Monday, January 24, 2011

Discomfort, Individualism, and Nero

Courtney Martin has a post up over at The American Prospect about demagoguery and discomfort.  I think it's a smart, hopeful post.  She says:

I don't think American citizens deserve certainty. I know it makes us comfortable--both in our political sphere and in our personal lives -- but it's dangerous and delusional. It leads us to elect people who don't acknowledge the full complexity of the times we are facing and fail to take responsibility for their own errors in judgment (case in point: Sarah Palin's "blood libel" pity party rather than a genuine acknowledgement of her misguided and violent rhetoric and symbology). It tempts us into believing we aren't complicit in our contemporary challenges -- that the BP oil spill or the War in Iraq has nothing to do with our gas-guzzling SUVs, that the genocide in the Congo is not connected to our conflict-mineral enhanced cell phones and laptops, that the economic meltdown is uncoupled with our complacency or consumption.

That's a strange passage to find hopeful and if I think you read the whole thing the whole "hope" thing comes through a bit better.  I think on the whole she's urging Americans to get beyond rabid individualism and consider a wider humanity that is inter-connected.  Or maybe, the better lesson is to accept responsibility as an individual for our part in the world's challenges.

Maybe that's the biggest challenge America faces.  We, as a nation and as individuals, have an aversion to accepting responsibility for our own failings, instead it's more gratifying and expeditious to blame someone else.  If that be the case, we risk being Nero with the lyre.

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