“Retrogression” is an interesting word in my vocabulary that comes with a story. I first heard it as a freshman high school student in 1968, attending a private Catholic high school in Buffalo, NY where I was born and raised into a blue-collar city neighborhood in the winter of 1953. The word came out of the mouth of Father Innocent, a Franciscan priest who took a very keen interest in his students. I grew up around Franciscan priests and nuns who had an impact on my upbringing and education in mostly negative ways, but there were some moments of good (although rare), such as Father Innocent’s lecture on the word “retrogression.”
“Retrogression, Lorenzo,” he emphasized loudly with a fist pounding on the middle of my desk as I sat in the front desk of the third row of our freshmen history class, directly in front of the good father. My alphabetical order placed me in that spot, otherwise in those classes where you could choose your seat; I always went for the last desk in the last row, preferably as close as possible to a window, where I fantasized about the possibility of jumping out and running away to freedom.
This was all-boys Catholic high school and something that I spent four years deeply despising. How I ever graduated is beyond comprehension, because I surely did not learn much, except, of course, for this lecture on one word that seemed fascinating to me.
“Retrogression, Lorenzo, do you know what that means?”
I had no idea. In fact, I thought it had a positive connotation.
“It’s the opposite of progress, Lorenzo,” Father Innocent said with great force, pounding my desk a second time. “Do you understand?”
“Yes, Father,” I responded in the same dutiful manner and respect I had been taught to show Franciscan priests and nuns at all times.
Today, during the early decades of the 21st century, American society is retrogressing.
Here are some quick examples. It’s okay to skip these, the general message is that we have mucho problems:
- Cell phone companies have been given free rein to take advantage of us, to steal our money legally.
- The fields of medicine and health insurance consistently obfuscate the truth by sending us invoices that are next to impossible to understand. Accurately deciphering the bill for a brief stay in a hospital room would challenge the most astute professional accountant.
- The supplements and pharmaceutical industries are allowed to promote completely false claims. The old days of snake-oil sales people have only been converted to the modern supplement and pharmaceutical companies. Look up the word fibromyalgia. It’s hard to get a very specific definition of this word we hear so often in expensive medication advertisements. Pharmaceutical companies are destroying the fabric of American society.
- Gun control has essentially gone unchanged over the decades and now we are seeing one gun-related violence tragedy after another to a point where assault rifles are so ubiquitous in our society that these horrible consequences will continue to plague us forever.
- CEOs receive fatter than fat paychecks while telling the low wage worker that the minimum wage cannot and should not be raised and many of our leading politicians agree with them. We have a plutocracy that is destroying most of our country.
- The cost of education has spiraled out of control. While statistics show that a college degree is still worth it over a lifetime of earnings, the reality is that it has become harder than ever to find livable-wage employment opportunities. The cost of totally unneeded overpriced textbooks is a shameful factor of our higher education system.
- Overabundant and out-of-control telemarketers call us with fake deals and prey on the old and frail on an hourly basis. The laws are really not effectively protecting us here.
- Shameless television commercials from shady ambulance chasers, obnoxious car salesmen, and dishonest political messages broadcast across our television screens over and over and over. It was much better when we had laws that did not allow personal-injury attorneys and doctors to advertise like they do today. We also desperately need to create new laws that can reign in political advertisements and annoying telemarketing phone calls from political candidates.
- Driving in traffic entails dealing with erasable and dangerous drivers on cell phones cutting you off with no regard whatsoever. Our attachment to mobile devises has become unhealthy and dangerous on numerous levels, and there are no signs of it abating in the least. It is also now common behavior for people to talk loudly on their phones in public places with no respect for others within ear shot, annoying us to no end.
- The news media has lost its integrity. What we see coming out of the major networks on our television screens is not a good picture of reality. What’s being broadcast is not very important. Big business and big money have too much control over our news. The plutocrats running the show need to hauled in, scrutinized and regulated by the citizens of the U.S.
- The self is increasingly replacing the community. This is a dangerous manifestation of the growth of technology that caters to the individual and is silently devastating our social fabric.
- Our infrastructure for bridges, water systems, roads, power and more are in great danger of failing us. Katrina was an alarm that has still not woken us up.
- Of course, I can increase this list ad infinitum. I’m not sure if it would do any good.
- This is the new America, a society of irresponsible, unaccountable business practices, with a growing population of people who over consume and care less about each other. This is the new America where the poor and middle class are getting squeezed out from the American dream, where it is becoming more difficult than ever to succeed.