One way of judging ourselves is to pinpoint where we humans sit along a continuum from barbaric to civilised. Where barbarism is characterised by ignorance, violence, cruelty and crudity. Civilisation, on the other hand, represents a high level of cultural, social and technological development.
I am no sociologist so I am making this up as I go along, but it is clear that humanity occupies different parts of this continuum at the same time, so that in America we have the Klu Klux Klan at one end and, let’s say, patrons of MOMA at the other.
I imagine a cake that has an uneven distribution of icing from fairly thin and ungenerous on one side and thickly scrumptious on the other. If we call the icing ‘civilisation’ then it goes from a thin veneer to something more deeply embedded but, probably still a veneer and both ends reflect the norms and mores of the groups to which they belong.
One of the forces, usually for the good, is the system of laws that govern these societies. Most would agree on a number of prohibited acts from murder through to theft. Sometimes it is necessary to make certain behaviours illegal, if other forms of persuasion are ineffective. By doing so, people are supposed to gradually adopt alternative behaviours and, eventually, attitudes. A good example of this is racial equality law.
I think this distinction between behaviours and belief is important. There may well be a dissonance between the two in that I behave as I am expected or required (by my parents/social or religious group/the law etc.) but I actually believe in some things I think would be frowned upon if made public.
Now if a scarcity of resources is the context where, after period of growth, standards of living are much reduced, jobs are lost and the economy suffers at the hands, seemingly, of institutions greedy for profit, then not only do people feel powerless, but ignored by those who have the power. We have then a dangerous volatility where survival instincts become more prevalent. The symptoms are:
– the desire to impose our ‘ism’ on others, increasingly through force
– intolerance of difference and a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of alternative views
– an upsurge in selfishness/ lack of consideration for others
– a crumbling of trust in others, especially those who are guardians of the law
Any one of which may lead to speaking with a firearms not words’
To put it another way the pendulum is swinging away from a concern for others to a concern for ourselves. Not far from the surface, I suspect, is the male feral instinct where the tactics for survival predominate for those who survive will create the most successful gene pool.
These feelings among those who consider themselves disenfranchised have been getting louder but they were only mutterings until legitimised. Enter Boris, the Farage, and the Brexit themes. Then, from stage right, Trump. At last people had a voice that made it OK to think the way they did and who would actually do something about it.
They don’t want to be tolerant, inclusive or liberal. They want the old times back.
The sooner we recognise this, without condemning it, the better. I’m not saying we must like it but resisting recognition of what is will only make us part of the problem no matter how much we hate this change.
How? I don’t have a handy prescription. If I did then I’d be pretty sure it would fail. Unless everyone acknowledges a problem exists, you can’t start to solve it.
So where the hell does Facebook come in?
Because it does two things. First it provides the shield of anonymity where whatever you write will be attacked by someone who disagrees or just wants to be ornery. A barometer of discontent. Co-existing with this is a plastic world of make believe where we are all having a good time aren’t we, and with luck we will feel OK about ourselves. A barometer of false content.
It is a good symptomatic.
I apologise if this analysis is simplistic and blindingly obvious. A more erudite assessment would be welcome. Meanwhile, I shall devote myself to more frivolous things, starting with the first part of a longish saga – ‘Notes From A Hospital Bed’.