OK, gang. Let’s get settled down a bit. Time to post something clear and lucid, in other words something written by a real writer. And who to go to but Christopher Lasch, who penned some of the most prescient prognostications predicting our current predicament by decades? Not to mention writing the textbook on the American character as it developed from the 1960s forward, The Culture of Narcissism. That’s a must read by our overseas brethren if they’d like to gain some insight into current affairs here. Of course, they’ve already gotten their own imitations of us up and running strong. The perfect storm. As we are all perfectamente borracho with hubris. Or irrational exuberance, as Ayn Rand’s disciple Alan Greenspan put it as he stoked the towering inferno.
There’s little to look forward to, so why not look back at this passage from The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (1991) where Lasch takes a crack at waking up the quixotic Progressives from their utopian notions of eternal peace through eternal war, a couple decades before they turned into the Neocons they are today. As Nietzsche wrote: “Be careful who you choose as your enemy because that’s who you become most like.”
A sign of the times: both left and right, with equal vehemence, repudiate the charge of “pessimism.” Neither wants to admit that our society has taken a wrong turn, lost its way, and needs to recover a sense of purpose and direction. Neither addresses the overriding issues of limits, so threatening to those wish to appear optimistic at all times. The fact remains: the earth’s finite resources will not support an indefinite expansion of industrial civilization. The right proposes, in effect, to maintain our riotous standard of living, as it has been maintained in the past, at the expense of the rest of the world (increasingly at the expense of our own minorities as well). This program is self-defeating, not only because it will produce environmental effects from which even the rich cannot escape but because it will widen the gap between rich and poor nations, generate more and more violent movements of insurrection and terrorism against the West, and bring about a deterioration of the world’s political climate as threatening as the deterioration of its physical climate.
For more on America’s boundless optimism I highly recommend Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America (2010).
Dawn After the Wreck, painted by JMW Turner some 20 years after Goya’s Dog
I don’t want to end on a message of gloom, so let’s try to get back in touch with our true innocence. Go back to an earlier time when we were great and focus our thoughts really hard and click our heels three times so we can return there and shake hands with our neighbors! Back before our neighbor was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Note the JMW Turner on the wall at the beginning as the camera pans left. Looks like the one in the National Gallery in D.C… Right, Keith?