Age of Intolerance by Richard Sale


Or perhaps it is more accurate to label it,  “The Age of impudence.”

Not everyone has a sound or perceptive mind and the powers of expression needed to articulate its thoughts, but today, thanks to Social Media, no one escapes its malignant, magpie scrutiny.

Today everything is a “controversy,” because today everyone has a voice. “No one is exempt from silly things. The misfortune comes when they say them earnestly. They put themselves at great pains to issue trifles,” said the Roman playwright Terence. Today we have Whoopie Goldberg on The View lecturing the wife of New England quarterback Tom Brady because Whoopie took umbrage about something the wife said to their daughter about Tom’s loss at the Super Bowl.  Apparently Brady’s wife wasn’t humble enough. Shaun White got savaged because he dragged the American flag after he won Gold at the Olympics. (That strikes me as a mistake, not a crime, but several critics still managed to throw a lot of sand.)

It used to be that nation states embodied their own ends. Today, ordinary people do. In the past, the multitude revered certain things – political or religious authority, great scholars, outstanding physicists, sculptors, painters, and builders.

These have lost their allure. Today what the average person admires is him or herself. Such people embody the definition “smug” – which means that you are happy with yourself as you are, with no need to improve or perfect, as the great Spanish philosopher Ortega points out. Such people see in their nature no limitations, no dullness, no shortcomings of mind or temperament or experience. They cede no authority to anything outside themselves. Success used to belong to the gifted. No more. Success today is due to popularity or fame. Anything that isn’t immediately accessible is dead in the water. Originality is overlooked, and complexity is an annoyance. If it doesn’t sound familiar, what merit can it have? Popularity judges things by their fame and extent. If it’s a best seller, it has merit because so many have bought it.

We used to respect linage, goof manners, grace, bodily carriage, wit and learning. No more. Today, we Americans live in a mass democracy. Our happiness does not reside in our intellectual exertions – our attempts to master history or science or enrich our minds by studying or art and literature. Such things seem foreign to us; they offer little excitement.

It is a bitter fact that with equality comes anarchy. No one subordinates themselves to any set of rules any more. Equality strips away prudent restraints. The dullest among us is free to insult the brightest. Why not? If you write or say anything that someone doesn’t like, they shoot their poisoned arrows at you. Some enjoy seeing you in pain.  They feel pleasure at seeing you writhe. Your suicide amuses them. There are such people.

“Tis sweet when the sea is high and the wind is driving .  To view from the shore, another’s anguished striving,” said the great poet Lucretius.


The point is that each of us now has become a target. Anyone with the I.Q. of shower-mold feels entitled to spray insults, nasty invectives, ridicule and mockery at everyone or anything that they do not like with little regard for the truth of the facts.

What entitles them to do this?  Is it a superior temperament, a towering intellect, an extraordinary talent of understanding or wisdom derived from a vast and varied experience? In their lives did they exposed themselves repeatedly to great peril where they played heads or tails with their whole existence? Were they lifelong students who spent grueling hours in study in order to understand past civilizations and why they perished?

Sharing thoughts, exchanging ideas, relating and comparing experiences are a normal part of social life. The best way to learn about others or expand our view of life is to have others share their own minds and experiences with us. David Habakkuk, William Cumming, the Twisted Genius, and Pat Lang, have enriched my life by their expanding my own thoughts, correcting them when necessary,  adding to them and improving them as well. In such discussions, we are all colleagues with equal rights and all of us are eager to learn from each other.  There was no spirit of rivalry in these exchanges.  None of us wanted to outshine or upstage the other. None of us demonstrated any hint of “win at all cost” when we talked to each other as equals.

 Yet sadly, the times have changed. The idea of deliberating before you speak has been lost.  Today readers are poised to correct and insult rather than add to the dialogue. They do not respect the effort a writer makes to organize his or her thoughts lucidly and coherently.  The very fact that someone takes it upon themselves to write something offends them.  Who do they think they are? Your thoughts and insights are not needed, because you have your own and they are superior to any rival.  You appoint yourself the all powerful judge of the quality of other’s thoughts and ideas.  If they don’t agree with yours, then the writer is a “complete moron.”  He should know better then to speak.

Today we live in a world of bigoted fanatics. What is a bigot? A person who sees only one thing at a time, and who bases their verdict on seeing only a minute part of the picture.  For them, there is no foreground,  no background, no perspective.  By definition, their minds lack balance and proportion. People with great mental limitations are almost always the most vehement and dogmatic in what they say. In their hurry to judge and seize on another’s flaws, they bulldoze the discrepant facts. The more ignorant people are, the more they think they are all-knowing.

Social intercourse is not supposed to be a merciless competition, but it has became that. Suddenly everything today is a matter of debate. Any statement can spark a quarrel or provide a target for the venomous. The least admirable among us seem to have the most to say. Make any statement and sharp arrows start to fly labeling you: arrogant, self-satisfied, spoiled –you can make your own list.  The intent of these is not to improve your writing or thought, but to punish you for making expressing your observations.

What is a critic’s motive for speaking out? To inform, to add, to help and explain and make clearer? No. The intent is to trouble, slander, vex, crush, libel, and attack. Everyone these days has a hair trigger. The slightest jar to their self–complacency can set it off.  Nothing restrains them, not honor or decency or justice or compassion.  Annihilate – that is their aim. The virtues of an earlier world, contemplation, deep study, various contrasting experiences and exposure to different outlooks have been discarded.  You may take your time pondering and, writing and rewriting, only to find a reader labels you arrogant or self-absorbed. And they are not? Are their minds are free from any such insufficiency?

It must be asked on what grounds do these critics promote themselves as the best judge and the fairest arbiter on the matter? What achievements allows one to do this? Is your intellect and intelligence so towering that you can discard courtesy, measure, proportion, thoughtfulness, tact and restraint? Is your purpose to satisfy your cravings of vanity so you have recourse to every species of imposture? Because these critics are often not what they appear to be.

The snide sniffing and scoffing and the belittling corrections are  usually done by someone who is heartless, immature or poorly educated, someone deeply prejudiced or repulsively dogmatic, someone who is ill-mannered and who takes pleasure in inflicting cruelty.  How can a society improve when the dullest are victims of the delusion that minds occupy the pinnacle of glory?

Mass Democracy

What is the cause of this incessant incivility? It is mass democracy.

Today everyone is equal. Never mind that mass democracy is made of up of the most numerous in our society which is the fool.  The fool always thinks he or she is a mastermind. In fact, today such people admire little besides themselves. To feel superior when in fact your mind has obvious defects which you are too egotistical to try and correct makes you contemptible, but who cares? We are all equal. Any nail that protrudes from a flat surface has to hammered flat. That is democracy.

We have abolished classes, lineage, backgrounds, good breeding, distinguished ancestors etc., and as a result, each of us has the right to insult others just as they have the right to insult us. Of course, the people who suffer most in the age of impudence are the thoughtful, the forbearing, and the modest – people who detest inflicting humiliation on people who don’t deserve it.

The result is anarchy.  What entitles people to be so dogmatic and rude, so bellicose and remorseless? What credentials do they have? But credentials don’t matter in our time.  All you need today is a voice. If you can speak or type, you can ridicule. You can sneer, trouble, disturb, vex, bully, and oppress.

Any wayward bird can shit on any person’s hat.  Does that make him an eagle? Apparently.

Schopenhauer once wrote that “ one who has the right to live among men should discard any person who has his place in the order of nature even though he is wicked, contemptible or ridiculous,” Such an idea is the beginning of morality and tolerance, yet the ignorant ignore this. The idea never occurs to them.

The ignorant fire their guns when they are only half loaded. How many people deride what they haven’t properly understood? Prejudice stands in close alliance with ignorance. It is the habit of giving a quick verdict before you have carefully examined the case or the evidence. That defines Social Media.

What vexes me most in our public discourse is the pitilessness of it. In a mass democracy, any manifestation of talent is suspicious. It is not tolerated.Today, bellicosity, based on self-righteousness, reigns everywhere. The impersonality of the Internet means that any dull, half-cocked  brain can say whatever he r she wishes without suffering any penalty whatsoever. Everyone is free to behave as they like and say whatever comes into their heads whether it is worthwhile or not. Wars of opinion have replaced Wars of Religion.

Of course one if the first signs of ignorance is the belief that you never suffer from it. 

The Curse of Impersonality

The impersonality of the Internet has removed restraints that in the past were used to curb animosities and conflict – by that I mean good manners, good breeding, humility and considerate thought. These once held back unbridled people who had little self-control over their wits and conduct. Today the best among us are cowed into silence or are drowned out while the worst bray away like donkeys in pain.  Didn’t Yeats say, “The worst are full of passionate intensity?” He was prophetic.

Do any of today’s harsh, glib critics ever sit down and offer a measured response by pointing out the defect of the reasoning of the writer without name- calling?  Can they point out in a post what is intended to mislead? Have they become adept at asking or determining if there is any reason to think the writer’s beliefs are true? Is the goal of their critical efforts to make an impartial and dispassionate judgment? Have they learned to recognize or controlling their own biases. Do they attempt to view issues on their merits, able to grasp the relevant facts? Have they acquire the skill of weighing arguments, able to identify and question assumptions?

“Drop dead,” somone wrote recently. Does anyone truly deserve that kind of high-handed, annihilating judgment? Is the object of this abuse supposed to have no other choice but to crawl away and die? Would it not be far better, rather than name calling, to quietly observe instead? Why not respect and examine what has been said before you rush to rudely refute it?

The readers who like to jeer and insult should remember that their insults can be read in reverse.  I was recently privy to a nasty exchange between a mother and a daughter who were quarreling. I was an old friend of the mother. The beautiful daughter was in the pocket of the father who loathed the mother after the two divorced.  It was a stormy marriage. The husband had a mean streak, and the mother had a hot temper. The father was extremely handsome, charming, sexually promiscuous, a man who never told the truth in his life unless it was it gave him some advantage over others.

After the divorce, it appeared that through the years the father had assembled a diary of all the missteps the mother made as the daughter grew up. The daughter would often repeat these one-sided allegations to the mother as if they were Biblical truths. They never varied.  The daughter was always accusing her mother of “not being there for her” or not loving her enough or neglecting her. I knew this was false.

But last year, the daughter, at the father’s prodding, began to quarrel with the mother again. She sent the mother nasty and demeaning emails. The mother many times tried to call the daughter on the phone, asking if they could talk, but the daughter always dodged her requests. She never once picked up the phone.

Then the emails began. In one of them, the daughter told her mom, “You never were honest enough to say that you were not a good person.”  Then, in another, she said,  “I have forgiven you and your weak and defensive response to me, but in that forgiveness, I chose to let go of you.”  

What??? You forgive by banishing? Neat. What “weak and defensive responses?” The mother never had a chance to make a case. The entire exchange was entirely one-sided.

The mother was deeply hurt and in anguish, but all I could do was comfort her. She is a good-hearted and generous person who deeply loved her daughter. But one thing became clear to me – the daughter was a complete coward. She fought from ambush. She was a sniper who shot from long range. To inflict wounds in secret and never take responsibility for them is cowardice. At the mother’s request, I called the father, but he hung up on me.

When you behave like that and say such things, you may think you are harming your target, (and you are,) but what you are actually doing is writing your own self-portrait. What kind of person says such things?  Are they factual? Even-handed? Fair? Compassionate? Reasonable? Do they exhibit respect for the facts? Are they faithful to the truth? Or are they intended to impugn, malign, hurt, wound, damage, and humiliate. Are they simply malicious?

What I Would Like to See

I think we have lost the art of putting each other in another’s place. We overlook the old idea of walking in another’s shoes for a while in order to gain further knowledge of them.  Such efforts result in forbearance, sympathy, touching the heart and rousing it to aid and sustain rather than condemn.

I was in a hospital the other day for a test,  and just outside my room, an elderly black lady lay on a stretcher.  She could barely move or talk. Her daughter was there, anxious, trying very hard to do whatever was needed to attend to her mother whom she deeply loved. And suddenly I felt great warmth settle on my soul as I watched. I realized  that all of us are god’s children,, deserving of respect, care and sympathy. I asked myself if the warmth I felt could grow and become pure and powerful, could it heal and make whole? Could it take away the suffering? That was what I wished.

All of us grow frail or weak or get diseases, and all of us have to die, which is what makes life so tragic.  My impulse was to get up and go over to the old woman and hug her, and make her strong and make her frailty go away. I wanted god to give her back her youth and endurance and stamina because I realized that both of us were brother and sister in His eyes. At that moment, the old woman and I were equal in the truest sense of the word.

One last word: why not let our hearts go out to bless and save and strengthen rather than condemn. Is that so improbable?

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49 Responses to Age of Intolerance by Richard Sale

  1. kao_hsien_chih says:

    One trouble is that the objects worthy of “admiration” have become too banal, in multiple senses.
    In order for something or someone to command universal respect, some universal standard of what is meritorious and worthwhile needs to exist. Do we still have such things? It has become fashionable to drag down potential objects of admiration for reasons of “political correctness” appealing to one side or another: they might be too “woke,” “too racist,” “too multicultural,” “too white,” and so forth. Rather unifying symbols, they become divisive tribal totems. And the sad truth is that the reasons that they get taken down for tend to be all too “right” in one sense or another, and these flaws are exposed and disseminated at internet speed today.
    It’s a vicious cycle. The old saying holds that Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. But no one is above suspcion now–so there cannot be a Caesar’s wife, or even old fashioned Caesar (I think it was a given that Caesar himself had to be above suspicion). Modern day Caesars might as well revel in what places him or her in grave suspicion to many, since they cannot be avoided and doing so earns plaudits from many others yet. So Trump does and says Trump things. Liberal activists do and say woke things. Yes, they are divisive and invite hostility–but the center cannot hold anyways and one might as well try and appeal to those whom they can. But, once they take the path towards embracing rather that avoiding that which places them in suspicion, it becomes increasingly harder for those on the opposite side, even those who try to avoid too harsh a judgment, to “bless and save and strengthen” rather than condemn.

  2. Willybilly says:

    Exceptional Richard, heart warming, reassuring that after all, some of us are still with such intellect and a great big heart. God Bless. One last word, I agree with your thoughts in full, and I would have hugged and kissed both mother and daughter at the hospital… Warmest wishes to you and yours.

  3. A Pols says:

    A very nice and relevant essay. Thanks for the enunciation.
    Many people in our society seem to have trouble finding a way to place themselves as counting for anything, as having meaning to their lives and relevance in the eyes of their fellows. And so they take solace in the destruction of others. It’s the Holden Caulfield syndrome writ large.
    Maybe it’s time to bring back the “Field of Honor”. (Mostly sorta kinda kidding).
    In Charlottesville, people such as you describe have taken control of City Council and now City Council meetings are filled with smug pomposity from callow councilors and the the howling of jackals in the audience.

  4. Oilman2 says:

    I think the anonymity available via internet has removed all consequence from dialog, particularly social but also the physical. When I was young, tossing out things like “drop dead” and many other colorful epithets resulted in direct, physical consequence. Today, one can insult, provoke, lie and adulterate as much as one wishes – without consequence – via internet or messaging. When this happens, both sides achieve no satisfaction.
    Young mothers are taught that the only consequence for bad behavior should be “time out”, which most have neither the time nor energy to enforce. The result of this are children that have no boundaries established regarding much of anything. Schools have boundaries, but in the wrong direction. Everything is about being “safe”, yet the boundaries have been washed from society along with consequence.
    The concatenation of many such things has produced what we have today, and it does not work.
    Ironic that in the age of people crying about ‘bullying’, it has become the defacto standard of behavior among politicians, generals, teachers and much of what passes for society. “War is negotiation by other means’ as a meaningful concept is only understood by those who have met with consequence for their speech and actions.
    I am 110% behind bringing back consequences. Dueling sounds really good to me – and was considered quite polite and politic not so many generations gone. It would make for a 50% improvement, as in dueling, one side always gets satisfaction.

  5. Eric Newhill says:

    I agree with what you say. “Diversity” is not our strength. Rather, it is a cancer engineered in social science labs, that has brought us to the juncture that Richard bemoans.
    No can agree on standards of intellect, behavior and character – or role models – because everyone is coming from different cultural perspective and, worse, all the different cultures have become set against each other. To accept a standard not developed by one’s in-group is to accept the “domination” of the out-group. Of course it is accepted that all cultures and groups are equal in what they have to offer the larger society. This is classic Marxist thinking.
    So people spout off with abandon and they attack those who disagree. The spouting off is usually in-group mantras and the targets of attacks are, usually, out-group members who have different, conflicting, mantras.
    Identity politics combined with a broader range of recognized identities (i.e. diversity) was brought to us, quite deliberately, by our old enemies, the leftists in their war to destroy the country. It is working.

  6. richard sale says:

    I was chained to a tube or I would have.

  7. richard sale says:

    Thank you. Your comment moved me deeply.

  8. ann says:

    Many children grow up alone with a TV or internet game for companionship. Two generations ago, maybe three, people were raised by families. Grandparents who would slap the little monster (child) and bring it into conformity. Now, non conformity is encouraged. Is this the disintegration of Western Civilization where the individual has become so powerful it can destroy the community? Your essay causes much thought. Thanks ann

  9. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Richard Sale:
    You asked:
    “why not let our hearts go out to bless and save and strengthen rather than condemn. Is that so improbable”.
    The reason, per the Din Behi, is as follows:
    We are in the state of Cosmic War and war hardens the soldiers fighting it.
    A few, like Owen and Sassoon, out of the loyalty and love for the men they commanded, went back to the war – as did Buddha and Jesus.
    Most would wish to escape it.

  10. Jony Kanuck says:

    A fine & needed column!
    A quibble though; I don’t think democracy is the problem. The problem is fake democracy. When we go to the polls, we get a choice between tweedledee & tweedledumber. If we just look around the anglo countries, where is there a respectable leader running a tight ship? Here in Canada we have a national leader whose claims to fame are that he photos well, he’s a good political dogfighter & he’s not Stephan Harper (defeated neocon). His administration is purely neoliberal; transferring the wealth (sic) of the middle class to the rich, jonesing for a war with Russia through NATO.
    Oh by the way, I ate your lunch!

  11. 505thPIR says:

    God Bless You Richard. So very well written. Hey on another note, “Good Breeding”? I am a mutt in the truest sense. Can you expand on your conception of “Good Breeding”? Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with the committee of correspondence.

  12. David E. Solomon says:

    No poisoned arrows for you Richard. As usual you have another great piece. Thanks for taking the time to write it and post it.
    Also, you are correct about the Good Colonel’s website. This is the only blog on the web that I read daily.
    Thanks to you both.

  13. Karl Kolchak says:

    Mass equality isn’t so much the problem–it’s more the infantilization of a society, most of whose members have the emotional IQ of 6-year-olds and are utterly unsuited to handle that equality. Indeed, the problem is rapidly getting worse. America as a nation-state was still in its relative infancy in the 1950s when we began to introduce attention span-destroying screens in the form of television, and in the Internet and idiotphone age the already corrosive effect of the screens on critical thinking is galloping out of control. In a way, the teevee and fast food addicted Trump is the perfect “leader” for our modern idiocracy as he has even managed to pull the liberals, who always considered themselves superior, down to his level.
    This won’t end well.

  14. Dr. K. says:

    Seems like you have some anger issues.

  15. Razor says:

    Ann, I believe that the disintegration of Western Civilisation you query flows from the degeneracy of our civilisation. Not long ago there were commonly accepted moral standards, and perhaps the majority of us were raised to believe in and follow them, at the very least aspirationally, if not always in practice. This flowed from the Christian faith and culture from which our civilisation proceeded.
    As I look around me in my country, Ireland, I see the same thing. My children, now mature adults, seem to have difficulty in finding peers who have similar values, and if they express their views on many topical issues, they are mocked and derided by their peers. It is as if as a country we have surrendered to the tide of so called liberal values which deride everything that made our culture, our history, and our unique perspective formed by that historical experience.
    Our history since independence is constantly criticised and condemned fanatically. And in fairness, there is much to criticise in that history. However, there is no recognition of the many wonderful and very human traits which our parents and grandparents cleaved to, in very different and difficult times, passed on to us. Little recognition too of the many social achievements for such a poor, underdeveloped country in the early years of our state.
    The irony is that the contemporary values are promoted with the same self-righteousness and unforgiving nature as the Catholic Church was sometimes rightly, accused of. I was raised Catholic, tho’ I haven’t practised since I was about 12 years of age, tending to see the church as like any human institution, with feet of clay and often inappropriate symbolism, ritual and imagery. Nevertheless, I was always attracted to the message of Jesus Christ, and that is the vision I try to be faithful to.
    Another irony is that today in Ireland, we have the best “educated”, most prosperous generation in Irish history. And yet, something I remarked on as a teenager, the old post-colonial slave mentality that was not uncommon at that time, and which I thought was long largely extinct, is now obviously back in full force. As evidence, the Constitutional referendum we had here three years ago re gay marriage seemed to me to be driven in considerable part by the need to be seen by other countries, particularly the EU and Anglo ones, as modern and liberal. This was clearly the case in the aftermath of the referendum, when people were congratulating our country for being “modern” and up there with the best. Ireland’s leading newspaper even expressed great satisfaction that we were the first country in the world to permit gay marriage via a constitutional referendum. And now it seems we are to vote on unlimited abortion up to twelve weeks in early summer. I don’t doubt that it will pass, and we can have another self-congratulatory fest about how we are as good as our betters. I expect there is a variety of views on this committee re abortion, and I respect that. In my mind however, when we decide that some lives have less value than the convenience of others, we are indeed on a slippery slope. I don’t know what the figures are for the numbers of abortions in Europe and the US over the last fifty years, but I have no doubt it constitutes a very considerable holocaust.
    I apologise for the length of this rant, but I think that the degradation of interpersonal exchanges Richard bemoans relates to our discarding of moral values to be replaced by moral relativism. We have created societies where the greatest values are materialism and consumerism. I shop, therefore I am. In the process, we have created generations of narcissists.

  16. outthere says:

    I love anarchy.
    Surfed at dawn this morning – no referees, no scorecards.
    Everybody had a good time – no threats, no violence.
    Lots of smiles, lots of brotherly/sisterly love.
    Works for me!

  17. catherine says:

    Thank you Mr.Sale.
    This essay is so true it makes me sad for our society.
    Despite the wonderful tool the net is it can’t replace the need to be with people and see their faces and know about their lives when talking with them.

  18. Richard,
    That was like a cool drink of spring water after a long road march. Thank you for this. This is why I like spending my time paddling/sailing around the local waterways and puttering around in my workshop (actually just my garage).
    I guess all us old timers are convinced things were a lot better when we were younger. Although I had a black lady legal clerk about my age who grew up in South Carolina in my company HQ. She convinced me things weren’t better for some people. But things were better where I grew up. My teachers in grammar school were aggressive in instilling a sense of civic mindedness and respect for all others in our little heads. We were half old New England Congregationalists, farmers and professionals. My half were immigrants or children of immigrants, Roman Catholics laboring in the many factories in that part of Connecticut at the time. There was one black kid, David, and one Jewish kid, Elliot, in my class. There were a dozen and a half kids in Mr. Sullivans special class (various forms of learning disabilities). They were eventually mainstreamed as much as possible.
    One day in sixth grade, Mrs. O’Brien sent Elliot and Janice out of the class on an errand. Janice probably had a lesser case of Down’s Syndrome now that I think about it. Mrs. O’Brien sent the two out for a reason. She lit into us as if she was possessed by the spirit of Cotton Mather. And we all were familiar with Mather from our American Literature class. She noticed several minor slights to Elliot and Janice by members of the class. She would not stand for that and made sure we all understood that we would either behave like proper ladies and gentlemen at all times and to everyone or she would bring us to our knees. I never knew what the slights to Elliot and Janice were, but I doubled down in treating all with compassion and dignity. I thank God for that education. The Jesuits who took over the task of educating me could not do any better.

  19. blue peacock says:

    Thank you!
    Yes indeed, intolerance of ideas and speech is part and parcel of the morality that everyone wants to impose on the other. But there is very little sense of honor. That is the societal degradation we see.
    I was in Europe recently and the angst is no different than what we feel here. There is a growing belief that the elites who run things are divorced from the reality of the rest and we are facing growing instability as a consequence.

  20. Peter AU says:

    PC nowadays means inflicting drawn out physiological torture on kids if they are naughty. I find that a bit sadistic.
    My eldest daughter obtained a bachelor in early childhood, and the younger one just a diploma. Both loved working with young children but neither ended up working in that field as they had no way of controlling some of the little shits they had to deal with. Both at separate times told me the old fashioned way of bringing up or disciplining children when required was better.

  21. The age of intolerance may not be a new thing. I agree with your earlier posting that the last 100 years in the U.S. was a special period of relative calm agreement in discussions, at least compared to what we hear now. This was because electrical “mass media” was a one-way broadcast, and also it was restricted to a small handful of broadcast networks (due to the high cost of the equipment). They weeded out the nuttiest opinions and made discussions a bit calmer than they are now. And we all grew up during this, so we expect that this is the norm. But maybe it really isn’t, and maybe it never was.
    Studying Dante’s Comedy and its literary criticism, I am surprised to find that the birth of this continuous individual and political viciousness is located by many historians in 13th-century Florence. (The Divine Comedy was an attempt to set things right.)
    Anyway, the old broadcast networks of the 20th Century also generated a common storyline of beneficial U.S. influence in the world, which was not entirely accurate — but, given the dangers in the two World Wars and the Cold War, it was easy enough to believe and to defend.
    Now that anyone can speak out at full blast on the internet and social media, all the ancient and medieval poisons are coming back out, in full flower. From this, I have discovered two things simultaneously: 1. Most people think emotionally, not intellectually. They marshall their chosen facts to support their emotional feeling. So it looks like a fact-based discussion, but it’s not. 2. Most people choose their emotions so as to be in agreement with their group of friends.
    I am trying to figure out what happens next. It could be that emotional fatigue sets in, soon. Remember, this whole internet & social media thing is only 10-15 years old. A mere drop in the bucket of time. So maybe emotional fatigue sets in, because the dials are turned up so high, and people stop listening to anybody but their own friends and own emotions.
    The danger is that there are still real factual problems in the world, and they require hard intellectual analysis. The democratic republic solution — we’ll elect a bunch of people, and they will sort it out — doesn’t seem to be working either.

  22. BabelFish says:

    Richard, I have been remiss in expressions of admiration for your continuing contributions to SST.
    As the father of an autistic son, I struggled with this very question as I tried to guide him towards a balance in his life. We talked long and hard about retaining a proper sense of self and self-worth and yet being open enough to admire and learn from others. I hope I can get him to read your words and we can again discuss this part of his life.
    Many Thanks

  23. Lyttenburgh,
    I don’t at all like the term “Traditionalism”. 1, It carries a sense of going backwards & 2, I’m suspicious of what the Continentals are doing with the term – if you are implying that behind their use of the term lurks unregenerate fascism I think you could be right. It disturbs me that on the Continent the channel through which opposition to Globalism and neo-liberalism will run might already have been cut and labelled; and that channel is itself deeply suspect.
    Maybe that doesn’t matter outside the Continent. Maybe, like the term “Tory” here, the term “traditionalist” will lose its original connotations and simply become a neutral term defined by the precepts of its adherents, rather than a term overshadowed by its initial associations.
    Maybe it won’t; so we need some new term to describe the intuitions behind the movements stirring here and I believe in the States that have exploded into full public gaze with Trump and Brexit.
    It is an intuition that you cannot throw the past away. That that cannot be done because we are our history. It is an intuition that you cannot and should not attempt to reconstitute the past either, because their solutions no longer fit us; but we should build on what we have and build better.
    Above all it is an intuition that we should not attempt to squeeze our future into some predefined or already determined future. We have no right to do that to our successors. Instead we should jointly explore that future, based on what we have – what else is there to base it on? – but not limited by what we have. This notion of the future as something we must strive for even when we cannot set out yet what that something is, is in flat contradiction to the “Progressive” notion that the future is something into which we must dutifully march in accordance with the precepts fixed for us by the ideologues.
    That notion has killed its victims by the hundreds of millions in recent times. Shoehorning entire peoples into predetermined ideal states of existence might seem a glorious vision to the ideologues, those who would prescribe for the rest of us how it should always be, but the practice of that vision is invariably drenched in blood. If for that reason alone we should reject the “Progressive” straitjacket already prepared for us, but we should also reject it because whatever limits our infinite and unpredictable capacity for building on what we have and building better is wrong.
    Find a term for that and I’ll thank you. Until we do, “normal” will have to do. Because that’s what those intuitions are. Normal. A hefty dose of Little House on the Prairie – because that’s where we come from and you’re not going to chuck all that away just because they wore funny clothes. A further hefty criticism of that Little House on the Prairie – because they could get away with being babes unborn when it came to practical politics and we can’t. An acceptance of what I think our host above is getting across – that there’s no one way and ours is not to be imposed any more than any one else’s. And a dash of trusting to God, or fate depending on our beliefs, because that’s better than trusting to those who would school us in their mantras. Then you might begin to get to the root of what stirred recently in American and English politics.
    Meanwhile we’d better have a good look at what Babak is saying in his comment above. As ever he goes straight to the point. We’re going to have to fight for it, you know. No one ever said it was going to be easy.

  24. richard sale says:

    Thank you.

  25. richard sale says:

    Thank you, David.

  26. richard sale says:

    Thank you so much for relating this. It is uplifting and valuable.
    I know it took effort. Thank you again.

  27. richard sale says:

    Thank you very much.

  28. richard sale says:

    There is no need to apologize. It’s a beautifully written comment.
    I think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the evening before he died. That one act reveals the depth of his humanity.

  29. 505thPIR says:

    Richard, I am a High School Football Coach and a damn good one. How do I share your sentiments without being able to discuss “Good Breeding”. Much of what you say rings true cept that set of two words…Begs the question, are you familiar with Eugenics?

  30. Richard Sale,
    “I think of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the evening before he died. That one act reveals the depth of his humanity.”
    A wonderful image and one cherished throughout the Christian period. Often imitated in practice too, and that Mediaeval ritual illustrated better than anything else that ruling was not merely a matter of predation or the rule of the strongest, but of duty. Now that we are fast returning to the era of “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” we might do well to recover a little of that. I’m no fan of Noblesse Oblige but I’m forced to be honest and admit it looks better than running off with the loot and damn the Deplorables.
    We should not forget, though, that He gave the cronies a rough time himself on occasion. Cleared them out of the Temple and no nonsense. We could also imitate that, perhaps.
    And He didn’t beat about the bush when He said it wasn’t going to be easy. “I am come not to bring peace but a sword” indicates that.
    (Just in case you’re concerned that I’m interrupting your meditation with talk about pitchforks, the accepted interpretation of that troublesome passage is good enough for me –
    – though I’m not sure it’s going to be good enough for everyone if there get to be too many poor men at the gate.)
    I liked your meditation very much.

  31. Fred says:

    A very eloquent. Moral preening has always been easier than acting morally. Now it seems moral preeing is viewed as the premier civilizational value on both sides of the Atlantic. Woe be to he who does not share the new model virtues.

  32. jdledell says:

    Richard – Like the others in this group, I want to thank you for taking the time to pen such a cogent analysis of our contemporary society. I think you were spot on in your analysis.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    You could start by stressing the importance of being polite, well-behaved and with good manners. If students cannot master such elementary things, they have no chance succeeding at other undertakings.

  34. DianaLC says:

    Thank you for this message. In my later years, my eyesight is failing. It’s a genetic condition. But I am very grateful that in my youth, I chose to read and read and read. The thoughts and ideas of all the authors I’ve read, and my early Christian education and continuing Christian worship have kept me “on the rock,” so to speak, where I seek righteousness above everything else. It’s hard work.
    I am also grateful that I attended public schools when they were still places of learning and not of indoctrination.
    I came to this blog because of one of the other contributors, whom you didn’t mention: Publius Tacitus. (I like the name, as I have studied history extensively.) So, I too, thank him and the writers here, and now including you.
    I have chosen not to have a cell phone. Early into this tech trend, I chose not to involve myself in social media because, having taught secondary school in our public schools, I realized quickly how much of a negative influence social media had. But, I also saw, as my career went on, that the younger teachers themselves were not really educated in anything but the “group think” mentality of the so-called “education departments.” Few knew much about the subject areas they were supposed to be teaching.
    Since I am Christian, and since I am slowly going blind (I hope like Sophocles’ Tiresias}, that I am still able to “see” clearly. I think of the passage in Corinthians: I see through a glass, darkly. But then, face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know as I am known.” (I may have not quoted exactly as my KJ Bible has it, but I think I have the sentiment stated correctly.)
    I fear for the future of my children and five grandchildren if our society continues on its present course.

  35. Karel Whitman says:

    Most would wish to escape it.
    Babak #10, interesting combination Owen and Sassoon, Buddha and Jesus.
    Ages ago I was quite fascinated by the former two. But yes, along the lines of Lee A. Arnold below might make sense to reflect on something essential relating the former two with the latter and/or how this could be used as basis for an interpretation of Richard’s essay or “culture complaint”.

  36. Eric Newhill says:

    IMO, people within groups are plenty polite to each other.
    The root cause is “diversity” + identity politics + social Marxism + government incentives for identity + the left side of the bell curve. This is a cancerous formula.
    Diversity is probably mostly ok by itself. However, it is fatal when combined with an atmosphere of identity politics and leftist propaganda.
    I listened to the students of the Florida school that got attacked address Trump. Basically, the message is that if you are pro-2A, are an NRA member, then you are a child murderer.
    There is no polite response to that. There is no opportunity for reasoned discourse.
    The children got that message from their teachers. Teachers in public schools are as left as are MSM personalities and Hollyweird actors, producers, etc.
    Too much of the population allows itself to be brainwashed by politically active groups with covert (or not so covert) agendas. This same class of people used to be brainwashed in a way that was conducive to a unified society. Now they are brainwashed toward disunity. It is the brainwashers who are to blame for the breakdown of politeness and the brainwashers are leftists.

  37. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am not sure that this the entire story.
    No one under 30 in England has any manners either – and that has been the case for decades.
    Perhaps David Habakkuk could shed some light on this.
    In regards to the school shooting:
    20 years ago a European-American whose business was failing murdered his wife, his 6-year old son, and then killed himself in hereabouts.
    A neighbor told me that he thought he was capable of such an act; he looked it.
    But until a crime is committed one cannot take any action.
    There is also this: the young man evidently was either born Evil or was listening to the Dark Side.
    But uttering such statements likely would cause one to be considered deranged, rather than the young man.
    If did not have a gun, he might have used a car.

  38. 505thPIR says:

    No umbrage with that Babak. It was a fabulous essay. Breeding???

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    How can the kids have breeding when their mothers have none?

  40. DianaLC says:

    I do believe the young man was born either a sociopath or a psychopath. They are people who are born that way. Not all sociopaths do murderous deeds, but they all do cause much emotional hard to many of the people who are in their lives. Many do cause physical hard, and of course a psychopath does much worse. This young man’s current supposed sense of remorse is nothing but what a sociopath learns early in life–how to express an emotion the people who have to deal with him expect from a normal person.
    I worked as a “humane educator” for a while in Indiana. This was in the early to mid 70’s. The reason the Humane Society had “humane educators” was the Indiana law that required some type of “humane education” every year a child attended public school. The legislature passed this law because the research has always pointed out that sociopaths and psychopaths start their “career” as such by torturing and killing animals before moving on to humans. Notice that this young man did do that. Just those posted photos of his torture of animals should been enough to get authorities to his house to take away his weapons.
    But as for the attempts to thwart young people away from torturing animals, I believe that most young children do not have those tendencies. The ones who do will not be taught not to have them. They will just learn not to show those feelings or to commit those acts when others are watching.
    I know most people often react to those of us who worry about animals as being too emotional. And they often say that our first concerns should be for people. But I say, our first obligation, given by God in Genesis, is to have dominion over the animals. I would suggest that having that dominion means we should have it and practice it as God has dominion over us.
    No animal torturing child should ever be left unwatched as he/she grows up.

  41. turcopolier says:

    Because my wife is a skilled genealogist I am interested in the effect of centuries of “breeding” on the sudden appearance of an individual who does not specifically seem like his or her parents. This seems to be a fairly frequent occurrence. Henry Louis Gates seems to be educating some segment of American society (as well as himself) to this phenomenon. Actually his whole TV enterprise challenges the usual leveling American attitude toward nature and nurture, but somehow his thingy prospers. pl

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    . Thank you for your comments.
    I think the words “sociopath” an87d “psychopath” are non-moral desi gnations for “maliscious” and “Evil”; tryiing to change an ethical issue into a medical one.

  43. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I recall seeing children torturing a frog, they lacked toys.

  44. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Children do not inherit their parent’s MBTI. And then men such as Farady or Newton seemed to spring out of nowhere. There is also a fact that the oratory of an African-American preacher is unmatched everywhere.

  45. Ingolf Eide says:

    Much of what you say is undoubtedly true. Still, I wonder; do our societal illnesses really stem from mass democracy, excessive equality, or ubiquitous fools who consider themselves masterminds?
    Respect, whether based on deference to achievement or to position within an accepted hierarchy, has indeed largely vanished. I don’t see why we should be surprised, however, when the narratives conveyed by those we’re meant to respect have become ever more divorced from reality, self-serving and hypocritical. People are often fools but I think they (we) tend to sense falsity. Unfortunately, as you say, few are willing (or perhaps able) to unmask these facades and instead plump for their tribe’s version of reality. Which brings up what I see as the second great contributor to our present state. Eric said “Diversity is probably mostly ok by itself” (I’d go further and say it certainly is) but I think he’s also right in saying that the active promotion of identity politics is pure poison. Tribe is set against tribe and habits that underpin a healthy society turn rancid and die: live and let live, openness, the judging of others based on who they are and how they act rather than their tribal allegiance. And so on.
    And then there’s the coup de grace (or perhaps even the root cause), the absorption of poststructuralist/post-modernist tenets into Western culture and education. Handled with care they have their uses but their broader societal effect, it seems to me, has been disastrous. Faced with the apparent collapse of “truth” it’s all too easy to drift into either anomie or unreasoning passion, both of which feed into the causes already noted above.
    There’s a fascinating little experiment underway just now. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian clinical psychologist, has recently gone viral. His very public stand against these trends and their underlying causes, together with the active promotion of a fairly straightforward framework of (mostly) rather old-fashioned values has struck a tremendous chord, particularly with young people. Again, not surprising I don’t think. It will be fascinating, however, to see how this unfolds, firstly whether he can maintain his internal balance in the midst of this tsunami, and secondly whether he (and those who broadly share his views) can trigger a sort of counterreformation.

  46. Jack says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful essay.
    I was born during the Depression. The biggest change that I have seen is the erosion of honor. People of character used to be honorable. Now that is a vanishing ethic. Expedience matters more to most people. I hope my grandchildren and great grandchildren will find honor once again as an important yardstick of good character.

  47. Richard,
    Thanks for the kind words. A great deal to think over in your reflections and the comments they provoked.
    As it happens, I have been kept busy trying to follow up leads in Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary and House Intelligence committees. I read, with incredulity, his suggestion that ‘it’s not the reporter’s job to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not or who’s right and who’s wrong’.
    Much of the interest – and fun – of journalism used to lie in the opportunity to talk to a variety of people, some of whom would be giving you accurate information, some a pack of lies, and many a mixture of both, and then trying to work out what the truth about the matter at hand actually was.
    And the honour of the activity, such as it was, had to do with being willing to follow down the paths in which doing this led you, irrespective of whether or not they made you feel comfortable.
    So the agendas of figures like Simpson, be they acting as journalists or in whatever role Fusion ended up adopting, are certainly not to do with making matters clearer.
    On a related matter, I think quite a lot of people in Britain share some of the ambivalence towards aristocracy that ‘English Outsider’ expresses.
    It is not a matter of snobbery, or a nostalgia for a ‘Downton Abbey’ world, simply a kind of bafflement and horror at the way that the new élites think and act – and also, the way that people who come from old élites, like David Cameron or Boris Johnson, seem to have lost any sense that privilege has to be justified.
    Moreover, Ingolf’s remark about ‘ubiquitous fools who consider themselves masterminds’ seems to the point. And ironically, precisely what contemporary Western élites cannot be accused of is any kind of rational, calculating Machiavellianism.
    The growth of the discontents which impelled both Trump’s election victory on your side, and the Brexit vote and also Corbyn’s election as Labour leader on ours, has been visible to anyone who would look for many years.
    They could have been headed off, but instead, on both sides of the Atlantic élites locked themselves further and further into a cocoon.
    They are now compounding the problem by refusing to face up to the causes of the backlash against them. So they attempt indiscriminately to tar a wide range of different responses in the backlash against them by treating a fringe which actually is neo-Nazi as though it was representative.
    To make matters worse, they also fall back on the old Stalinist strategy of covering one’s old failures by accusing one’s enemies of plotting in collusion with demonic foreigners. (Of this strategy, Simpson’s testimony provides an interesting example.)
    As to whether ‘a sort of counterreformation’ is possible, I think the jury is very much out. However, in relation to Babak Makkinejad’s argument about manners, I do see some grounds for optimism.
    My SWMBO was noting the other day that, although very often travellers on London buses are ill-mannered, younger people on the tubes are often surprisingly willing to give up their seats to their elders.
    Likewise, some of our younger relatives and friends, who have young children, do seem to be quite successful in finding a balance between avoiding a kind of Victorian-style harshness, and insisting on the parameters and disciplines which children need to flower into responsible adults: perhaps significantly more so than very many of our own generation did.

  48. Babak Makkinejad says:

    At the time that you were growing up, were Americans thought of as “Citizens” or as “Tax-payers”?
    Was there ever a transition – from “Honor” to “Transaction”?

  49. Mark Logan says:

    David Habakkuk,
    I’ve noticed something similar in the many young people we must hire and train in these days of construction boom. It’s hard to describe but I sense a counter-culture brewing, counter to the self-importance and resultant hubris the Boomers and their children, which Richard described so very well.
    Speculating for a cause, I would suggest the tremendous inter-connectivity of this smart phone generation is spawning a humility of sorts. TS Lawrence ones described a difference between the Brits and the Arabs. He opined that the Brits of a certain class had grown up in insular isolation and thereby came to view their own ideas, hardly ever challenged, as brilliant, but the Arabs “lived in heaps” and thereby became aware of their personal limitations.
    Whistling past the graveyard, perhaps, and one even gave me an inspired bit of madness which captured his view of the mania currently dominating our media/discourse, which I will share, and may hopefully dispel some of the morbidity which dominates this discussion:

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