The Altruism Industry – Part II

In Part I we described salient cultural developments of the 1960s, particularly the civil rights and anti-war movements. Some of us still alive can take pride in our roles, but by now they seem quaint. What follows outlines the devolution of our societal discourse since then.

As in other entertainments, so it is in politics: something has to replace the last thing before it gets stale. Soon Negroes (using the word then current) were pushed off the screen to make room for Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, then anti-war protests drove him off the screen and out of office. There followed a succession of new competitors, making their claims against society. They said in effect, “What about me? I too deserve redress.” And, “I deserve it more than those others do.” Professional activists promoted themselves, claiming to have uncovered suffering the rest of us were too thickheaded to notice, too insensitive to care about, or too slow to fix. “Great” in Great Society became a sneer. It became commonplace to say injustice was endemic to our polity, our economy, our culture, and our very psychology. Eventually the power game swamped whatever good will was left among us.

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The Altruism Industry – Part I

Each generation that comes along has the comical notion that they are the first to discover sex. The generation of the 60s thought it was the first to discover  America’s materialism and complacency. It was not; we inherited that awareness from the Beats and other less theatrical critics of the 1950s.

A golden moment

We came up in a golden moment of postwar prosperity. There was enough money to pay for tuition at the best schools. We had great teachers, the best libraries in existence, music and food in abundance, and friends with whom to enjoy them. We were excused from military conscription and protected from anti-drug laws. Our parents, after the deadliest war in history, seeing life as something of a miracle; sent us love upon request.

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Spiritual-Political Hazards – Part II

4. Manichæism

In Part I the Owl described the perverse devolution of misery into a market good. A corner has been turned. Aggrandizement and titillation (the old fashioned words have no good replacements) act on people like a drug habit; it takes a new evil every  day to keep the party going. Reporters will find it for us. Delight in ourselves comes to include identification with the unhappiness we started out to change. Solidarity, however imaginary, with degraded people becomes more important than ending the degradation.

We are entertained by misery. One need only turn to recent entertainment media (never forget that is what they are): television, movies, social media even chichi advertising. They gain attention by including what we enjoy so much: human oddities, disasters, injustice, and misery.

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