Or, is it America, the outrageous? Or, just the fallen?
Lance Morrow penned an interesting, short op-ed to the WSJ, yesterday, on the new national obsession and condition – hysteria:
Pretty soon absolutely everything becomes an outrage. Anything that isn’t an outrage is Jeb Bush. Complex interactions of outrage from both parties’ bases conjured up the presidency of Donald Trump, who is the mighty Wurlitzer of the art form.
Outrage seems strenuous enough, but in truth it is a lazy habit—spontaneous, fatuous and naive. Organizing a lynch mob is easier—with a surer, immediate and dramatic reward—than conducting a fair trial, which requires the brains and patience of an adult. (The inner terror of Trumpians is that Robert Mueller is a grown-up with brains and patience.) Outrage presents itself as an assertion of conscience, but in practice it mostly bypasses conscience and judgment, and goes straight to self-righteous rage, by way of self-pity.
Outrage may be justified, of course, and redress long overdue. Just as a dose of morphine may be appropriate to help a patient in extreme pain, so with outrage. But like morphine, outrage is widely abused—and addictive. It may wind up becoming frivolous or fraudulent, as in all those “triggers” and “microaggressions.”
Is outrage now an American entitlement, and a permanent state of mind? Black Americans are more entitled to outrage than most, their grievances embedded in history. Are Asian-Americans entitled to be outraged? Some are making that case in their lawsuit over Harvard’s admissions practices—an argument that, in turn, collides with the counterclaims of African-American outrage. Are gay people entitled to be outraged? Are women entitled to be outraged? Who isn’t entitled to be outraged? (White men?)
There is something sinister and corrupt—Maoist—in the habit of assigning people to categories. That was the besetting sin of the 20th century; it was the way of genocide. As people are again consigned to shallow, mutually exclusive categories in this century, it is as if we learned nothing.
A society that goes on in this way will exhaust itself. …
It this case, seemingly, has exhausted itself. Morrow notes that when everything is viewed as an outrageous happening, then the real tragedies – like the railroading of the honest Julian Assange – lose significance. Morrow ponders a cure. Not unsurprisingly, he doesn’t come up with one. Me neither, except, maybe, for two: something beyond unpleasant, like a civil war, or; the very long, slow passage of time.
Before seeking a cure, it might be helpful to identify a cause. America has changed because Americans have changed. By strict definition, they are, now, a small minority of the hominids shuffling about the land. The people, even most of the “good” people have forgotten, written off, or just never read Marcus Aurelius’s admonition against overreaction to stimuli, good or bad. The number of those capable of reading, let alone understanding, Meditations decreases daily.
We have become a nation of fat, stupid, multi-vice addicted, God-eschewing, perpetually adolescent, instant gratification-seeking, lazy, insolent, fractured, and mentally unstable slobs. The populace, as easily frightened as entertained – and loving both, no longer can, or cares to, sort the true from the false, nor the right from the wrong.
For those few who still can, it’s time to do … something. For those many who can’t, well, hey! it’s conference championship weekend! Hubba.
**Note, the first: Thank you for the November visits. With all the changes and the departure of the Farcebook rabble, all of last month’s traffic was close to that of a good week back, say, two years ago. Still, I’m happy, grateful. Better the patronage of the select few than the patronizing of the debased masses.
**Note, the second: Only four ex-Presidents remain in the world. Gone is George Herbert Walker Bush, No. 41. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was surviving a crash landing in the Pacific in 1944. Later, he did damage incalculable to the Old Republic. Read my lips, “Goodbye.”
**Note, the last: Let’s have us a rockin December.