Monday, April 09, 2012

The Age of Anxiety

The title of Auden's 1947 poem is of wide application. Anxiety is a constant in human life, being a variant of fear. And fear, anger, sorrow and joy are the Big Four.

One of the reasons I feel that America, and the West, is unravelling is because the values that shape our public culture, the liberal values to which one must bend the knee as the price of admission into polite society, are founded on anxiety. Which is a clinical word for fear.

The current Tray-von Passion Play, and the eruption of moral outrage over John Derbyshire, point up the seismic flaw in what this country has come to be. The historically and (for a few more decades, anyway) demographically dominant, central and utterly irreplaceable group is now entirely in psychological bondage to a terror of offending the minorities.

Think about it. It's stunning.

You may find this analogy insulting, but it seems little different to me from parents living in fear of upsetting their children. And if a child declares him or herself upset with one of the parents, regardless of the reason, the other one sides with the child and attacks the partner.

And the full scenario comes into play merely by words, words alone. You may not lift a finger to actually do harm or damage; all you have to do is say the wrong thing (or sometimes, not say the expected thing in the right way) and retribution is at hand. Even, or especially, if what you say is true.
Hurt feelings, sensibilities or just pride trump all.

And given the incredible transformation that has come from 24/7 global mass media, the Internet above all, "public culture" has effectively moved vast areas of our formerly private lives into a virtual public arena. Arena being the operative word, a zone of combat.

What society can long endure like this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet the irreplaceables' principalities and powers could de-offend minorities by sacrificing a conservative blogger every day of the week for the next couple of decades, and in 2032 Americans could still have an election campaign replaying the New Deal vs individualism-constitutionalism. ... Some years ago David Letterman remark'd jokingly, what would it be like to travel four hundred years into the future and find that people were still watching Matlock on futuristic televisions?

... Everyone agrees that there are now no serious tasks for the world assign'd by the Bible or Plato-Nietzsche. Evidently what Hobbes calls "commotion" is the only thing the system needs to keep cranking out.

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