If there is one thing that divides the remnant of ordinary America from the political class, it is a sense that life should involve therapy. Is ordinary life so traumatic that you need treatment for experiencing it?
Yes, argues this very interesting article: it is if you have lost the ability to love.
For centuries in the West, and until only recently, love has been the underlying essence in which the pulsations of existence had their being. People were encouraged to indulge in the daydreams of love, to love their lover, their family, their sect, their nation, and ultimately all mankind. When this civilization came crashing down in the first half of the 20th century after two world wars, the West had a vital interest in replacing a civilization based on love with something else. And it found that substitute in the new ethos of caring, of which the caring industry is the leading exponent.Yet he closes on a note of disaster, not hope. The caring ethos isn't just empty; it also contains the seeds of violence. You get all the peril, but none of the joy.
The ideology of love began nine centuries ago in the era of courtly love. It seems natural to us that people should always have been obsessed with love, but this is not the case. Our code of etiquette that gives precedence to women seems natural, but it is a legacy of courtly love, and to this day is considered to be far from natural in Japan, say, or India. Prior to courtly love, the idea of marrying for love would have been unthinkable. Marriage was a union of property, a social calculation, and still is in many countries. In the West, marrying for any reason other than love seems crazy....
During the First World War, Westerners pierced with the most intense pangs of devotion to strangers whom they had never met — their countrymen — shot at other strangers across deep trenches. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died in the name of love of one’s country.
Love ideology had revealed its fatal flaw. Clergymen, philosophers, artists, and politicians had encouraged people to intensify their passion for others, to join in consciousness with an ever-expanding number of individuals, with loving all humanity the final goal. But it is impossible to know humanity in the concrete; humanity is a fiction, it cannot be loved....
In romantic life people still want to fall in love as much as ever, and love ideology remains as strong as ever, encouraged by the entertainment industry, but outside this sphere the caring relationship has displaced love as the framework of existence, outside of which no issue, however compelling, no passion, however profound, and no belief, however soaring, is of much account. Many people today meet their basic psychological needs, including self-esteem, fulfillment, and identity, not through a social system of friends, intimates, and communities, as people did in the age of love, but by working directly with a caring professional....
True, the caring experience lacks the intimate gusto and genuineness of feeling that marked life in a social system. Gone are the hysterics and absurdities, the waving of bullet-pierced banners and the singing of militant songs. Gone is the special pride that one religious sect felt against another. But society is more stable. Although many Americans still cleave to love, dream of love, and hope for love in their romantic lives, the other dimensions of life have been spared the tumult and violence that once haunted life when the love ideal reigned supreme and people bonded intimately with strangers.
In the past, allegiance to a nation, a tribe, a city, a family, or even just a group of friends distorted reality such that people put up with these burdens. A group provided the framework of one’s whole being, within which was to be found all that life had to offer. It charmed reality; it made hard life easier to endure. Without this charming of reality, people will see life in all its horrible unfairness, fueling their anger and resentment. Winning romantic love in private life, already a matter of luck to begin with, will become an even more high-stakes game, since in a world governed by the caring ethos private life will become love’s last bastion, and the only place in which to build a strong attachment. Without romantic love, and with the unfairness and injustice in life laid bare for all to see, people may grow violent. And because groups built around love will continue to decline, people will have fewer groups on which to focus their anger; instead, other unattached individuals will become the focus of anger. The Virginia Tech massacre is just one example.This plays well with T99's article from yesterday about the kind of people who 'go Nazi.' Which kind was it? The 'lost generation,' she said; the ones who don't have a heart of love.
"Those who haven’t anything in them to tell them what they like and what they don’t-whether it is breeding, or happiness, or wisdom, or a code, however old-fashioned or however modern, go Nazi."
Family can do that; friends can. Religion can. Love can. These are the things that matter.
The West must learn to love again, if it is ever to be whole.