We are a country now in the hands of deeply deluded people, people who are living in bubbles, whose minds are addled by chronic cognitive dissonance at best or at worst an addiction to power and wealth. Electing sane people to fix things in Washington isn’t a solution because it’s like sending a sober person to break up a party where everyone is drunk and and oblivious of how they are annoying the neighbors. These drunks have no interest in ending the party or in listening to spoilsports who wants to break it up. The "spoilsport" sees that there’s no point in calling the police, since the mayor and chief of police are among the partygoers--and they're as drunk as everyone else. Even those among the partygoers who are sober enough to recognize that they should tone things down are themselves are powerless to do anything about it--and they really don't want to. They’ll hear you out, make sympathetic noises, and then a minute later they'll return to the party to hang out with the people they really care about.
Have they no shame? Why should they have? Shame requires that there is a code of conduct that you have broken, and that your having broken it exposes you to the negative judgment of the people whose good opinion you value. But the people at the party only care about the good opinion of the other partygoers, and the partygoers who are most outrageous are the ones who are most admired. The partygoers see those who disapprove of them as the "little people", the people who don’t count enough to get an invitation. The little people are just jealous; they would change their scolding tone if they got an invitation to the party.
So there’s nothing to be hoped for until the bubble bursts, the party ends, and people sober up. This moment will come; Reality always asserts itself. That's the good news. But the bad news is that it won’t be pretty. If 2008 wasn’t enough to burst the bubble, sober these people up, and cause them to feel any shame, just think what it will take to do it.
In the meanwhile, those of us who are relatively sober need to start laying the foundation for a sane future. And this requires developing an alternative narrative aligned with Reality that makes both intellectual sense and soul sense. And we are more likely than not to find the bricks with which to build something Real from those elements in our heritage that, even if a little tattered and worse for wear, have withstood the test of time. And so a sane future lies in salvaging or retrieving those elements and using them to build something new.
Retrieval and nostalgia are not the same thing. Nostalgia, the method of the cultural conservative, is impotent and backward looking; retrieval is constructive and forward looking. Retrieval uses the bricks of the forgotten or rejected past to build something new. Nostalgia wants to set up house in an abandoned ruin.
This space in its modest way is about thinking about a sane future. As laid out in posts last month, I think that such a future must retrieve aspects of the Christian Humanist tradition that have been forgotten or rejected during the modern era. We are no longer moderns, and we are entering a post-secular age, and that affords both perils and opportunities. While it is simply not possible to maintain an attitude of optimism in the short term, we must start thinking about the post-party aftermath. If sane progressive forces are not in place to clean up the post-party mess, we can be sure regressive authoritarian forces will do it instead.