Why Are We in Such a Mess?
Surely, it's someone's fault. It's Trump. No, it started with Obama. It's the intransigent Democrats. No, it's the head-in-the-sand Republicans. It's the pampered elite universities. No, it's the neglected inner-city high schools. It's the drug culture. No, it's the alcohol culture. It's "these kids today." No, it's the boomers. It's irreligion. No, it's religion, especially those crazy evangelicals.
And so on. Depending on the problem I'm thinking about, I can pretty much find someone or some group to point the finger at. And I'm probably right. The object of our pointing is likely partly to blame.
But the old truism is still true: Three fingers are pointing back at me. Some think Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov pushed things too far when he had Father Zosima say,
There is only one way to salvation, and that is to make yourself responsible for all men's sins. As soon as you make yourself responsible in all sincerity for everything and for everyone, you will see at once that this is really so, and that you are in fact to blame for everyone and for all things.
Allowing for hyperbole, there is still something about this idea that resonates with me. It has been said that G. K. Chesterton once received a query from The Times of London to write on "What's wrong with the world today?" To this, he replied, "Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G. K. Chesterton." We have no documentary evidence of this exchange, but it certainly is the type thing Chesterton would say.
This notion has occurred to me afresh listening to podcasts by clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, whom I introduced to GR readers a few weeks ago. While acknowledging the danger of "blaming the victim," he argues in a number of lectures that the way to move forward—to bring some meaning to our suffering, to chart a healthy path forward—is with a painful and fierce self-examination to discern what role we're playing in our current predicament.
The point is this: It's not just an idea of Bible-thumping preachers but a profound insight one finds in literature, mythology, and psychology. Repentance is crucial to identify and rectify the human condition. And to soften the hard edges of our cultural moment. Thus my recent editorial on "Whatever Became of Repentance?"
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry gets at this from a slightly different angle, talking specifically about our vicious political divisions, but the fundamental point is the same: "It has to start with us."
On Knees in the NFL
Speaking of political disputes: I continue to think the controversy over NFL players taking the knee is an exercise in what fellow editor Ted Olsen calls a "foolish controversy." Of course players have the right to protest, and no, you can't fire people for practicing free speech, something men and women have given their lives to ensure. Of course the flag and the sacrifice it represents should be honored—yes! But kneeling at the national anthem to say that we're not living up to our national ideals is a way to insist we keep striving for those ideals. It isn't like Kaepernick and others are throwing blood on the flag or burning the flag.
Women at the Nuclear Ready
Sorry if I seem fixated on nuclear war, but faithful readers of the Galli Report will know of my impatience with abstraction. How exactly does a nuclear launch actually happen? Well, fortunately (in my view) it's in the hands of some women, who often show better sense in crises than do members of my hot-headed gender. Their mission:
Ensure that the world's most consequential weapons are infallible and ready to launch on command—a not-so-gentle reminder to our adversaries that it would be, to put it mildly, a really bad idea to attack the United States.
Bad News for E-Readers
That would be me. I prefer to read via Kindle, which allows me to both mark and copy/paste text but also carry around a library of books whenever I travel. But apparently, I'm not retaining as much as I might when I read this way. Sigh. Maybe I just need to take better notes.
Grace and peace,
Friday, October 20, 2017
Why Are We in Such a Mess?