Lack of fictional distance and American insanity

I beg your indulgence for being a bit tongue-in-cheek.

It stands to reason that most Americans are partially insane. Everyone, except Americans, agrees on this. (For Americans themselves, it is of course just "normal". As anywhere, their insanity is their Tuesday.)

Far be it from me to suggest that the US is the only, or the most, insane country in the world. That's probably Saudi Arabia. Or lately, ISIS, if anyone recognized them as a country. But the US insanity is peculiar. It is so markedly different, in a hard-to-nail-down way, from insanities we see elsewhere.

The question is the nature and cause of this insanity. And of course, I wouldn't be writing if I wasn't itching with a theory.

For most people in the world, who consider Americans to be generally crazy, the stories in TV and movies happen in a clearly different, far-away land. For people in the US, though, those stories happen at home. There's no distance.

Due to this reduction in fictional distance, everything that appears out of the ordinary is immediately suspected by Americans to be, potentially, like the worst thing you've ever seen on TV. For citizens, this leads to paranoia about serial killers lurking around every corner. For cops, it leads to trigger-happy behavior we're reading about constantly.

It is of course impossible to talk about American irrationality, and not mention the brainwashing aspect of American "news". But I suggest it's not just the "news". It's the fiction. All of this stuff that America exports, that makes up $500 billion of US GDP.

Our subconscious doesn't distinguish between fiction and news. And it's the fiction that's constantly creating the association between typically American living and working environments, and images of gun fights, car chases, sociopathy, drugs, rape, and murder. These images affect how we perceive real risks.

Citizens of most other countries have the privilege of not having their living and working environments marred with associations like this on a daily basis. We watch the same stuff, but it happens elsewhere. The Bates Motel resides in a fictional California, not potentially down the road I drive by every day.

Americans don't have this privilege. They are being primed every day, in every way, on every channel.

When a big budget movie is showing a city being destroyed - whether by nature, or aliens, or zombies - it's hardly ever Shanghai. It's almost always New York, or LA, or Chicago, or San Francisco. Does that not suggest why a larger fraction of Americans than probably any country in Europe seem to constantly be contemplating total social collapse in a handful of years as something to plan for? As a real possibility?

Have you seen much of Breaking Bad? What's your first, immediate thought about Albuquerque?

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