I honestly don’t know if I’m just falling prey to the Obama backlash media hype, but things seem really different these days. I don’t think I’m wrong about this, though.
When Americans pushed against the establishment in the sixties, there was, at the core, the idea that the point was to make the world a better place, to make society better as a whole, even as they made their lives better within society. There was also the idea that, by and large, the establishment wanted the same thing, but that they were going about it in all the wrong ways.
I know that there were always greedy capitalists who were out for themselves, and that these capitalists were always close to the seats of power. I also know currents of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia (etc. etc. etc.) flowed strong (perhaps stronger than now, though I’m not sure), but there was the basic idea that the point of society is to create a better future for everyone involved in it. Most all discussions of morals and values came down to the efficacy of the ideas; to make things better was a given.
We used to argue about Plato, about how the blueprint of The Republic was at the very framework of what we held dear. We used to point out the flaws, debate the problems such as the strictures on individual liberty, the lack of freedom. We critiqued the hierarchical structure, saying maybe that was the problem instead of the solution. But we never questioned that our very purpose on the earth was to make it a better place.
And then, along came Nietzsche. Yeah, he was a problem for a lot of people, but at the very core of his philosophy was the idea that man needed go beyond his slave nature, to shed the shackles that held him earthbound, to become better, to become something more than than the shadow he was. There is, of course, the celebration of the individual, but through this transformation of the individual, man as a race would become stronger, and the earth as a whole a better place (Zarathustra was, after all, a teacher, even if an unwilling one … and teachers aren’t in it for themselves).
So, even to the greatest rebel mind in Western thought, the idea is, at the end of the day, to make the earth a better place for humankind.
When did that change?
When did the intellectual lights of our establishment actually turn their backs on the idea that the ultimate goal of a life is to make the world a better place? When did it become anything other than embarrassing to embrace the most vulgar perversion of Nietzsche in the form of Ayn Rand?
When did the idea of a better world die?
Ultimately, I can put up with religious people (I even admire some of them). I can put up with people who are deluded by years of programming at the hands of capitalist masters. I can put up with victims of fear, with victims of ignorance. What I can not put up with is cynical assholes. What I can not put up with is the idea that it is not one’s responsibility to make the world a better place.
Like the poor in Matthew 26:11, the exploitative assholes will always be with us. We must always be vigilant against them. What is disturbing about this particular moment in American history is that it seems as if there is a very significant portion of our populace who are cashing in their chips, who are only in it for themselves. The Tea Party, more than killing government, is killing the idea of a better world.
I know that the radical right wing in American politics is largely a media invention, but that doesn’t make it any less real. I have always hated it when people talk about how “things are getting worse”; but, there it is - things are getting worse.
I don’t think I’m wrong about this.