The Great Untethering

Reading the news today, in any venue or format, has become akin to doing an extreme sport. The potential for injury is immense.

We are regularly treated to an array of gratuitous, sadistic attacks that are either coming from the truly mentally deranged, or in a great many cases, the socially deranged.

We can argue as to whether this has always been the state of things, and we are just now more privy in real time to what has been always happening, or if, in fact, we have embarked on a new, disconnected and self-destructive path.

It is a truism that never have so many had so much. But “having” is not the key to happiness, let alone sanity.

To the great consternation of class determinasts, social attacks are not the province of the oppressed. To the consternation of racial and identity determinasts, such attacks are an equal opportunity affliction, and there seems to be an eclectic representation among those who would take it upon themselves to lay waste to the rest of us.

To ascribe this mania to gun control laws is silly. To ascribe it to guns themselves begs the question as to why the guns- which have always been with us – are now being deployed.

There are deeper factors at work here. Factors such as feeling that one’s life has no purpose. If my life has a purpose, it is not that hard for me to recognize that yours does as well.  And why should either of us be subverting the purpose that we both, individually, are embarked upon.

We no longer feel accountability. In the world of the nanny state, individual accountability, like individual autonomy, gets delegated to the looming, ethereal state. Our more immediate arbiters of good behavior – teachers, neighborhood cops, parents – are losing, if they have not already lost, their impact and relevance.

The ultimate loss of accountability is the lack of a sense that our behavior is being observed from on high. If one believes in God, there is ultimately a sense that our actions will be judged, and we will be held accountable for them.

In a God-less world, it is just a hop, skip and a jump to nihilism. Along the route there might be false gods such as climate change, identity issues, etc., but these can be manipulated to fit our agendas.

Letting go of an awareness of God, regardless of how one observes that awareness, is the alpha step to the untethering of society, the implosion of civilization.

Civilizations only survive and thrive based on widely held in common assumptions about the way a society is to be conducted. There can and will always be disagreements about tactics, policies and issues, but there needs to be consensual agreement about the really big things.

In the not-so-distant American past, consensual values and beliefs were captured in universally known and repeated civic mantras: the Pledge of Allegiance, and the preambles to the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

Sadly, look how anachronistic the Pledge has become: “And to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God…” No longer one, and no longer under. And who is God anyway?

 “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The idea of indivisibility is given the lie by the political maps that show a blue coasted country bookending a huge swath of a red interior. And the idea, even the idea, forget the reality, of “liberty and justice for all” invites a martial arts type of brawl as to whether that was ever intended, and whether such an idea is even possible.

Today, the Pledge of Allegiance is likely to be viewed as a microaggression rather than an either an aspiration or some kind of binding commitment. A pledge, as it were.

And of course, I neglected to begin with the pledge to the flag itself. The flag of the United States has become a kind of dog whistle to a great many Americans. It is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, inviting scorn and blame for a litany of the woes of the society, and the larger world.

The flag was once seen as a consensual non-verbal symbol of what almost all Americans thought was the embodiment of good, the aspiration to do better, of pride and identification with something larger than oneself, where one had a role to play.

How sad is it to write these words and to see how, in the historic blinking of an eye, there has been so much unraveling, untethering, disconnecting and worse, disparaging of what was truly good.

The ideal is always the enemy of the good. America, was never ideal; it was always fraught with problems and issues. But what defined it as a great society was the willingness to accept its imperfections, to work to ameliorate them, while at the same time cherishing all that was good.

Americans used to look at their country through the prism of a half full glass. Sadly, too many of us no longer see any water whatsoever in the glass.

How does America save itself? How, by extension, does the West regain its existential footing? Can it even be done?

My belief is that it can be done, though it will not be easy. It requires some intense self-reflection as to what one truly wants. If those on the Left are rending their garments worried about humanity, let them start worrying about humans.

If elites are worried about the fate of the planet, let them worry about the fate of the people delivering things to their houses, growing their food, mowing their lawns and protecting them from foreign adversaries.

It's time to see those around us. Its time to see ourselves as somehow tied to the other. If black lives truly matter, then see the reality that all too many black people confront on a daily basis and focus your energies on ameliorating that.

We are not labels, we are not immutable identities incapable of growth, change or understanding.

And above all, let’s start looking around ourselves and asking the seminal questions posed by the giants of humanity: how did all of this come to pass, how does it all manage to continue?

We need, each and all, to step outside of ourselves, to see that there is a reality far bigger than each of us and all of us.

Let’s start connecting the dots. Hopefully, it will allow us to start to retether ourselves.

Douglas Altabef is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots organization, and a Director of B’yadenu and the Israel Independence Fund.

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License

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