society on the decline

I read this comment online today: “American citizens no longer take it upon themselves to educate themselves and think critically about today’s issues….”

A tiny little red flag went up in my brain when I read the phrase “…no longer…”.

We no longer think critically?

Did we ever?

People have always been crazyWhen you read back over the few hundred years of American history — or indeed over the many hundreds of years of human history — it seems pretty plain that “the people”, when viewed en masse, never made decisions based on rational calculation or a deep and active pursuit of all of the facts.

And this may seem like a minor point. But I think it is actually damaging if we start to think that our society, at this point in history, is unique. It is not. Look at the absurdity of the political conflicts, the campaigns and elections and media coverage, in the early 1800’s. Personal attacks, lies and yellow journalism, fist-fights on the floor of Congress. Politics has always been a strange and angry creature.

Ultimately, this is my problem with this kind of comment: I think it feeds fear. It adds to the notion that we are somehow degenerating and coming to the brink of destruction. This allows people to mistakenly think that things are worse than some imagined “golden age” in the past when politicians were fair, the media was balanced, and everyone was respectful.

It never happened…. we are no closer to “the brink” now than we ever were.