What’s Ailin’ the Moderns
David Lewis Stokes gave some consideration to the work of sociologist Philip Rieff, who died in 2006. Not being familiar with Rieff’s work, I can’t say how much Stokes has added or subtracted, but this strikes me as profoundly insightful:
In antiquity the ideal of what it was to be truly human was to become either hero or sage. In the Middle Ages it was to become a saint. In our own time the best we can hope to become is — well-adjusted. But without the backdrop of a sacred order and in a culture predicated on gratification, self-fulfillment and well-adjustment remain malleable terms, in constant need of redefinition. …
… The nature of our therapeutic climate is such that instead of reaching an ideological dead end, it simply reinvents itself to explain why its dead end is not a dead-end at all. Simply put, therapeutic technique has become an ever-expanding maze without a center.
Progressives see it as an ever-expanding definition of liberty (somehow always entailing more pervasive power for government agents). I see it as a back-filling prevarication, forever redefining consequences and detriments as simply the next order of complications to be resolved. Only our unprecedented technological and economic advancement, over the past few centuries, has allowed this illusion to obtain, and that advancement has been built on the very cultural foundations that progressives seek to disassemble.