Unraveled

One of the characteristics of unraveled societies is that they are not aware of it. Because a culture is coming apart into pieces, it becomes easy to identify (and blame) that other piece over there. Your piece of the Balkanization is just fine. The privilege of demonizing others is one of the perks of fragmentation.

In the old stories Cassandra was cursed with the gift of true prophecies . . . that no one would believe. This is another characteristic of unraveled and unraveling cultures. Someone can describe in painstaking detail how it is all going to unfold, and then, when it does, the prophet is the very opposite of vindicated. He is accused of hate speech.

For a prime example, here is Alexis de Tocqueville, from the early part of the nineteenth century:

“I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes the sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the parental power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood . . . it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principle affairs . . .

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations―complicated, minute, and uniform―through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way . . . it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own . . . it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

He could easily have added another feature. These people will be incapable of recognizing themselves in such a description, however spooky and accurate it turns out to be.

And this is the meaning of judicial stupor and blindness. It is not an intellectual problem, but rather a spiritual and moral one. The answer is the message of Jesus, crucified, risen, and enthroned.

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