Having become a Stoic and other things over the past several years, it occurs to me that I am rather mired in a single-minded public-spirited public. They are single-minded in that they find that questions of the Humanities are under all but a few circumstances relegated to the realms of democratic activist politics. Now I may be wrong about this because in certain ways such matters are above my pay grade. But I suspect that the American High Society has been hollowed out.
My gut feelings tell me that if I were to hang out with Condi Rice, I would find myself in good company 99% of the time. My gut also tells me that the clutch of people in that broad circle are not likely to find much comfort in the public. That is to say that there is a rare breed of American who can reliably be found in Society but find themselves outcast from most of our public institutions, like Brandeis or marginalized to the point of a hand to mouth existence. But I often wonder what kind of club I could belong to if it remained meaningful to belong to a club. I am at a loss.
As some of my readers know, I was just writing something about gun control advocacy with the following observation:
..there is a general assumption that more public debate resulting in more regulation can make more sense or people more safe. It is a fundamental assumption of gun control - that there is something you can do with the law through the power and force of the state - that you can change other people's behavior for the better. Notice how this takes the almost singular form of democratic political activism and law, not intellectual persuasion, not social motivation, not religious doctrine, not transcendental discipline.
So I'm wondering where that intellectual persuasion, social motivation, religious doctrine and transcendental discipline might be emanating. OK religious doctrine we can guess, but the others? In fact, the matter struck me in the temple today as I attended the ceremony presenting my daughter into her sorority. Didn't there used to be something called High Society? Weren't there social practices unto which most considerate and ethical Americans submit themselves. Didn't we once have ourselves figured out into some manner of meritocratic social hierarchy?
People act as if this never really existed. I honestly can't say because I myself am not old enough to have been an adult at the period in American history when it might have. But I look at the Sunday Morning Talk Shows and I am truly staggered by the collegial mendacity. How do they get away with it, and where is a sensible grown up to find comforting respite?
I guess this is an open question.