It is generally unwise to rely on looking back to some ill-documented past or to some imperfectly-understood non-technological culture because we always impose our assumptions and dreams on the slender fragments of actual evidence. History is littered with examples, Margaret Mead being merely one of thousands.

That said, your general point is absolutely correct: US popular culture is corrosive, destructive, and the antithesis of anything any sane person would wish for. But this is for deep historical reasons. Culture in the USA has not been formed largely by the educated and thoughtful because US society has never been stable. Until the 1950s the USA received wave after wave after wave of new arrivals, always from the lower echelons of their native societies. These people were desperate for material gain in order to avoid starvation; it was natural for them to prioritize such gain in favor of everything else, not least because they knew little of anything else. Those who valued the arts and sciences remained where they were; thus they did not influence the development of US mass culture.

The USA became a nation filled with people striving for more and more. This helped it become for nearly a century the dominant economic force on our planet. Even as recently as 20 years ago the USA was a more dynamic job creator than Europe, for example. But today it’s a moribund nation in which almost all wealth is captured by a tiny fraction of the population. Meanwhile there are no compensatory mechanisms. Who in the USA really cares about art or history or in fact anything connected with ideas beyond how to start the next billion-dollar app company? So there’s no intellectual or emotional safety net. If you aren’t rich you’re a failure.

It’s impossible to see this changing simply because every single element of US culture reinforces the zeitgeist without anyone realizing it. In the end the value of the USA should be as a salutary warning to others not to go down that road; sadly few have heeded the warning and some, like the Brits, still imagine it’s something to be emulated.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.