1. Food: The human body requires a steady daily intake of high-quality, clean nutrients to live.
2. Shelter: People need to have shelter from the elements, clean air to breathe, and a clean source of water to use to keep their bodies and shelters hygienic. They need to have some measure of private, personal space for themselves and their families.
3. Medical Care: Even under the best of circumstances, people fall ill or have accidents. They need access to high-quality medical assistance at these times, and the resources to avoid illness.
4. Work: People have an intrinsic need to produce things or provide a service of value, and to be able to sustain themselves and their families.
5. Love: Nurturing relationships of all kinds and levels are a necessary component to a functional society.
6. Education: All people are born curious about the world, and have deep need for knowledge. A high-quality education provides mental stimulation, personal growth, and can provide contacts and life options available in no other way.
7. Boundaries: Groups must adopt rules of common acceptable behavior to avoid chaos, anarchy, and destruction.
There's nothing too shocking there, right? Common-sense reasoning, based on patterns, history, and experience.
Now here's the bell-ringer.
If we apply these unquestionable, universal human needs to the United States of America of 2013, the "greatest country in the world" is a failure. We are doomed, because we have allowed a misguided idea of "freedom" to take hold in the national character as surely as a cancer would, and the "land of opportunity" is not at all what we believe it is. I say this not as a pessimist or a disgruntled voter or Nostradamus II. Just look behind you, look around you, and look ahead. There will be no surprises.
1. Food: Our dependance on cheap, highly-processed, engineered foods, which are often infused with a unpronounceable cocktail of chemicals that benefit the seller rather than the consumer, have made us fat and sick, including our youngest citizens.
2. Shelter: Housing costs have soared past wages, making home ownership an impossibility for many working- and middle-class workers, even with two incomes. Home ownership strengthens communities, as property owners are naturally more invested; transient communities are less stable. And rather than lead the world in environmental sustainability and responsibility, our government refuses to adopt the standards that would delay the coming global warming catastrophe, even with enough solid scientific evidence to collectively crush the Westboro Baptist Church in paperwork tonnage. (One can dream.)
3. Medical Care: Also undeniable: the staggering costs of medical care, medical insurance, and untreated illness are bankrupting the nation. Obamacare puts but a Band-Aid on the overall problem, and if it remains, needs to be strengthened and expanded, rather than eliminated. We ALL PAY FOR EVERYONE'S MEDICAL COSTS one way or another; that's economic reality. It's better to make care affordable so more people can get treated before illness progresses to a far more expensive and public event. We aren't even the best anymore in leading indicators, and we pay more for less.
4. Work: The current US income skew is a big, big deal. Do your homework on the fortunes of countries where wealth was or is extremely concentrated, and opportunities for achievement or advancement are denied. Violence increases, and instability becomes the norm. The same jobs that made an economically-healthy America are gone, shipped to cheaper labor overseas. They are being replaced by lower-wage service jobs. People unable to find meaningful work lose motivation, and then lose hope, and the potential behaviors of a huge population with nothing to left to lose is a frightening thought.
5. Love: It would be nice if all you needed was love, but as societal stress, violence, illness, and depression increases, love suffers. It tries so hard, but cannot often hold up when so many other things take a toll on the spirit.
6. Education: We spend more and get less, again. And look real, real hard at college now. Spiraling tuition costs that are completely out-of-line with economic reality means we have graduates who are trained for jobs that don't exist, except in a very, very few specialized fields. They may never over their entire lifetimes be able to pay off their debt. More and more families will not be willing to take on college costs for these reasons, and we end up with a nation that is less-well-educated than many other industrialized nations that don't think college should only be for rich people.
7. Boundaries: We hang on to the idea of the United States still being the Wild Wild West, that we are all cowboys, unfettered, free, individual, limitless, that we have choice. We've been fooled. There is no functional society without limits, without consequences to behaviors. We so want to believe the big fat lie that Americans are special, are entitled to MORE and BETTER...no, THE BEST. We DESERVE things, because we are the greatest! So we get fed on the idea that to have MORE and THE BEST is the end-game; patriotic, even. We go into stunning debt to get a 80" flat-screen from Best Buy, ignoring the 26% interest on the credit card. Limits and boundaries are seen as freedom-choking, un-American values, so we vote in zealots to represent us. Don't tell us what to do, they say, and they vote to keep us well-stocked in machine guns and GMO food. Don't trample on my religious freedoms, they say, so they trample on the medical rights of women and change public textbooks to include pathetic pseudo-science. Don't stop the job creators from spending their hard-earned money as they like, they say, and enact laws that enable them to buy up as many politicians as they can, to get MORE...OFF YOU, until they have everything and you have nothing at all.
A twisted idea of freedom, the thing the human spirit desires most, sadly, will bring us to our knees. Will America survive? Maybe, but it is not going to be the place you know, or think you know.
Just look around you.