Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Depression and Quizzes

My chances of becoming depressed in the next 12 months is 4.633%. How do I know that? I took this handy-dandy depression quiz!

Aside from now feeling pretty damn good that I beat out the Europeans, whose average chance of becoming depressed in the next 12 months is apparently 7.73%, I also had an odd moment when I went to pick out my country. It wasn't there. I can't remember the last time I went to choose the United States from a drop down list and had it not be there, and usually right at the top and out of alphabetical order (which alternately annoys me and makes me happy, depending on the OCDness of my mood and how much patience I have to scroll through a list of country names). It was kind of surreal. And that lead me to thinking about how having your country at the top of a list when it clearly should be nearer to the bottom or even having your country on a list at all is a weird sort of privilege. It says something about the width and breadth and scope of your country, its significance not only in its own mind but in the world. No wonder most Americans have an America-centric view of the world. Not only are we more isolated than many other countries, sharing our border with only two other countries, but we also don't have to even normally see the other countries' names on a drop down list.

I suppose another problem with many Americans' knowledge of the world may come from our educational system as well, and that is probably more to blame than any drop down box. After all, the maps in my high school still had "Zaire" instead of the "Democratic Republic of Congo". We had an industrious student who cared enough to cross out Zaire with a sharpie and try to squeeze in the entire Democratic Republic of Congo name - a valiant but nonetheless fruitless effort that accidentally led to an unfortunate invasion of Tanzania and Zambia - but the fact remained that apparently Africa's tumultuous political climate did not warrant the school board springing for some new maps. I'm sure mine was not the only school in which this occurred. And I'm certain my old high school is not the only high school using text books from 8 years ago (and I know this because my sisters, who are 8 years behind me in schooling, still get books with the names of me and some of my classmates inscribed on the inner book cover along with their relative condition when we got them).

I had come to the strange and paranoid conclusion that the lack of a truly great educational system was all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy, stemming partially from the fact that my hair dresser was appalled by the bailout bill because it stunk of socialism without recognizing how the history of the United States is littered with examples of socialist-esque programs, like social security. It is easy to manipulate a population when they have very little understanding of the past. But I've come to a much kinder, but at the same time more depressing, view: we're all just complacent in a broken system.

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