The world, that is. Life experience, fairly often. Many people. As Johnny Clegg put it, “It’s a cruel, crazy, beautiful world.” Hard to dispute as we still await the arrival of The Big One from outer space or some moron setting off nuclear Armageddon.
People crazy, losing it behind the wheel, losing it on drugs, losing it when they have to wait or can’t get what they want. People acting selfishly or crazily, lost in their own worlds, with a greatly overvalued sense of self and entitlement. Imagine. That the world should just cater to or bow down to one individual. You’d have to go back to Hitler or Napoleon to find such self-deluded sense of grandeur or entitlement. Rob Ford? Alison Redford? Now, that’s crazy.
The current craziness in Canada of deconstructing institutions and, with them, people’s jobs and lives, as if none of that mattered. The crumbling roads, buildings, hospitals, health care, schools, education systems. Yes, the great flow and tendency is to tear apart these daze without conscience, without an alternate sensible plan, with zero appreciation of what institutions have brought us. With the result that people have been abruptly, unnecessarily, moved into chaos and the fear zone. Now that’s crazy.
This well exceeds the future shock that Alvin Toffler wrote about in the late ’60s. There has been a great abandonment of common sense, rationality, and moral responsibility. Replaced with the grinchy cynicism of “Oh well, there’s no more money; people will have to fend for themselves.” The great tidal wave of uncaring that has swept across this nation in the past decade. Certainly emanating everywhere from politicians and governments. A Mean Society and a Society of Entitled Means fit for the Pamela Wallins, Mike Duffys, or monolithic parties like the Alberta PCs who, for decades, have abandoned all moral responsibilities to voters and the public at large.
But to return to the topic–a craziness borne out by a turning away from the decent and civilized, and much of what used to be the good, truth, justice, and beauty of Western Civilization. Instead, myriad divisiveness and mass alienation, needlessly, on so many levels. A deliberate, marked preference for chaos and destruction, not survival, growth or real freedom.
I’ve long said that life and life experience is basically dualistic (quite apart from its unquestionable multiplicity). It’s as obvious as the continuum between good and evil or reality and illusion. Those polarities or opposites are with us and built into us, potentially, from the get-go. With the first aforementioned duality, is it any wonder that we have always had war and violence? And with due respect to our common humanity, the differences between what has been termed masculine and feminine. Pulling us in very different directions toward differing values, beliefs, and lifestyles. We have long been in conflict with one another, with others all along the way. That’s just the way it is, the way we are, irrational as this might be. An underlay of great divides suggesting, on many days, never the twain.
I think, unquestionably, the best of culture and Western civilization took us a long, long way from barbarism, irrationality, naturally-generated and external chaos, and craziness. But now we see that stability, permanence, traditional authority, ability to make distinctions, ability to think critically, and ability to empathize stripped away, ignored, criticized, or forgotten en masse in a brave new screen world. And we are all of us meaner, poorer, and more cynical as a result.
I long for a return to an awareness of the best of culture, civilization, and the past. A renaissance of what Matthew Arnold termed the “pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world.” (Preface, Culture and Anarchy). I don’t think the screens will be enough. I don’t think the screens, in and of themselves, will necessarily free us to achieve what Arnold envisioned. In the end, I think the screens will leave us hyper-dependent, slaves to machines, spiritually impoverished, very dumb, and more limitedly egocentric. Ultimately, they will leave us far more distracted, shallow, and crazier than we ever were to begin with.
The present here-and-now will always be the most important focus for how we live. But–simply put–the instructive past, not the distracting/ illusory/delusory future, offers us the most valuable information, insights, and guidance our world needs to survive, grow, or move ahead. Individually as well as society-wise.