Sunday, August 5, 2012

The End of Society (Every Thirty Years)

I feel like every generation sees all the horrible things that people can do and thinks "This is it, society is crumbling. The crises that we're facing now are the Great Crises Of Our Time." Every presidential election is held in momentous, earth-shattering circumstances; every decision he makes has huge ramifications for the future of our country, because God forbid we screw up once in awhile. Everything anybody in power does is a massive disaster about to happen. A recession, a catastrophe, a job-killer, whatever. You know the lingo.
You know how long the phrase "going to hell in a handbasket" has been around? Like 'Our country is going to hell in a handbasket'? According to, it's at least since 1865. "Going to the dogs," 1775. "Going to pot," 1682. Going to "wrack and ruin", 1548. Every generation looks at its crises and thinks they're as bad as anything anybody's ever faced, and they look at this country and see everything good that they've helped to build being supplanted by new, frightening, morally questionable bullshit that the next generation is bringing in. Remember when black men marrying white women was terrifying? Remember when the moral fiber of our country was at stake when school prayer was banned?
But everybody's new and scary is the next generation's normal... and here's the critical thing to understand: it's not a moral failing when the shocking or weird becomes commonplace. Old ways aren't better than new ways just because they're old. And yeah, people game the system and do stupid shit or get addicted to drugs or commit terrible crimes, but there will always be idiots and assholes and criminals and killers. It's part of life in a modern, pluralistic, Western society, where you're free to be stupid and perverted and wrong... and where people are also free to be beautiful and creative and happy and sad and gloriously alive.
If you look only at the bad parts of modern society, as so many people love to do--and which is easy to do because the news, by nature, focuses on the tragedies and political battles and so-called culture wars instead of presenting a truly comprehensive picture of the society that we grew up in and are helping to remake every single day--you miss all the incredible good things that are happening out there. A horrible, unexpected shooting like what happened in Oak Creek earlier today isn't any less tragic because ten thousand people come together in its aftermath, but it brings out our society's strengths as well as its weaknesses. There's so much love and compassion and courage out there that's harder to see because it rarely makes the nine o'clock news. Don't worry about society. We'll keep on trucking like we always have.

For the tl;dr crowd: We're gonna be fine.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I agree with you one hundred percent. I often wonder, though, if now, or maybe further in the future, that "pluralistic, western society" will face problems due to its lack of concrete unification. When its just the abstract stuff like the "American Dream" and whatnot, what really keeps us together? I'd like to believe its the good and the compassion we all share but I just feel too cynical.

Keep posting and I hope life's good post-Wooster!

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