The Enduring Nature of Societal Despair

by Michael Drew on September 5, 2016

Michael Drew · Politics The WE Cycle · September 05, 2016

Pendulum in Action, societal despair, Pendulum, WE CycleContrary to what a lot of people think, we’re doing okay. The economy is better than it was a decade ago, for one thing, and crime overall is down. But tell that to the haters.

But it’s always been like this at certain times in history: the negatives outweigh the positives. And an interesting article by Sam Kriss on Slate explains why.

Of course, anyone who has read Pendulum, the book that I co-wrote with Roy H. Williams, knows how society’s judgment shifts every 40 years or so, and that during each cycle, people become disillusioned (which is happening now).

But Kirss telling points to how, almost 2,500 years ago, Plato said the same sort of thing that certain killjoys are saying now.

Kriss writes,

We’re teetering over the edge, and people hardly even notice—it’s all become theater; society rips itself apart in real time before our eyes, but we approach it like an entertainment product. The question is no longer one of which politician actually has the best judgment and the best plans for the future, but which character is the most relatable, which post we want to hitch our self-identity against. This is madness, but it’s also what’s come to rule our world. You’ve probably heard the name for all this. We are in post-truth politics.

It’s not Kriss who says this, he insists: it was Plato, writing in 400 B.C.

As he says, “We have always been in post-truth politics. The first written texts of political theory are a lament that questions of government are no longer ruled by transcendent, objective fact.”

But every time a presidential election comes around, things look dire, because people hate politicians, hate the drawn-out, money-drenched political process, and hate the powerlessness of watching the media say one thing, politicians say another. They feel as if voters are always on the sidelines.

This leads to the kind of malaise a lot of people feel at this point in our WE Cycle: the disillusionment of the political process as a reflection of the breakdown of society. And so we began to blame each other for what we see as the faults of society as a whole.

Plato saw what was happening in his particular era, and had his own peculiar ideas about it (he didn’t like popular music, for one thing). Pendulum looked at thousands of years of social shifts in different eras. What has happened time and again is happening now. There is a way forward, but first we have to look beyond blaming each other, and actually work toward a common answer. Not that it’s easy: but change never is.

[rps]

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