Something tells me this’ll be a multi-part essay.
I see our culture and civilization ever-accelerating in the direction of servitude, bureaucracy, totalitarianism and the restraint of personal freedom. Even worse, I see a cloaking of humanity, as though each were behind invisible shields. Go ahead with your perversion, the culture states – be a human being, in the same way the societies treated eccentric behaviors elsewhere. Humanity itself has not been a disgusting eccentricity; this is the brand new experiment.
Instead of intimacy, we have the loudspeaker. Dr. Josef Goebbels was one of the first modern thinkers to appreciate the ability of the loudspeaker to create false intimacy. All Germans could be at one with their Fuehrer – just listen to him on the radio!
Something unnatural about Adolf Hitler made him unable to have real, interpersonal human relationships; but to have a sweet and compelling intimacy with a microphone. Once the miracle of the airways allowed him to establish his intimacy over the radio, the German people were enthralled. He did not speak to them from Berlin; instead, he came to their parlor, and touched them intimately.
Why here in America, and why now? We are not living in the middle ages, where the regal and papal authority was as unquestionable as the sky and reign. We have a lengthy literature of freedom, histories telling the fragility and evanescence of totalitarianism. Ignorance is no excuse.
For other countries and cultures, one of the things that is most despised about Americans is how rapidly our forgetting is. We forget far more quickly than other cultures – we are actually trained into the habit over long years of schooling. The Iranians are still sulky and wary towards America because of the coup in 1953. We have no idea what they are talking about, and rather despise their primitive natures, dwelling in the remote past and nourishing old grudges that nobody cares about anymore.
This ritual is seen in every change of administration in the United States. The whole business with Col. Oliver North and the various blatant illegalities of the Executive branch was papered over, until the next administration could come into power. The Clinton Administration promptly closed the whole matter, under the spirit of looking forward not looking back – letting sleeping dogs lie. Upon seizing power, it is best to carry on the tradition of speaking no ill of the prior leadership – for someday, you too will be an ex-leader, and it’s best if your own dirty linen is not aired by the next energetic reformer.
Mr. Obama eagerly helped us get past the nastiness of 9-11 by ignoring any responsibility for the details of Guantanamo, or the buildup to war, or all that unpleasantness. We resolved to look forward, as we will again when the next Administration breezes into power.
It’s clear that freedom is a quality that only depends on the desire of the citizens for it. We should look at ourselves honestly and see that we have far less interest in freedom than we have enjoyment of aggression. That, not freedom, is what drives us today. It did not drive the American Soldier in the Revolutionary War; nor in the Civil War, at least for the Confederacy, and to a great degree the North.
In the days of the Cold War, freedom became something to be briefly prized in the culture – the horrid WWII had ended, and we had perhaps thirty years of being somewhat rebalanced. We looked to the future with hope and pride; we looked to the strain among nations which was then current, to be something that would be silenced by the irresistible forces of hope and justice.
Paradoxically, the promise all came true; just as we were abandoning our hope.
I will continue tomorrow on Aggression.