Friday, November 12, 2010

Op-Ed From The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

I find myself increasingly convinced that what nutrition & sanitation were to the 19th Century or technology was to the 20th Century, mental hygiene will be to the 21st Century: the central factor that defines the age. With it comes endurance, intelligence & such security as can be had in the real world. Without it, the human project has very dim future prospects. Every other issue that challenges humanity is utterly dependant upon it, many of them having its deficit as their direct source - & our solutions will succeed or fail based on it.

The present context as regards this issue is horrific. Our response to an increasingly complex society is dysfunctional (no surprise - we're simply not adapted to our present environment, which is anomalous in the extreme, & its rate of change is far beyond our ability to keep up). That dysfunctional response itself isn't the real problem - the problem is our eagerness to rationalize it, avoid it &/or treat it as if it were sacred. The pricetag for that dysfunction becomes ever more heinous as our technological power continues to expand ... & unfortunately our Zeitgeist grows more dysfunctional as a result of the damage done, closing a very lethal feedback loop.

Our sacred cows have rabies, & our imaginary friends are about to kill us in our sleep.

We continue to indulge institutional untruth & folly at our peril. We have long ceased to have the luxury of either the time or the resources to spend alternately excusing or glamorizing psychopathology. Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves To Death" looks daily more & more like a prophecy. The perversity of the situation is that we now have global networks that inform us in real-time of just how steep a price we're paying for our ongoing orgy of stupidity - & that very information itself is being instantaneously reified into just another form of entertainment with which to distract us ... from itself. Disaster-porn, Mass-Murderer Trading Cards & boffo comedies about the collapse of civilization aren't just ironic - they're alarm-bells. Our response is to strenuously pretend that those alarm-bells are a lullaby.

It took us thousands of years to sleepwalk all the way to the edge of this cliff. We were given a reprieve from going over it in 1989. Sadly, Gorbachev did not give us a magic formula for replicating it, so I think if we want another one we'll have to make it ourselves from scratch.

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