The Untelling of the American Story

Émile Durkheim, sociologist from a century ago, called it "anomie," by which he meant something like derangement, something akin to social madness. It was, he said, what marked the modern character.Of all the good and all the progress of modernity, we should not be fooled, he said. Because it's "taking place in the midst of a morbid effervescence, the grievous repercussions of which each one of us feels." He also wrote a 400-page book on suicide, the increase of which he thought a telling feature of this new age.Mindy Thompson Fullilove, a psychiatrist, called it "root shock." Studying the psychological effects of the destruction and dismantling of African-American neighborhoods, what she called root shock was the "traumatic stress" caused by the destruction of a person's "emotional ecosystem." Trauma, she argued, with very real consequences for mental and physical health.Alasdair MacIntyre, a philosopher, called it a "grave cultural loss." He was talking about our ability to argue and discuss things, that it was simply no longer possible. It is, he said, "a distinctive feature of the social and cultural order that we inhabit that disagreements over central moral issues are peculiarly unsettlable." It's why he claimed ours is a new dark age, and that it is "our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament."Disparate voices, but similar, and but a few. But they seem prophetic now. More than merely purveyors of doom or merchants of the apocalyptic, those tonics of the bitter and stupid, these are the better credible witnesses of what's wrong with our world. Wise, they said it was coming, that it was already here. And they were right. The untelling of our story.  Continue reading...

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