© OddurBen / CC BY SA 3.0
The thing that strikes me most about the present and—say—the last ten years in global society—is just how angry everyone is. Political leaders, commerce figures, populations, press, civil society, religion… everywhere you turn, they are increasingly angry.
Generously deliberative disagreement has virtually disappeared, as has the witty form of “debate-banter” that once graced the airwaves regularly between public intellectuals. Conversations in which friends hash out their differences in verbal and evidentiary sparring have given way to immediate friendship breaks—this person can’t in good conscience be friends with a “bigot” while the other won’t countenance a minute longer in the company of a someone that wants to “destroy civilization” and so on.
The opinion columns of the news press and the endless writing of the editorial and magazine press are filled not with questions and points of reflection but with strident answers and desperate calls to panic and to action. Everyone, on all sides, private and public alike, declares repeatedly a state of emergency.
Candidates for office, already elected officials, captains of industry, activists and volunteers, voting factions, and indeed entire voting populations are all hated by other voting factions and entire voting populations.
Everyone is strident. Social trust and charity have broken down. Sometimes, say on Facebook or in polite company, anger masquerades as so much high-mindedness, but hardly anyone is fooled; such high-mindedness only too obviously serves as cover for deep resentment with the unenlightned; it is invariably aggrieved virtue-signaling for present company rather than moral munificence.
It is an ethos of taking-to-the-streets, of judgment, of endless protest and self-justification. The question is which came first, the activism or the indignant angst? For surely both are now universal forces in a way that is historically unusual at the aggregate micro level. It begins to seem as if the whole place is gradually becoming a powerkeg of afflicted atoms on all sides.