Civilization is Paper Thin
Image Courtesy: Billings Gazette

Civilization is Paper Thin

The country we know, the democracy we have built over the last centuries, is in the midst of a crisis of significant proportions, one that could change forever the very behavior and beliefs of our people and the fabric of our society.

We are at tipping point. A new America, a very unattractive America full of hate and violence, underpinned by stupidity, racism and sexism, is taking root. It could be a short-term phenomenon from which we will recover in months or years. At the moment, all the bad stuff is seems reversible. In the right circumstances, many of the fallen pillars of our society could be set aright. But, all that may be wishful thinking. It is impossible to know how long this attack on America will continue and how long it will take for much that we have long accepted as normal societal values and behavior to disappear entirely.

The recent election in Montana of Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for Congress, is just the latest indication of how vulnerable American exceptionalism is. A couple of months ago, no one would have believed that a candidate who physically attacked a reporter for asking a perfectly appropriate question could go on to beat his opponent easily -- and to get the enthusiastic support for his actions from the Montana governor, the Speaker of the House, the Vice President, and the President of the United States.

In fact, Montana’s vote is just one of many assaults on the world as we knew it only months ago. The President himself has declared the press the enemy of the people. He’s also turned his back completely on climate mediation, even though no one any longer doubts that doing so puts our children’s world in great peril. Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and chief advisor, has tried to put in place a secret line to the Kremlin. The Republican congressmen and women pushed through a new healthcare bill that would leave over 20 million poor people without access to healthcare. The Secretary of Education is in favor of financing private schools that discriminate against poor children. This list goes on and on.

The most disturbing thing about all this is the acceptance of these abuses of power by so many and the weakness and hopelessness of those who speak out.

And, it has only been months. The most disconcerting thing about all this, in fact, is that we are learning how paper thin civilization is.

Daniel Socolow
Daniel Socolow: President, Socolow Group. Former Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program, President of the American University of Paris, Vice President of Spelman College. BA, MA, Ph.D.

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