Saturday, December 12, 2020

On Medium: Progress and American Infantilism

This one's on how American mass culture became so infantile, and on the existential standard of maturity that makes that judgment so vital in view of the self-destructive consequences of our flights into childish fantasies.


  1. The problem with the kind of heroism you are describing - facing the grim truth of our predicament - is that it's become just as irrelevant as the older, martial form of heroism was after the invention of the firearm. Greta Thunburg may as well be decked out in full plate armor as she deliverse her tedious, uninspiring speeches - she wouldn't sound any less ridiculous.

    You might think that, at the very least, gallows humor could be the one form of heroism left to us. If the Titanic is sinking & all the life rafts are full then the most dignified thing you could do would be to take out your fiddle & join the band as she sinks. But no, even then you will look like a fool. They'll just label you as a 'negative person', a weakling, a 'quitter' & recommend you try antidepressants

    A while back a family member of mine expressed concern over the recent incursion of Japanese hornets into Washington State; she was concerned that they might start attacking our honeybees. "Oh, don't worry about that" I quipped, "if the hornets don't wipe them out, 5G will." I had said it to make her laugh, but instead she suddenly looked very disturbed & told me she was certain that God would never allow honeybees to go extinct. I immediately felt the impulse to make a sarcastic comment about how He certainly watched over the dinosaurs, mammoths, & dodo birds, but had the presence of mind to bite my tongue. You see, this is what we are dealing with: a level of denial approaching insanity. And in a country full of insane people, it's the sane minority who are truly mad. If Don Quixote were not fictional, he actually would have made a fairly competent knight in the middle ages; but he was born too late & so he could only be a clown. And that's all would-be-heroes can be in this age: little clowns like Greta Thunburg.

    1. I agree in the sense that, short of a transhuman transition into high-tech godhood, the only heroism we can look forward to is a tragic kind.

      In the big picture, compared to cosmic indifference, even our heroism counts for little. But compared to mass infantilism, existential depth stands out as admirable. That's not to say the heroism I have in mind will inspire the masses to wake up and revolt. That's part of what makes the heroism tragic, meaning it's doomed to fail to reach its ideal.

      Relative values aren't worthless just because they're not absolute. Some relative values are indeed arbitrary if they're wholly subjective. But the difference between the courage to withstand rational enlightenment and the infantile retreat into nonsense isn't just a matter of taste.

      A hero may fail to change the world for the better, but we should be focused on being true to ourselves in living up to our potential. We may die in obscurity, but at least we can try to do our best with what we have.