Reading Tom Wolfe’s The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening circa 2010 doesn’t’ evoke nostalgia because it isn’t really dated. From asinine New Age psychotherapy to asinine New Age psychobabble, little has changed over the past 30 plus years. (The part about “communication” in that article is particularly contemporary, as well as spot-on.)
Of course that’s not surprising. Thirty years isn’t really that long ago and the twenty-something post-hippie, seeking “crystal healing”, adults of thirty years ago are now the middle-aged scholars and politicians informing much of social thought in America today. Still, there is a certain unexpectedness in how far we haven’t come in general attitudes and experience since then.
That can extend back even further though. Reading Charles Dickens or G K Chesterton describing America in their respective times is, in many ways, no different than reading a modern “stuck up” European article on America today. America then, as now, is painted as a country full of potential and problems, seemingly to perpetually reside on the precipice of calamity and comedy even as she continues to survive and thrive.
It is from that that I suspect the philosophical Me People are born. Which is to say, it is not consumerism that creates the philosophical Me People (as opposed to the materialist ‘Average Joe’ Me People), it is the discovery that the universe does not revolve around you and the age in which you live. It is not that they believe themselves to be the center of the universe. No, they simply believe they have found the perch from which the universe can be objectively observed in all its silly innateness. And from there they observe all the little human ants marching this way and that, foolishly believing that their little lives have meaning or individual purpose within the “greater scope of history”.
You see, the philosophical Me People, having tasted of the knowledge of good and evil (the understanding –through the reading of history and international travel- that the world does not begin or end with the individual, nor is sustained by single nations, peoples, empires or eras), no longer view life in the particulars but rather in the abstract or broader context. They see the forest but consider the individual trees that comprise it as irrelevant.
From that point of view race, ethnicity, family, nation, religion etc. may all be real, but they are irrelevant within the context of the greater history of mankind. After all, the Babylonians are no more. Rome, expired. The Aztecs? Gone with the wind. Empires rise and fall, Kings and paupers alike end up six feet under and night follows day, time and time again.
That’s not to say they are the ‘live for the moment- die young and leave a beautiful corpse’ types. Having discovered “the truth” they wish to shout it out. But to whom will they shout it? After all, the little people won’t understand as they are still wrapped up in their insignificant lives.
The philosophical Me People’s peers are always and only hypothetical intellectuals of a time not their own, aka “future generations.” When these elite Me People speak of how “future generations” will judge us, they are speaking of the as-yet-to-be-born philosophical Me People sitting aloft, and outside of, their own present world and time. That’s why they so blatantly ignore the opinions and desires of those presently alive who create and sustain culture, art, law and order and so on. For instance, they aren’t worried about the 80% presently opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants, they are worried what the “future generations” will say if they appear to be concerned with present-particular political or social constructs.
Essentially, they want it known to all the philosophical Me People of future generations that they know “the truth”. And “the truth” is the knowledge that nothing particular really matters. And the best way to demonstrate that you know that is to act and function as though, well, nothing particular really matters; not nations, races, ethnicities, religions, languages, cultures or even politics (which explains why the two party system acts as though it’s one). For them, the understanding that history runs in cycles and everything has a beginning and an end is the great “secret knowledge” of the ages. To acknowledge that particulars have form and function which follows divergent threads of history is the anti-knowledge. The Un-Truth!
Naturally, as White people have the habit of keeping detailed historical records reflecting the egregious un-truth of particularism, Western Civilization becomes ground zero from which the Me People derive (the Me People elite is an exclusively White club). Thus to make their declarations of “the truth” echo through the eternities, they systematically attack (and/or deny) those particulars that make The West, The West. This is seen most clearly in their adoration and veneration of historical figures (fictional and real) who ignored concerns grounded in race, ethnicity, class, etc. and instead worked for the “common cause” and “greater good”.
The Me People are a recent phenomena though. They like to imagine that they are in the company of past philosophical Me People yet their club is, from a historical perspective, about as old as last years Oak leaves. Their brief season is coming to an end because they were dependent upon a system that existed at a particular point in time under particular social and economic conditions. An irony completely lost on them. They are adrift in the artificial (and superficial) cosmos of their own design, without connection or ties to the real world past, present or future. Yet even they can sense some sort of end approaching.
Mr. Wolfe’s 1977 article goes more into the world of the materialist ‘Average Joe’ Me people than to their elite. Basically what such commentaries demonstrate (in the non-elite realm) is how little basic social attitudes and fads have changed or deviated from their projected paths over the past few decades. There is, in a sense, a certain inevitability to where we are today. Maybe that’s because we’ve moved so little in recent times (a point for those who talk of “progress” to consider).
In other words, our society, culturally, has stagnated. When trends, attitudes, fashions, art etc. remain in a relatively fixed and predictable position, forward movement has ceased.
And of course a part of that stagnation includes original thought. Once that has stagnated, critical thinking crumbles as well. The all-important “Perspective” goes next.
You see, whereas the philosophical Me People view the understanding of the scope of history as liberating them from present particulars, the Average Joe Me People view the particulars as liberating them from the scope of history. Such “sins” as colonialism, “racism”, segregation etc. were done “before my time” and by “other people”. Those helpless 19th century bigots were, “products of THEIR time.” Of course “we” know better today (for the Average Joe Me People there is a We but never an Us). And then there is The South (not we), the British (not we), South Africans (not we), Nazis (not we) and so on. For the Average Joe Me People the particulars allow for the separation of themselves from past and present social, biological, political, geographic, philosophical and religious groups. For them, even their great-great Grandpa was not part of the present We and can thus be relegated to the extreme periphery of their own present existence.
Yes, it’s plain old-fashioned selfishness, but its current manifestation can only be truly understood when seen as part of a particular order which engenders a sense of individualism so intense that it makes everyman, not just a God, but the God of their own momentary, short-lived, universe.
Part of the problem is the psychology built around causal social fibs the Average Joe Me People perpetuate such as:
You can be anything you want to be.
Or, work hard and you can have it all.
Worst of all is, You’re special.
Accompanying social myths are:
You’re just as good as everyone else.
No one is better than anyone else.
It’s your life.
Find out who you are.
Leave your mark on the world.
The Sky is the limit!
None of these things are true or represent logical thinking, of course. Never the less they are embedded into the American psyche rather deeply. This is why the idea of flying half way around the world to “bring democracy” to ancient civilizations which are fundamentally in opposition to democracy seems feasible to many an American. “Why not?” they ask, “it works for us, and we’re no different than they are!” Likewise it inoculates them from the conclusions to be drawn from the high crime rate of minorities or the over representation of certain groups among the influential decision makers at the top of the political order.
And of course when everyone believes they are individually special; equally capable of becoming a corporate CEO, nuclear physicist, NFL linebacker, avant-garde travel show cook/host or Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, well, then why shouldn’t Muslim refugees from Somalia become democracy-loving patriots in Minnesota? Why shouldn’t 20 million Mexican migrants stampeding across our borders become model citizens? Why shouldn’t a black guy become president? And why should Iraqi’s and Afghani’s fight back? Everybody wants democracy. Right?
Naturally “the Devil” to the Average Joe Me People is, reality. As such, they make war upon it while declaring all those who claim it exists to be heretics.
But as there is a sense of inevitability to where we are, so too is there a sense of what is to inevitably come. Many people know, think or feel that there is something wrong in the world and that things are off kilter. There is a sense of, ‘this ride is about to stop’ in the air.
Just as the media and the ‘man on the street’ were “sensing” the paradigm shift to the left in the 60’s and 70’s there is now a belief that a “backlash” is inevitable. More to the point, there is an undercurrent felt by Average Joes and ivory tower elites alike that White people are ready to revolt.
And it is not a revolt taught by the state, preached in the churches or shouted by the masses, yet it is as real, palpable and expected as the coming dawn under the glow of early morning light. The Me People, both Elite and Average Joe, sense it coming. It is that sense of inevitability that the end of an age is saturated in. Unknown to both, however, is that the end of this age will be the doom of the Me People. The Average Joe types will disappear into the wreckage, perhaps reappearing again in a new prosperous era in an age yet to come. But the Elite Me People, those “citizens of the world” who foolishly chose to stand outside of time and place are an end to themselves. Having separated themselves from the present; blood and soil, nation and era, they are as formless and forgettable as a summer wind.
As the Me People lived in a temporary world of their own making (a world existing for and of themselves) it is very much true for them to see that the end of the world is at hand.
For the rest of us, who stand resolutely connected to past, present and future particulars of blood and soil, our history and our existence, is eternal. We continue on in the real world, which has always been and always will be. A world of day and night, right and wrong, truth and lies, black and white and, yes, love and hate.
Yet the hate that is arising in The West is not of the irrational and reactionary caricature the Left loves to paint. It is the hate of lies. It is the hate of wrong. It is the hate of that which would hurt, mar and destroy all that is good and true and beautiful.
It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.
They were not easily moved,
They were icy—willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.
Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.
It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.
It was not suddenly bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.