage. We are exhausted, there is so much noise, and we lack to find meaning out of our loss of interdependence with one another.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) volunteering is at a 10-year low.
According to the BLS, the volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percent to 25.3 percent of the population for the year ending in September 2014.
Because Americans are underwater, it is difficult for organizations to cut through the noise to communicate to their audiences. This is why the average open rate for newsletters is 18.5%.
Few Americans invest much less time and commitment, in the civic sphere. As a result, we’ve lost our interdependence to build community with one another and thus our identity and thus meaning in our everyday lives. Furthermore, our value is no longer self-evident. This lack of self awareness born out of being overworked, causes us to withdrawn and to become self absorbed. Nothing innovative ever came out of self absorption. (Tweet that y’all)
There is hope with REVOLUTIONARY people
But there is hope. American revolutionaires were driven by the entrepreneurial spirit. They knew they wanted to take their own ideas, build their own business, gain their own prosperity, to obtain freedom and happiness in their own lives. When this freedom, independence, and prosperity were threatened, revolution occurred.
Feeling this in my own life has driven me to independently explore new oceans to obtain a better life for my daughters and me. I see all the hopes and dreams of my friends and family, but because of our disengagement, these hopes and dreams will never see the light of day. This is what drives me. The hope and belief that everyone’s dreams, can become reality if we simply were engaged with what is going on and with one another. Crossing paths with revolutionary people, like Cerkl Founder, Tarek Kamil was the spark I needed to begin generating an endless supply of pixie dust for others.
What motivates me to get up at all hours of the night, early morning, throughout the day is the opportunity to help build a revolutionary tool that would engage America and the world. As the “Distributor of Pixie Dust” for Cerkl, my purpose for being on this earth is to reengage the independent talents, passion, and skills of individual people with the needs of churches, communities, univerisities, schools, nonprofit organization, and work places. Such reengagement will bring us back to the interdependence that is the cornerstone of our American identity. As a result, more Americans will live their dreams, pursuing happiness by create value through their God-given talents.
Formula to live the American Dream
Our country depends on engagement and our freedom lies within our interdependence to one another. Our pursuit of happiness depends on finding our passion and living it to transform our homes, the places where we work, worship, and live reviving the civic sphere.
This formula of creating value by giving of one’s independent talents, skills, and passions tightly weaves a sustainable interdependence that results in happiness and freedom, the true American dream.
Empowering others to engage
One of the great imperatives today is to empower our universities, civic institutions, places of work, nonprofit and faith based organizations with revolutionary tools and people to help sustain that sense of membership and engagement. Just as our ancestors came to America to redefine their lives, Americans must recreate the practice of community engagement but now in a way that fits the new shape and pace of our 21st century lives.
Everyone is on their phone or online. The best part of what we do at Cerkl, is transform online communication to engage audience members in old fashioned offline interactions. Working side-by-side with like-minded individuals unearths the deep richness of face-to-face affiliations built on mutual passions, loyalty and trust.
An engaged America
What does an engaged America look like? Would there be a group of people banding together to finally fix the decaying population of the honey bees? Would communities be able to end the heroine epidemic? We have the power through innovation to re-engage our students, our congregations, our alumni, our employees, and our community to find solutions to neighborhood problems.
Before you read this last line, sing in your head Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be An American.” Go ahead you know you want to.
I am proud to be an American. I am grateful for the revolutionaries of our past as it has inspired the revolutionary in me. The very fact that I have the freedom to help build revolutionary tools, built for the people and by the people is one of many examples that demonstrates that America is still a place to live your dreams and to make a difference that will forever change our communities, our country and our world.