“You Can’t Have a Good Policy When You Can’t Have a Good Debate.” – Roger Scruton
I’m re-reading a great book right now called “Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging” which I recommend if you haven’t read it. What is fascinating about the stories in the book, is how alienating and socially isolating America has become. We truly are a fractured society, especially in comparison to tribal cultures. When I was reading the book, I kept thinking about how little sense the public discourse makes now and II’ve been thinking about this for several years.
One reason I don’t discuss politics with people outside of my inner circle of close friends, is that to do so would be irrational. I hold no ill will for people whom I disagree with politically, and I really like many of them, but at the same time, if I don’t know someone’s deep metaphysical outlook on the nature of life, it isn’t fruitful or logical to discuss anything political. It would be like trying to play checkers with someone who is playing chess- different beginning, different roles, different rules, and a different “telos” or end, as Aristotle would say.
The US Constitution and Declaration of Independence both state that the individual’s “rights” come from the creator, and it was under this dialectic framework that America successfully improved race relations up through the changes in the 1960s. We white and mostly Christian Americans rightly came to see from our own anthropological and moral framework that every person, of any race, was viewed as equal under the law, and deemed to have dignity since conception by the creator, regardless of background, race, or circumstance. Not because of who their parents were, but because they were children of the creator- no one could take away the rights they were created with.
Unfortunately, since the 1970s, some of the legislation about the nature of life has changed that dialectic framework, and I’m afraid the outcome has not been good when it comes to positive cultural dialogue. If I believe that people are created by God, and someone else doesn’t, we are not going to have a rational discussion about the nature of life because we are already starting out with a flawed anthropology- who we are, what’s important, and where we’re going, and want to go. If we are not created by a higher power, then we are only material objects, and the people in power, left or right, get to say what is “right.” Might makes right.
Perhaps if we were thrown together in a survival scenario we would all 370 million get along, like a football team gets along to win, because we’d have a clear goal, but during peacetime without a common goal, there is not much commonality when the anthropologies vary wildly or as in most cases have not even been thought through.
What we are experiencing in the US, and in western cultures, is an anthropological collapse, and it’s been slowly building for about 50 years and I’ve slowly watched it happen over my lifetime. Another way of saying this would be to say that we’re having an identity crisis. Another way of seeing this, or saying this, would be to say that we are undergoing a cultural suicide, and many have said it. The book ‘Suicide of the West’ comes to mind.
What is fascinating is how growing material affluence and wealth and cultural changes have all corresponded clearly with an increase in mental health challenges in America- from depression, anxiety, to suicide, you name it. They have all increased. Even immigrants who move here have higher mental illness once they come. Our only anthropology for the moment is that we don’t have one. We actively refuse to have one.
I don’t have all the answers, but community is one big one, probably the biggest. When we agree on the basic rules, and the nature of things, first things, then we can get on with our discussion and form a larger community and have good policies. Until then, our energies are best left to other pursuits and to building up our own cultures within the larger anti-culture.
Regardless, building any form of healthy community, no matter how small, is always better than no community.
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