Is our society in decline, why? how?
From the macrocosm of our society, to the microcosm of the individual, the western model of social progress is failing by accident more than by intent, yet ironically, by design. The only way to actually slow the decline is to look, without flinching, or defensiveness, at the core causes of problems that bring dysfunction, then address each without virtue signaling, race baiting or class hatred.
Race and Poverty
The difficulty in doing this is that social policy makers see the current state of poverty, and reach for the explanation that brings the most positive social reactions and the fewest negative, the most funding, and the least rebuke. Actual effectiveness of any ‘solution’ is at most an afterthought.
The enlightenment of late twentieth century educational thought encompassed the recognition that there were great disparities in achievement and opportunities by race and class. In the mid 1960’s the Great Society Act promised to lift the poor out of poverty’s grip and into the sunshine of equality, yet it had within it the seeds of its own failure – the incentivization of unwed motherhood. Generations of Black boys and girls came of age without father figures. Male role models were too few, and too rarely positive. Bereft of storied war heroes, brilliant professionals (which there were, but the media ignored them), there was little left but idolizing athletes, and singers (later rappers). Idolizing the famous is as old as recorded history; it allows a momentary diversion from life’s dissatisfaction. In communities of color, there was a focus of that dissatisfaction with mainstream, or ‘White’ culture. The perverse irony is that while for the first time in our history, people of color were no longer being denied education, many were rejecting education as ‘acting White’. One can justify anger at historical oppression, but not using it as a gun to shoot yourself in the foot Fifty years later, social scientists finally allowed each other to admit this failure, and change a rule in the welfare system. Why did this take fifty years? How could our society do such monstrous harm to so many while pretending such altruism?
The answers to these questions are in the last sentences of paragraph one. To explain away the worsening of poverty with phrases like ‘institutionalized racism’, and the more recent ‘White privilege’ was to invite accolades, funding for your research, and tenure in the Sociology Dept. To point out the problem of fatherlessness was to be labeled ‘racist,’ and be cast post haste, into the outer darkness. It was simply easier, better for one’s career, and expedient to go with the flow. As Joni Mitchell sang “Who needs the static; it hurts the head”.
Solutions and their enmemy Politics
Today politicians are joined at the hip with media, opinions become ‘facts’ when wedded to a clever slogan. Serious problems like global warming, are not debated, nor are solutions. One solution is declared ‘right’ and all questions, especially those regarding efficacy or cost, bring a hatred usually reserved for a child killer.
There needs to be a dramatic change in society’s locus of responsibility. Behaviors that are damaging to the many, cannot be excused through the legerdemain of ‘disenfranchisement,’ or institutionalized racism/oppression/sexism… etc. Consider mass shootings – in the mid 60’s an ex-marine who on autopsy was discovered to be suffering from a brain tumor, used a deer rifle to murder 22 people from a clock tower in Texas. The nation was shocked, both at the horror, and at the idea that such depravity existed in the populace. Today mass shootings occur with a stomach turning regularity, always by some loner/loser who no doubt felt he was ‘evening the score’ with society. How could a person feel that they can kill others for any reason, let alone those who they don’t even know. How could the Germanwings co-pilot -because he was depressed- purposely, and with forethought, fly a plane full of innocent people into a mountain, rather than going home and killing himself? The answer is even uglier than mere cowardice.
It is because he, and every school shooter has been told that he is the most special, most important person in the whole wide world. Not just because mommy said so, but because his teachers said so, his social media said so, he said so on Instagram, or some other twaddle. Self importance is encouraged at every step, false esteem is showered on us from birth, criticism, or discipline rarely, if ever.
The focus on the individual over the greater good began in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The focus was initially about self - examination, and life purpose. The elevation of the self was a byproduct of authors capitalizing on introspection to sell self- help, and then self - empowerment books.
By the seventies identity politics joined the nascent solipsism movement.
Some time ago, I wrote about the problems (as I saw them) with the educational system. Lowered standards of both behavior and curriculum, practicing ‘defensive teaching’ and the forced embrace of ideas wherein 90% of the development went into rehashing previous research, and PR campaigns to justify the new program. Ten percent of the effort and money went into the creation of materials, mostly by ‘education officials’ who were neither passionate nor effective enough to stay in the classroom. The result has been self - justifying arcana, the ‘textbook example’ being common core. The dumbing down marches on.
Most recently universities have proudly hoisted the white flag.
Colleges everywhere have “contoured” their curricula to the ‘evolving needs’ of students with ‘diverse approaches to learning’. They have, at UCLA for example, eliminated (but recently reinstated) the requirement for English Literature majors to take a course in Shakespeare (they must also take several courses devoted to queer/LGBT/minority/gender focused literature) ; at CSUSB an English professor glibly noted that “we no longer grade for grammar and usage”.
For a nation that needs more, rather than less able leaders, they may as well have hoisted the Jolly Roger.
We cannot navigate the perils of the twenty first century – global warming, population explosion, demographic shifts of mass migration, resource wars – to name a few, with the cowardice of groupthink. Uncritical thinking, and reflexive agreement, much less virtue signaling, and chocolate fountains of pseudo self - esteem are luxuries we can no longer afford. We cannot simply admire the person who actually owns his/her own life, we have to make that a baseline requirement again.
Yep, we are in decline, and we have to pull the nose up before we auger in.