Depressing City
Depressing City Charles Mudede

Gene Balk, a data guy you can always count on (forgive the pun—I'm not made of iron), revealed today, December 17, a curious survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. This survey "found that in mid-November, just about half of Seattle-area adults said they were dealing with feelings of depression." This made Seattle the most depressed city in the US.

"Of the slightly more than 3 million people age 18 and older in our metro area," writes Balk, "an estimated 1.5 million were feeling 'down, depressed, or hopeless' at least a few days over the previous week." This, however, is not something to be worried or ashamed about. Instead, it should inspire a bit of pride. What the survey really shows is that Seattle people are closer to feeling right about the way the world actually is than most people.

Exactly, 49% seems small. It really should be around 99% or more.

Now, my mother, a professor in public health issues, said, a few years before she died of breast cancer in 2003, that what drove her nuts about Americans was this bad habit of always putting a smile on your face. "Why do they smile all of the time?" she said to me over a meal she prepared not long after she returned to the USA after 20 years in Zimbabwe and Botswana. "And when they smile at you, it forces you to smile back. That's making me smile for nothing. I'm not happy. That's making me more unhappy. I'm fighting cancer. I want to live forever, but I can't. How can I waste so many smiles on a world like this?"

What was that wonderful line in the Public Enemy song, "Fight the Power"? Let me recall it for you: "Don't worry be happy was a number one jam. Damn if I say it you can slap me right here." That's the type of ish my mother was on. She wanted to slap some sense into these unreal happy faces. And what is reality like? People dying all of the time for reasons that don't add up. And in death there is nothing but just nothing. When you die, the past and the future are erased. You do not even know you were alive. There is no god, no heaven, no afterlife. So, being alive is the only thing you can ever know.

Then there's all of the economic/cultural crap. The relentless racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia. So many unhappy people have resolved that the only thing that can make them feel something like happiness is by making others as unhappy as possible. Then there's the wars. The people sleeping in the streets. The slums of Africa and South Asia. The galaxy-sized debts. The repression of wages. Jesus Christ. Most of us are not trying to be happy. We are trying, to use the words of the old school rapper Melle Mel, not to "lose our heads."

Speaking of New York City, what's up with this?

The metro area with lowest reports of feelings of depression in mid-November was New York, at 37%, which still seems like a high number.

Yes, that sounds too high.