Let’s not give him a name. He is just a phenomenon of the twilight of forgotten knowledge and the inevitable consequence of our society’s abandonment of our human inheritance. When we act as if honesty and toleration are not important, then the “one who must not be named” eventually shows up.
Lamenting the car crash when we have been driving with our eyes closed for several city blocks, closing our ears to the screams and rending metal, is just one more empty gesture in a long pattern of neglect. Our first meaningful response to this situation—if we survive it—must be to acknowledge that we could have avoided this catastrophe if we had cared enough to make the effort.
The danger at this point is to succumb to feelings of helplessness and despair. Yet it also seems important to acknowledge our own participation in the collapse of civility and caring in the world around us.
Why we get the parents we get is not nearly as clear as why a particular population of people gets social and political chaos. To account for an infant being born into the care of particular parents—whose engagement with their children spans all the way from heartfelt gratitude to cruel indifference—we have to invoke karma and God’s mysterious ways. But how a petulant child–with all nine textbook traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder–rose to the top of the political pile is no mystery.
There are consequences to meddling in the electoral process of foreign countries just because they have resources we want. There are consequences to abandoning the recognition that education is important for everyone, while syphoning off as much as possible for ourselves. There are consequences to handing over special access to the commons (land, air, water, and non-renewal resources) to those who insinuate themselves into positions of power; and then withhold education and health services from those who are thereby rendered unaware of their own best interests.
What are the consequences of the dissolution of health, knowledge and infrastructure in our country? What are the consequences of entrenched patterns of dishonesty and self-serving actions by the most privileged and powerful among us? Those consequences are no longer hypothetical. We get a man in office who could never have prevailed if his past indifference to others had been understood by his supporters.
Red flags have existed for years. We might have limped along for a few more cycles, thereby allowing the carrion eaters to feast off the carcass of the common good a bit longer, but Rome didn’t fall in a day. The inner dissolution of empire—whose defining characteristic is to prey on the weak through Ponzi schemes of unearned privilege–has one inevitable outcome.
A sustained disrespect for truth–and for the understanding needed to value truth–has finally created the conditions for a strutting, petulant child to assume the throne. The American Founders created an alternative to monarchial succession and set up protections against the irreversible strangle hold of Totalitarian regimes. But we now see that an intelligent balance of power is not enough to protect people when they stop appreciating a way of life that few in the world are lucky enough to enjoy.
Our planet hasn’t been hit by an asteroid. Our country hasn’t been invaded by foreign troops. But we’ve allowed craven impulses to motivate many of the officials we elect. We’ve given our attention to the crassest among us, on behalf of our own reflexive fears and appetites. It’s time to stop pursuing our own agendas with such uncompromising zeal. We always hope we can correct problems with the same means that caused them in the first place—though the next election or some other reversal of consequences. But in the midst of a breakdown of civilization that has been proceeding for generations, more is needed than more of the same.
There’s nothing for it but to acknowledge that the ability to understand the potential and responsibility of being born human on Planet Earth has been supplanted by the most tedious forms of indifference, greed and aversion. And if we don’t reawaken to our capacity for understanding and caring, our descent into darkness won’t end with a clinical narcissist with a bad hairdo.
We are experiencing a crisis of knowledge and our society is reaping the harvest of its indifference to what it takes to preserve and improve what we have been given.