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Nation of Narcissism

- Dan Shea, EGL 2
This is commonly an egocentric state that feeds on the illusion of mastering its surroundings. The objective is the dismemberment of the current culture and liberating it from its ills by overwriting the old codes with newly perceived virtues previously unidentified. This process requires contemporary society to reject moral absolutes.
Grand schemes of cultural transformation are an outgrowth of naïve optimism. These schemes charge ahead without a realistic assessment of the potential for unintended consequences. A nation bamboozled by the promise of transparency falls victim to those leading the charge whose natural inclination is to conspire to avoid the truth. In time, the undertakers of truth will be buried in the quicksand of their own realities.
Political reformers believe they are forward-thinkers and portray themselves as morally neutral arbiters of the common good pledging not to be constrained by formerly held values. What emanates from the light of this new thinking bears little resemblance to the brilliant wisdom of the past, yet it flickers with a subtle degree of tenuous credibility. A nation finds it difficult to resist untested innovation simply because its political and social constructs are embedded within the at-large framework of its citizenry’s interests.
In recent decades, the nation has experienced the inevitable failures of trying to realign the culture and continue to look for a liberating transcendence. However, cultures are filled with examples of the disillusionment of naïve optimism. The break from serious thought and the relationship between prudential judgments and moral norms lay at the root of these historic follies. Sadly, this is generally followed by more imprudent change as a solution. A healthy skepticism can alert the citizenry to the dangers of uninhibited change.
Between rampant moral ambiguity and the marked religiosity of the American populous, it has proved to be an ill-fated concept to have made concessions to the anti-establishmentarian forces. These are the forces lightly disguised in the all encompassing idiom, political correctness. This allowed urbane intellectuals scornful of religion to promote disdain towards established beliefs and mores.
In the 1960s there emerged a left wing intelligentsia committed to an aggressive secularism previously unknown in America. Even though buttressed by the media and the academy secularism has been unable to dissuade the pluralities’ proclivity for time-honored organized religion. Aggressive secularism underestimated the backlash from the mainstream and their willingness to counterattack.
Social and religious customs possess the power to articulate moral sensitivities and solidarity within national institutions. This mainstream plurality makes known the sacred dimension of straightforward reality. Common sense through a fluid dialogue and negotiation can bridge the gap between militant secularism and religious sensibilities.
Today, democracy and modernity pursue an ever expanding reach into unlimited freedoms. Often these are unadulterated license. The nation must be attentive to the propensity of mankind to deflect and resist doing what is right in favor of personal power and gain.
Postmodernism has unmasked the pretensions of an exaggerated individualism and an over confidence in man’s ability to go it alone. Nevertheless, truth now resides in the power of the will to will what it desires. This has been accomplished by the ascendancy of the individual’s supremacy of personal choice as the highest value. What were once unambiguous standards have become the prey of individual choice.
When the culture no longer upheld religious ideals deference to proper authority went astray and indifference became tolerable. Today, religious infidelity is seen by many as piety to the new order. Almost seventy years ago, Dietrich Bonheoffer warned, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Yet this intellectual and moral shallowness continues to hold sway.
Religion is meant to be transformative for all of mankind so to be in communion with the Almighty. Repeatedly, generations look for God in the wrong places and typically unearth alluring vanities as quick-fix alternatives. These same people are blind as to how religious practice brings human dignity to everyday life. The test of time confirms religious truths and how they fulfill the needs of the culture.
It is sin that disorders the world, but bear in mind grace can deliver man from Hell and also the hellish situations he creates for himself. Meaningful life is glimpsed in brief moments when one empties himself and rises above narcissism and realizes all things come from above. It is widely understood narcissistic individualism abrogates communal responsibility.
Richard John Neuhaus accurately stated, Culture is the root of politics, and religion the root of culture.” The choice is simple, either faith dictates the culture or the culture dictates faith.
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