The Richmond Register

September 21, 2013

Why we need to be role models

By Don McNay
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — There aren’t enough of us living normal, stable lives.

A couple of years ago, I attended the 50th wedding anniversary of Glen Kleine, my college journalism professo,  and his wife Joan.

I got married at age 52. Unless I live to be over 100, I am never going to have the type of unique celebration that the Kleines had.

If I do manage to make it, I’m not going to know where I am or why I am there.

Until we attain a society where most people are living “normal,” stable lives, we are never going to advance.

America has gone through economic chaos, but there are a lot of other things going on too.

A huge number of adults are addicted to drugs or alcohol. An even bigger number are obese or addicted to nicotine. All of us (I’m in the obese category) are using a substance to deal with the stresses of daily life.

If we could drastically reduce the number of addicts in the country, we would be on our way to eliminating a lot of our problems.

Economic stress is a reason that we turn to substance abuse. According to the census bureau, 14.3 percent of Americans live in poverty. It’s the highest number in decades.

Unemployment is around 10 percent and underemployment is much higher.

We have people who have maxed out their credit cards, live in fear of losing their jobs, and are not sure if they can retire.

It would be a political statement if those people could get some stability and sanity to their lives. A far better statement than attending a rally.

Abraham Maslow developed a famous hierarchy of needs.

Maslow believed that you couldn’t advance to self-actualization, which is the skill needed to lead a revolt against authority, until you had your physical, social and safety needs met first.

People are stunned when I tell them that roughly 90 percent of lottery winners run through the money in five years or less, and 60 percent of NBA players will be broke five years after they retire.

When people get big money, many hand out cash to family and friends and expect love in return.

They wind up with no cash and no friends.

The Beatles had it right. Money can’t buy love. Love is something you have to develop over a lifetime.

If you want to make a political statement, start by being a good role model for your family, friends and neighbors.

If we focused on a society where normal lives are valued and celebrated, we wouldn’t be on the verge of “Third World America.”

If our celebrities were people who were stable and honest, instead of Hollywood train wrecks, we would have a vision as to where we should go as a society.

A lot of the economic crisis can be attributed to people trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” People racked up credit card debt and took sub-prime loans to buy houses and cars they couldn’t afford. To quote Will Rogers, “they spent money they didn’t have to impress people they don’t know.”

Wall Street focused on short-term profits and big time bonuses. Same problem at a different level.

I want to bash on the people in Washington and Wall Street who contributed to the mess we are in. I want our politicians to get out of the pocket of big money lobbyists and listen to the people who elected them. I want the power elites to “wise up” and recognize that there is a world beyond Wall Street and Washington that they know nothing about.

It’s hard for an individual like me to implement widespread change. But, it is possible for me to encourage my friends and neighbors to live normal and stable lives.

The first step is for each of our us to model on how to do it.