Friday, May 8, 2015

A Nation of Fantasists

     I've been reading Wendell Berry (again), and ran across this passage in his recent book, What Matters?  It is the introductory paragraph of an essay which he wrote in 2009.

     "As our economy has been showing us for the past year or so, we have become a nation of fantasists.  With a kind of abject credulity, we have come to believe in the power of money alone to bring forth goods, to believe that money itself is a good, to believe that consumption is as vital an economic activity as production.  We think that shopping is a patriotic act and a public service.  We tolerate fabulous capitalists who think a bet on a debt is an asset."

     There I went, favorably quoting a man who does not pay proper respect to the god of our civic religion, Mammon, and the capitalists his faithful priests.

     But we are a nation of fantasists -- political fantasists left and right, media believers, Hollywood afficionados, technology-addicts, militarists, ideologists, and theological speculators.

     However, reality is beginning to prod us awake.

     But awakening from our fantasies may be as troublesome, frightening, and sickening as coming out of a long-induced drug stupor, or a hang-over.  "What has been going on while I have been out-of-it?" we begin to ask ourselves.  "And worse yet, who knows what was I really doing when I was out of my senses?"

     Then, of next importance, the further questions:  "What do I do now?  What will happen next?  What should I be preparing for?"

     The good news, and the bad news, is that other people are asking the same questions, and are talking to each other.  That is good news for two reasons -- the first reason being that we are not alone, that other intelligent people are addressing the same questions; and the second reason being that some practical answers have begun to be suggested. (Although largely, but not completely, ignored.)

     The bad news is also two-fold.  First, we can no longer tell ourselves that everything is okay, and that we can continue with business as usual and things as they are, it's just human nature, inevitable, etc.  We are sick, and we know it.  Second, we can see that the people who are still caught in the left-right paradigm, or caught in the would-be world-encompassing media-narrative, or pre-occupied with American (or religious, or Christian) exceptionalism, or narcissistic selfists, are not going to be much help;  they -- as once we; perhaps still we -- are a big part of the problem.

     The world is not Disney-world, or church-world, and it is not even "western civilization."  Mammon is a false god, a demi-god.  And both God and the Devil are wide awake.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely.

    "Come out of her my people," is the command.

    Who is "she" and how exactly do we accomplish coming out of her?