1. Pearson, Linda J. RN, FNP, FPMHNP, APRN-BC, MSN, DNSc, Editor-in-Chief

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I recently read a New York Times article (7/7/03) titled "Bush Calls for Revamping of Head Start Program". The revamping allows states to shift federal money from the Head Start program to cover state deficits. It was proposed the same day that Congressional General Accounting Office investigators criticized the Bush administration for making similar changes in Medicaid (granting waivers that allowed state rather than federal oversight and standards). This move lowered the quality of care provided to poor elderly and disabled people.


Is Selfishness In?

I believe our culture is becoming dominated by the view that selfishness is "in". It's like Ayn Rand's theory of capitalism. Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead (among others). She proposed that staunch individualism, selfishness and unrestrained capitalism are best for a nation, and that unapologetic self-interested thinking, devoid of all needless emotion and compassion, makes the ideal man.


It appears many in our nation are being sucked into this way of thinking. How is this happening? Big businesses are bombarding us with the message to consume. The media overwhelmingly tells us to 'buy, buy, buy'! Contrast the political message at the beginning of World War II (sacrifice is patriotic) with the political message after September 11 and before the Iraq war (consuming is patriotic).


Kids and teenagers are exposed to strong consumer messages that they will be happier, more popular and successful if they wear expensive clothes, own the latest video games, and spend money. Parents feel they must buy loads of material items for their children. Middle class parents also work harder so they can buy expensive items, vacation in extravagant ways, and live in a style that the media implies is their "right" because they are Americans.


It's easy to be convinced that you can't worry about every poor person, particularly if you have your own worries about safety and the need to protect what you feel you deserve. It's easy to accept self-centeredness if you are bombarded with media images of poor people who appear to be lazy or taking advantage of the system. It's easy to accept the message that life is hard enough without having to consider those who are less fortunate.


Change the Current Path

There you have it-a snapshot of society today. I am disgusted. We know what works to help prevent a large part of human suffering. We know that clinicians who intervene with young children in dysfunctional families can prevent many serious social, mental health and criminal consequences in the future. However, unless big business can make a profit on programs or services for the disadvantaged, they are not supported. The reality is that big business does not pay much attention to people who work with the less fortunate.


The people I admire most are those who believe in helping others-but few are making big bucks doing this. Our society rewards those who make the big bucks and the message is that Americans should worship this ethic. For example, it's "in" to support tax cuts designed to benefit those who already own too many cars, houses and other material items.


Ayn Rand's books are devoid of children and families. I think that is a clue. A nation that ignores children and devotes itself to selfishness and consumerism is headed down a path of self-destruction. I believe nurse practitioners can play a vital role as change agents to buck the current path our nation seems to be taking. But will this be enough? Part of me is overwhelmed with frustration about where I believe our nation is headed. Another part stays centered with the need to "keep on truckin'" in my passion to help others. Your thoughts?



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