One of the characteristics that defines the American people for me is the joy with which they indulge in doom-and-gloom scenarios. People seem to collect stories about how everything is horrible and about to get even worse. “Yippee! I have discovered something else to be miserable about!” they often seem to say in their articles, blog posts, and tweets.
There are people who scour the news for confirmation that the world is going to the dogs at an alarming pace. I know a guy who used to walk around looking all tragic on behalf of the victims in Darfur. He must have thought his endless melodrama was somehow helpful. I haven’t seen him for a while but I have no doubt he is now getting a lot of mileage out of the famine in Somalia.
This is an extreme case, of course, (albeit not as extreme as that of the folks who were expecting the world to end a couple of months ago), but even perfectly reasonable people seem to get impatient with good news and welcome the tidings of disaster. After spending some time reading articles and blog posts, I often have to look around and remind myself that we all live in a reality that is a lot more benevolent towards us than in many other places in the world.
My explanation for the phenomenon of this apocalyptic mentality is that people have it so good that they feel the need to spice up their lives with some imaginary drama. Only a person who hasn’t known true exhaustion can come up with “Somebody said hi to me in the street, this makes me feel exhausted.”
Among my people, there is an opposite trend. Nothing is ever a big deal. No catastrophe needs to be taken seriously and anybody who mentions, for example, that an explosion of a nuclear reactor in the middle of the country should probably not be dismissed lightly is an old bore.