It is over a week into the New Year, and most of us have returned to our daily routines and rhythms. We have given up on those ambulatory dreams of changing our lives, and resume the day-to-day struggle and frustration of getting by as we did before. The magic of the holiday season is gone, its spell broken, and there is no organized celebration to look forward to (other than the Super Bowl, I guess, if that is your religion) until Spring Break, or what we used to call Passover and Easter vacation. Oh, argue for Valentine’s Day all you want, spending far too much on candy and dinner and roses. It’s still a Hallmark holiday, one designed to keep our hopeless yearnings alive.
So perhaps my mood today is apparent with those opening lines, but there is still a topic therein worthy of discussion. This rings along the same hidden pathways that map the direction of our lives, that is hopes, dreams, wants and the self-delusions we provide to keep the faith. These are the methods we use to cope with the perpetual sense of loss life in the modern world inspires. We always wish to see a change for the better, a new way of looking at things, an heroic future where everything will finally be all right. But it never is. It’s always just another variation on the same sputtering thing.
Think about, just to take one avenue, everything you were finally exhausted with at the end of 2018: the shouting, all the corruption and the endless lies. The bitterness. Hate. Didn’t you feel a need to purge yourself from all the enforced negativity that last year provided, regardless of whichever zone of the political spectrum you found yourself trapped within? Pro-Trump–just give him a chance! Why are they so stupid not to see what he wants to do? Why do they hate America? Traitors! We should go to war!–this, versus the Trump-is-a-crook moderates, those so disillusioned with the recent failures of their own outlook that they rage until radicalized, demanding the redemption of a new form of justice.
Donald Trump was elected, we must always admit, because America had gotten tired of itself. The same old debates had grown stale, there was never going to be any sort of resolution to problems that were nowhere near as significant as partisans decided to make them. This ultimate corporate insider was seen as an independent thinker, the figurehead of a revolutionary movement that was going to ‘take America back’ and return it to some place that its anarchistic followers could never truly visualize. There was no part of American, or world history, that they wished to resemble, and so the ‘again’ in their ‘make America great’ credo has no meaning.
We live in a revolutionary age. I suppose we always have, humanity, but the evolution of technology, both military and communications, has provided a faster way to overthrown the old order. As Nikita Khrushchev said, “We will take America without firing a shot. We do not have to invade the U.S. We will destroy you from within….” The very nature of modern communications technology has been to impose doubt upon everything. The more diversity in ideas we share, the less certain people are of their reality. This is not in any way a cry for a reduction of access, nor for the placement of limitations on speech and thought (I would be fucked, beyond simply being a hypocrite, if that were my suggestion). It is simply an acknowledgment about what the culture of doubt has done to us, about how it has torn us asunder. It has undermined all of our deepest, most sincere wishes and every hopeful, divine thought.
It isn’t even America, or any other national border that is being “destroy(ed) from within.” It is every individual, every belief system, every hope. We have gotten so delicate, so tense and on edge, pleading for the resumption of a former alien righteousness, that nothing will ever be good enough, and everything can be considered at least a partial failure. The glass is now always a little more than half empty.
We have been living this way for quite a long time, since shortly after the end of the Second World War, and the technological boom has created not the glorious and enhanced future of the science-fiction fantasies children used to dream themselves to sleep with, but more and more a narrow reflection of the cartoon and comic book horrors of the 1950s (https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=9781616552930&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ISBN-_-used). And I suspect that we prefer things this way–the fear, all that angry disappointment. If everything fails then our low expectations are correct. We were right. After all this struggle, who knew that hoping for nothing was the only way to occasionally be surprised by success, instead of devastated every time things do not turn out as we want?
‘Social stagnation’ is a term sociologists use to describe the moral decline that occurs within a society otherwise progressing. It is when most people have enough, and can only think about wanting more, that such a toxic atmosphere looms. Those without more can only look down upon those perpetually in need, and the divide increases, the world gets smaller and smaller as more people crowd beside one another to fill it. We start blaming others for our not having everything be believe ourselves entitled to. Religion. War. Politics. These are the options we see for cleansing the world, and somehow restoring that past of the bland history books we never really paid attention to in middle school. And we watch football games as a metaphor for life and see, sometimes, the most absurd failures being treated as reasons for greatness and triumph (one cannot get around the Philadelphia Eagles’ recent improbable victory over the Chicago Bears https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/sports/bears-kicker-on-missed-field-goal-you-cant-make-this-up/2019/01/07/4872ff82-f3bc-4f5e-9543-a3d6d8d77323_video.html?utm_term=.0ffadf9b7ad9).
And this is the lesson our sullen age provides, giving our children a bleak world view to look forward to, and increasingly debased methodologies to justify their behavior with. As with all of the major successes of recent years (signpost: 2016 US Presidential Election), it has little to do with someone actually winning anything, and everything to do with the profound rejections and losses that have inflicted such fate upon us.