July 26, 2011

"Anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering"

"Anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering"

Walter Russell Mead, From Norway to Hell

The ghastly, shocking news from Norway has stunned the whole world.  Empathy for the young victims and their families, horror at the cold blooded and deliberate evil behind this act, and fearful wonder at the depths of madness it reveals are all joined together. We Godbotherers will be bothering God about this, asking for his compassionate and merciful presence in the lives of those who must now begin a lifetime’s journey in the presence of unspeakable grief.

To respond to events of this kind is a challenge.  The tragedy is so great that anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering, but it also demand some kind of response.

There are some trying to draw some political conclusion about left and right from the massacre; I would like to go deeper.  This tragedy doesn’t just speak to the state of cultural politics in our time, or remind us (as it surely does) that evil has a home in every human culture and human heart; it challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.
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The Norwegian horror says less about any shortcomings in Norwegian life and culture than about modern life generally.  It reminds us of the profoundly unsettling truth that modernization may lead to more violence and more death than ever before.  Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers.  It is also about accelerating social change.  Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get.
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This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life.  Blue collar factory workers lose their jobs by the millions; some adapt, some endure, a few go postal.  The upper middle class feels the earth shake beneath its feet as old certainties are challenged and old ways of making a living cease to work.  Most go about their business; some, like Ted Kaczynski, flip out to the Dark Side.
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The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty.  Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.

In my view, this is one of the reasons that belief in a transcendent power beyond the human mind is intellectually necessary to grapple successfully with the realities of our time. When the determinist progressives threw God under the bus, they threw away the possibility of an integrated world view that has room both for scientific and rational analysis on the one hand and a honest, unsparing appraisal of the radical uncertainty around us on the other.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 26, 2011 3:53 PM | Permalink