I was listening to Victor David Hansen recently on Youtube deliver a speech about the future of America. Something he talked about resonated 100%. Hansen is a superb historian, if you’ve never read his books or heard him speak, I highly recommend his work. Hansen is a classicist, someone who specializes in Western classical learning, particularly in classic literature like Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, Greek mythology and philosophy, Roman law and history, as well as the Bible and the history of the Church, and other subjects like Latin, Greek, and Rhetoric.
In this talk, Hansen mentioned something that really caught my attention. He mentioned that during a period of great upheaval in Athenian society, many people started practicing something called quietism. And, that many people were practicing it in right now America, even if they aren’t aware of it.
Quietism – Definition of quietism
1 : a passive withdrawn attitude or policy toward the world or worldly affairs
2: a state of calmness or passivity
I find his observation on point. He says that many Americans, perhaps a majority, aren’t interested in popular culture that much, or arguing about the latest identity politics issue, or addicted to the news and the outrage culture. They are instead living their lives, seeking out quiet times with family and friends and avoiding contentious conversations, and importantly, arguments. Mainly, they just want to live their lives and be left alone.
These comments by Hansen immediately recalled the book “After Virtue”by Alisdair Macyntire, one of the most influential books of the previous century. Macyntire makes the point in that book that modern culture is often like sitting down to play chess and the two players are using two different rule books and the game makes no sense. It’s better to agree on the “rules” ahead of time, if you want your life to make sense. Otherwise, opt out of the particular game. It doesn’t mean you can’t “play”, but be careful which “game” you sign up for.
I think most people get this, from a common-sense perspective, and are practicing a form of quietism, like Hansen talks about. I know I do, some of the time, though I do enjoy friendly arguments at times. I don’t consume pop culture or many movies, and I’m just not that interested in what’s going on in the culture. I just try to live my life for the most part. Millions of other Americans don’t either, they just want to live a good life and do their thing and be left alone. You don’t have to go live in a monastery in order to check out on the noise and silliness.
When things don’t make a lot of sense, quietism could be a wise strategy. We only have so much time and energy, so it’s not worth wasting it. Focus on your work, your hobbies, your community, your tradition, and enjoying life. The craziness will pass eventually.
P.S. IF you want to read an article Hansen wrote about the same topic, check this article out:
Confessions of a Cultural Drop- Out by Victor David Hansen
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