Tracing the lineage of America's decline is an uncertain enterprise. Rousseau, Nietszche and Freud have all passed the torch. Seduced by their messianic claims, Americans--a boisterous, thoughtless, blindly utilitarian people--became convinced that shame was a fundamental impediment to liberation.
Remove shame, and--as night follows day--we will fuck our way to freedom (even in the side chapels of St. Patrick's Cathedral.)
Hal is wrong, however, in focusing shamelessness on lowbrows. Recently, London's Tate Gallery paid $52,000 for a tin can containing 30 grams of Piero Manzoni's feces. Mr. Manzoni, an Italian "concept artist," died in 1963 at age 29, his liver ravaged by alcohol. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/06/30/nart30.xml )
Euripedes held that "when what is shameful is condoned by noble people, then certainly the lower class will think it good." If "The Tate" wallows pig-happy in a pile of shit, why shouldn't we all?
More grievously, Hal lays blame on "a cocky cabal of Christian mystics."
It is ludicrous to identify America's Christian Right with Christian mysticism. No doubt Hal's alleged cabal shelters many upstanding pillars of the community--many high-ranking executives fleecing shareholders at Halliburton, Harken and Enron--but there is not a mystic among them.
Chesterton's epitomization of millionaires holds true: "To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it." Mystics are neither dull nor avaricious. Consider--even momentarily--the experience of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, Meister Eckhart. Chesterton knew that "mysticism keeps men sane" and that its absence--harbinger of hedonistic freefall--is what drives them mad.
The Independent may publish Adam & Eve's puerile propaganda, advertise "sophisticated" adult entertainment, and promise "pick ups" in full-page ads, but balks at the menace of mysticism, the rattled box of mere materialism and the orthodox notion that shame is essential to widespread morality.
I used to think the body politic could be healed by a new Constitutional Convention. In the interim, I have come to believe that we are so wanton, so cravenly materialistic that a new convention will never rival the existing Constitution--a document designed by white male racists embarking the genocide of Manifest Destiny (recently re-christened globalization).
Even so, as John Adams baldly put it: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
American democracy will not withstand the balkanization of shameless self-interest.
ALAN ARCHIBALD, HILLSBOROUGH
A story about local alternative fundraising federations ("Out in the Cold," Nov. 27) misstated the amount of time that Earth Share of North Carolina and North Carolina Community Shares have been included in the Triangle United Way's annual fund drive. This is the fourth year for Earth Share and the third year for Community Shares.
Due to an editing error, a Front Porch item about banking services for Spanish-speakers ("Making the banks abierto," Nov. 27) did not fully identify Nolo Martinez, director of the governor's office for Hispanic/Latino Affairs.
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