There are excellent benefits to modern society. The idea of modernism means, essentially, that people are all the same. That in some way anyone on any part of the globe can live by the same rules, have the same needs, demonstrate the same skills, enjoy the same rights. This is all to the good. The idea that all can be equal is a good idea. But how institutions can deliver the same rules and defend the same rights is massively complex. These are the higher order benefits of civilization. It is much easier to know that people can all use food, clothing and shelter. It is therefore much easier to deliver such things.
The Humanities is the area of study in which we can look at history, art, religion, philosophy, politics and try to understand how people have lived throughout the ages. Everybody has the same emotions, but what made the Roman people happy in 22BC? What made the Indian people angry in 1857? What made the German people fearful in 1930? The Humanities can teach us how to answer those questions and apply lessons to our current circumstances.
But if we spend more money on institutions that reinforce consumption of goods and services, then the Humanities can suffer. Obviously human psychology is the same, so a company that sells peanut butter will show a happy mother feeding her happy children peanut butter sandwiches. Eat peanut butter and be happy. An insurance company will show somebody angry that he got into a car wreck and got bad service. Change your insurance company and you won’t be angry. Buy this security camera and you won’t be fearful. And of course these products and services are easy to mass produce and can be available to everyone equally. That’s the modern way.
But what if those simple goods and services do not deliver the proper emotions? What then? What if you expect nothing from the Humanities and expect everything from modern social equality? Then what will you actually learn about art, religion, philosophy and politics, not only in contemporary times but in history? What if you compare yourself to other people in terms of whether you have insurance, security cameras and on what kind of food you eat? You know very well that people believe eating one kind of food will make them a better person. Is that really true? It cannot be for everyone.
Modern society can produce goods and services in abundance for everyone, but today’s modern societies are not doing a good job in teaching the Humanities. So people are confused about what should make them angry or happy or grateful or proud.
The traditions of society that delivered the context for understanding emotions has not been able to keep pace with modern consumer institutions. There must be balance.