BLOG #22 SERIES #9
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
AMERICAN HEARTLAND – ITS STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE
OCTOBER 3, 2018
I find it fascinating to study America’s heartland, a vast, often thinly settled land-mass routinely either ignored or ridiculed by the media barons pontificating from their urban seaside bastions of power.
Most futurists appear to have concluded that the earth’s future lies in its cities, not in towns and rural hamlets. We’ve seen the results in our own roadtrips on back-roads in recent years: way too many boarded-up once vibrant rural towns. Their lifeblood siphoned out of them and pumped into the inexhaustible maws of our ever-expanding big cities, resulting even in well-known once vibrant medium-sized big cities today struggling to survive.
But it is encouraging to see so many Americans digging in their heels, rejecting the siren calls of the big cities, in favor of quieter, more family-oriented, more patriotic, more spiritual neighborhoods in rural America and in medium-sized cities that are regularly snubbed by big government, airline moguls, and big business.
It helps that the old template of lifetime employment in brick and mortar locations is vanishing so quickly that, most likely, by the early to mid 2020’s, the majority of Americans will be forced into self-employment.
It’s happening everywhere: just when one is ready to fully enjoy the good life, after career-long loyalty to a given company, very often now, with no advance warning, individuals in the prime of their lives, earning six or seven figure salaries, are called in to an office and told they have fifteen minutes to clean out their desks, surrender their keys, and leave, most with little or no severance pay. And they, being in their late 40’s or early to mid 50’s, quickly realize that they are snakebit: why should they be hired or kept on when they can be fired and four or five beginners be hired for what one person had been earning? There is precious little loyalty in big business today.
For instance, I have been privileged to have had many book-signings in Barnes & Noble bookstores, the last bookstore chain still standing. But lately, giants such as Walmart and Amazon have moved in on them. Recently, I asked if a certain P.R./Author Relations Rep was in. The answer, “Sorry, but she’s no longer with us.” I asked who was taking her place–and there was an embarrassed silence. Finally, the manager said, “Times are tough, so we’ve had to let all our employees go–except for our managerial staff. Everyone else will be contract workers.” Not said, but understood: no benefits, no retirement, no medical, and low pay for such workers.
This is the world we are rushing into as I write these words: computerization, robotics, drones, self-driven vehicles, all are wiping out full-time jobs. Except for areas that are somewhat insulated by the one-on-one work they do.
So, if one is let go, housing prices are now so high in urban coastal corridors that, by necessity, thousands will be forced to move to areas of the country where housing is cheaper. Furthermore, contract workers, thanks to computers, can now live and work most anywhere.
So this is the dark side of our Brave New World.
Perhaps, in the jolting fallout of the crumbling of our modern template, a new value system may be born, accompanied by a return to a more meaningful and lasting self-driven family-oriented lifestyle.