The Importance of Being Earnestly Socialized

As homeschoolers, from time to time, either I or my wife is asked about how we are ‘socializing’ our children, or the importance of ‘socialization’ is brought to the fore. The vast majority of people who use the word socialization in the context of education have neither thought about what it is to ‘socialize’ a child, nor what it means to educate a child. Education simply means sending one’s child to whatever institution the government dictates in order that the child can someday have a good-paying job, and ‘socialize’ is simply another buzz word which has been picked up osmotically via the quotidian channel surfing and media feeding rituals of our society. The idea of socializing one’s children, when encountered in the intellectual vacuum and comforting glow of today’s media venues, manufactures a false sense of pride and self-contentment. Because one’s child is being ‘educated’ and ‘socialized’ according to the prescriptions of the herd and those “above one’s pay grade” (to quote our inestimable president Obama) it is in fact a virtue, not an abdication of parental duty, to surrender one’s children to total strangers throughout the entirety of their formative years. At least, that’s what the flickering screen being rendered at 30 frames per second tells them.

As such, the typical proponent of socialization, when queried as to what precisely socialization is, is unable to offer a cogent answer. This holds true for our public educators just as much as it does for those who pass the responsibility of education off to them. Some attempt to quickly reconstruct what the talking head has spoon-fed into their minds, and it generally comes out something like this: “Well, socialization is about teaching kids how to get along with others.” Even more sadly, many simply assert that it’s important because the ‘experts’ have said so. Argumentum ad verecundiam à la Tocqueville, who opined that enslavement to public opinion and experts is the natural end for all democratic societies which place decision-making into the hands of those who have not been schooled in reason. For those who muster up the former response, when queried as to what ‘get along’ or ‘others’ means, the dialogue usually grinds to a peremptory halt. The most cursory glance at a typical American high school, or if one attended an American public high school in recent decades, a moment’s reflection upon one’s own experiences within it, will reveal that the reality sharply belies any such notion implied by the vague characterization: the kids largely flock to their own kind, form their own cliques, and rarely interact with those of the ‘other’ cliques, derision excepting. This is not an exception, it is the rule.

The entire concept of socialization was almost wholly absent from any dialog regarding public schooling, or any schooling for that matter, until recent times. The reason for this is due to the fact that homeschooling as an educational phenomenon was not yet demonstrating its superiority in every relevant and measurable category of education as compared to the mass of public schooling. Once it started to do so, a red herring needed to be conjured, and that right quickly. The red herring devised is what we’ve come to know as ‘socialization.’ Socialization as such can be likened to being a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of government-driven conformance training: the more questions one asks about it, the more confused and opaque it becomes as a concept. When no questions are asked about it, it is perfectly understood by all right-minded people.

This morning, as I heard my children playing and reading together, and yes occasionally arguing and bickering as people of all ages are wont to do, I reflected upon how thankful I am that all of them, with rare exception, get along with one another. They help one another, play with one another, learn alongside one another, and genuinely care about and spend time with one another. I realized that this closeness was fostered almost entirely by the fact that they spend all day, every day, in one another’s company and under the supervision of someone who genuinely loves them and guides them based upon that love. Consequently, their relationship with their mother is also quite strong. This led me to think of another question to ask the socialization proponent: In what ways does government schooling ensure the stability of and foster harmony within the family? Surely, one would be hard-pressed to refute the case that the strength and stability of our civilization rests largely upon the strength and stability of the family, a truism whose manifest negation is becoming all too, and all too painfully, clear in the United States. The reality is that the public school system, in large measure, serves to destroy the ties that bind: siblings in lower grades are ostracized from the groups comprised of older siblings, the hours are different, the activities of both pre and post-school hours are different, etc. All of which point in one direction: the alienation of siblings. This is absolutely not to be confused with saying that close family relationships are impossible in a public school environment, only that the direction of such is inevitably in an opposing direction and that it requires conscious effort or prior inculcation of corrective principles to mitigate.

When it comes to the education of children, all parents with school-aged children and all those who have a vested interest in the education of children must ask themselves this most basic of questions:  In the process of educating and maturing a child, what are the most critical components, which among them will serve a child for all of their days? When each of us comes to the end of the road, if we have a moment to reflect, what will matter the most to us? That we learned a little bit more, that we were more conformant and pliant to the wills of those around us? Or will what matters most be the relationships that we’ve forged and that we’ve sundered? As the family is the most basic unit of society, if we are not doing all that we can to foster strong family bonds, then by what reason can we expect that despite broken and fragile relationships in the home, a child is going to go out and forge strong and lasting bonds with those outside of his family? What will his pattern for such relationships be?

The Death of the Miraculous

The car rockets down the track as if on rails, precise, controlled, purposeful. The balancing act between not succumbing to the prosaic in the name of safety, and embracing the chaotic in the name of a win is masterfully executed. Then, the film slows down. The car, unhinged from precision, control, and purpose, leaves the track. The metal of the car crumples and twists chaotically as it slams into the barrier. Pieces of wreckage fly into the heavens and into the body of the man piloting the car. The car spins once, twice, and finally, comes to a rest. The man in the cockpit is motionless, as are those who, holding their breath, watch and wait to see what will unfold. The barely perceptible twinges of movement in the body lend hope to the idea that all is well, that the driver will be ‘OK’. And as the images of this violent and sudden demise of a racing icon settled into my conscience, I became acutely aware that what I was witnessing was not just a racing accident, not simply the death of yet another human being; but that it was in some manner an allegory for all deaths, and in my mind crystallized the answer to the question, never enunciated, which I had carried with me throughout the entirety of my thinking life: What is it in the death of a human being which at one moment, any number of platitudes will seem to render a sufficient perspective, yet in the next, seems to transcend all capacity of human inquiry and render dumb any attempt to satisfy our need to know and understand? The answer is that death is miraculous.

Let me first clarify my invocation of the term ‘miraculous’ adjectively of death: suffice it to say that when I state that the death of a human being is miraculous, I am not so unfeeling as to think that such an event could be regarded by those who have loved and cherished another, as anything approaching our common conception of ‘miracle’ and for those who are close to an individual who has passed, it is one of the few genuine calls to suffering, because to be separated from that which we love can be unbearable. By ‘miraculous’ I do not mean wonderful, expeditious to our ends, or pleasurable. It is the lot of our race to typically regard as miraculous only those things which both defy explanation and which also serve some purpose which we, in our limited understanding, can construe as beneficial to ourselves, either directly or by proxy. No, when I say ‘miraculous’ I intend the term with the full necessary and sufficient force with which it was born: an extraordinary event taken to manifest the supernatural power of God fulfilling his purposes (Webster’s Third International Dictionary). Something extraordinary. Something which makes apparent that there are forces at work which defy human explanation.

Like so many of the things which inhere the potential to give us pause to reflect, my awareness of this man’s death was a matter of happenstance, and consequently the details of his death shall not concern us here. What will concern us is that not only was the vibrancy and skill of this racing phenomenon miraculous to all who have eyes to see, but it occurred to me that his death was as well, and so it is for all human life. What does concern us is that at one moment in time, the man who was this driver, existed, lived, breathed, hoped, and remembered, and that in the next moment, there was nothing in time which remained of him except for a collection of complex molecules: there was no breath, no hopes, and no memories, and no method of science could ever recapture, encapsulate or revive that which was. In attempting to articulate that which appears to be inarticulable, one will inevitably be forced to employ the heresy of paraphrase as handmaiden to the task, and therefore what results will always fall short of that which was aimed, but it is my sincere hope that the essence will come through nonetheless.

In one instant of time, this man passed from life to death. The time at which his brain ceased to function, his heart stopped, he breathed his last, however the mechanics of it may be described, can be spoken of, analyzed, and discussed. In other words it is something finite, something graspable by the methods of science and the reasoning processes of man. What cannot be measured is what occurred at the precise moment when this individual became a memory as opposed to a living force in the world. The separation between life and death, from our perspective as human beings, is an infinite one. Shakespeare described it as “The undiscovered country from whose bourn no man returns.” Alan Bloom described death as an abyss and remonstrated with us as a culture to not shy away from coming to grips with it when he stated “Nobody really believes in anything anymore, and everyone spends his life in frenzied work and frenzied play so as not to face the fact, not to look into the abyss”. In that moment of the death of a human being is comprised both the finite and the infinite: in a finite measure of time, an infinite transition takes place. That is the miracle.

Examples of this abound if one only looks with a modicum of attention into any worthy human endeavor. For example, motion is impossible according to the dictates of reason alone. This is known as Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise. Even in an infinite amount of time, a finite distance cannot be traversed. Reputable dictionaries and encyclopedias of philosophy recognize this tension, and don’t merely disregard it as at odds with ‘common sense’ (which it most assuredly is, and therein lies the point). In his book Paradoxes, R. M. Sainsbury states:

No one nowadays would dream of accepting the conclusion that Achilles cannot catch the tortoise. (I will not vouch for Zeno’s reaction to his paradox: sometimes he is reported as having taken his paradoxical conclusions quite seriously and literally, showing that motion was impossible.) Therefore, there must be something wrong with the argument. Saying exactly what is wrong is not easy, and there is no uncontroversial diagnosis.

Analogously, between the numbers 0 and 1, there is an infinite number of rational and irrational numbers, and in fact, the number of rational numbers is countably infinite, whereas the number of irrational numbers is uncountably infinite. So, in essence, between 0 and 1, there’s not only an infinite number of numbers, but there’s two different kinds of infinities, one which is countable and one which is not! Any non-empty and finite set of phenomena, when subjected to analysis, will give rise to an infinity of possible hypotheses, and hence, no scientific theory can ever be proved, only refuted. And finally, the Bible teaches us that when we are saved by faith in Christ, that the Holy Spirit comes and abides in us. Again, that which is infinite, is bound, or present in, that which is finite.

The scoffers amongst us may assert that death is merely mechanical from the get-go and that’s it. Death is death, there’s nothing mysterious or miraculous about it. However, simply asserting something does not make that which has been asserted true or relevant. Even if one, through years of study and reflection, were to graduate from scoffer to the level of being a true skeptic, the best that can be done in this instance is to disclaim any acknowledgement of the miraculous professed in the world view which allows for the supernatural. But that is hardly a refutation. It is in fact a commitment, not based upon any ratiocination, but upon what feels ‘right’ to the adherents of the skeptical mindset, or put more bluntly: that which makes their lives more comfortable and gels with how they want life to be. And as anyone who is even cursorily familiar with philosophy knows, regardless of which ontic commitments one makes to shore-up a particular world view in one’s mind, those very same commitments will lead ineluctably to paradox. Paradox and the miraculous are conceptual siblings: the former has to do with those propositions which lead to conclusions which cannot be resolved through reason, and the latter with events in the natural world which cannot be satisfactorily explained by the methods of science.

Science, that pursuit of man which in this modern age, has all but banned philosophy and the contemplation of the miraculous or paradoxical, even though the physical world is rife with counterexamples to such a metaphysical stance. Why depecrate philosophy? Why ostracize edificial reason? Because these pursuits force man to come to grips with his limitations qua man. Science is created by man, as is mathematics. We can rework their tenets until they serve us. Man did not create himself, and as such, cannot be legitimately or practically reworked as a hypothesis or theory to suit how we want the world to be. Science as it exists today is not about the search for truth, but the search for utility and mastery of the universe. Richard Feynman, one of the greatest of all modern physicists, put it rather bluntly: “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.” Philosophy was not of much use to Feynman, in fact, he eschewed it. I cannot speak with any degree of certainty as to what his actual motive was for such a position, but I have a sneaking suspicion that he rejected that which did not serve his pride. Regardless of his true reasons, without such pursuits as those which he disdained, the name of Richard Feynman would not be known, for he excelled in a playground not of his own making. To come up against questions which appear to be unresolvable by reason, which have existed since time immemorial, and which cannot be empirically tested or validated is decidedly unpleasant to one who aspires to godhood. It is certainly easier to assume the answers to the questions which are presupposed by science. And while it is one thing to prefer not to tackle such questions, it is quite another to denigrate them. In the view of the materialistic practitioner of science, the shell which remains after death was in fact a shell prior to death and always was nothing but a shell. Everything else is illusory and in the final analysis, meaningless.

But it was not always so. The great scientific progenitors were every bit as much philosophers as they were scientists and they were fascinated by the creation and sought to be able to understand it; for in understanding creation, they came a bit closer to understanding attributes of God. We can look upon the schoolmen’s plain clothes and simple ways with a smug contempt as we channel and web surf. And we can peremptorily dismiss them for the ideas or beliefs which they held which have since been found to be in error, forgetting or neglecting the many areas in which they were right and for which we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. If we refuse to acknowledge and come to terms with that which is tenuous and paradoxical in life then we deny life itself, and in denying life, we also deny death. There are no great questions any more, no camaraderie with the thinkers of the past who wrestled with the questions which still hang on tenaciously, but which have been locked away in a dungeon where they cannot disturb our slumber. For us, all that remains are optimizations and a bland adherence to the mundane; for the mundane will never yank us up by the shorthairs, or force us to come to grips with that which cannot be gripped. The mundane is safe. The sure methods of science offer safety but no solace. And as we stagger towards eternity, if we’re fortunate, we may have a moment of clarity wherein we recognize that our philosophy is as arid as the desert and that we forsook the cool streams and placid waters which lay before our eyes because we had believed the lie that they were simply mirages, and we have slaked our thirst with a counterfeit.

Just as every civilization, past, present, and there’s no reason not to believe, future, extolls the virtues of those who distinguish themselves either through intellect, feats of physical prowess, or some combination of these, each has also been enamored of and mystified by the mortality of man. Both are shrouded in mystery, for who can explain from whence the fugues of Bach emanated, the sonnets of Shakespeare came, that which gave rise to Michelangelo’s David arose, or where the great skill and spirit of the athlete comes, all of which defy explanation, for it is not merely physical ability which lends itself to these enterprises, but the human spirit as well? And just as we cannot offer any definitive explanation as from where such things emanate, we cannot offer any definitive explanation as to where they go. Any position, even the denial of a position on these questions, is a statement of faith, not pure reason. Discussion and contemplation of the miraculous in our society has been killed, not through the forces of reason and science, but rather through our innate dread of the unknown and unmitigated apathy. And though we nervously proclaim as the abyss looms before us that the miraculous is dead, we have only succeeded in burying it in a mountain of distractions, distractions which, when reality comes knocking, will reveal themselves to be empty husks which never contained the soul of anything, and we will greet eternity empty-handed. Arthur Pink saw the tendency towards the abdication of reasoning about the eternal in this way:

How sad to note that this unconcern is shared by the great majority of our fellows. Age makes little difference. The young are occupied with pleasures, the middle-aged with worldly advancement, the aged with their attainments or lack of them; with the first it is the lust of the flesh, with the second it is the lust of the eyes, with the third it is the pride of life, which banishes from their minds all serious thoughts of the life to come. “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). O the blinding power of sin! O the deceitfulness of riches! O the perversity of the human heart! Nothing so reveals these things as the incredible sight of men and women enjoying themselves and being at rest, while they are suspended over the eternal burning by the frail thread of mortality, which may be snapped at any moment.

Let us not be unconcerned. Let us as a civilization once again plumb the clear, cool, and life-affirming depths of reason. Let us run the race that is before us and not forsake the thrill of victory because we feared to enter the arena.

This Just In!

There has never been a time in human experience where ready, global access to the news has been more pervasive. Not only do our radios continually adumbrate a caricature of the sum total of human experience, but there are dedicated news channels, print newspapers (yes, people still read them), Google News, and countless other means by which we can keep ‘up to date’ on all the goings-on of our effectively anonymous fellow travelers in this life. For all of the seemingly infinite variety of content, one would be hard-put to argue with any success that the news is generally uplifting in its content and presentation. In point of fact, it is exactly the opposite and the mass of negative and depressing content can be broken into two broad categories: that which deals with the propensity of human wickedness and that which deals with the generality of human suffering. Positive or uplifting news is so rare as to be practically anomalous. Why then, do we relish our time with the news so?

Immersing ourselves in the news generates multiple palliative effects, the chief of which is that the news presents to us a means whereby we can gaze unremittingly upon the failings of others rather than confronting our own failings. For the vast majority of us, the poor souls who are marched across our television screens, our computers, and our newspapers in a macabre parade of human suffering are far ‘worse’ than we are. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves, either explicitly, or what is far more common, implicitly. This is a prime reason why personages such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler are so prominent within our collective consciousness: they serve as the ultimate litmus test against which we can gauge our own deeds, whether by our action, or by our inaction. No matter what we’ve done, are doing, or are not doing that we should be doing, we can always rifle through the Rolodex in our minds and pick them out as being much worse than we think ourselves to be.

In weighing the scales of our goodness against the evils we see, we are ineluctably drawn into the judgment of our fellow man, an activity which can be so very gratifying, especially when we are lax in our duty to judge ourselves. I almost said that it ‘satisfies’ our need to judge, but I don’t think it satisfies anything, just as recreational drugs don’t ultimately satisfy the true need which they are merely acting as a diversion from. If even a few minutes are spent perusing the comments section attached to any news item which involves a sensational crime committed against another, a fairly steady progression of comments that speak of nothing but disdain, disgust, and hatred for the perpetrator will be manifested within hours of the report. Well, not nothing but; there’s usually a heavy dose of those who speak of their incredulity about how one human being could behave so terribly, or those who state that they would never commit such an act themselves. The perpetrators are judged to be not worthy of human companionship, sympathy, or love, because in essence, they’re not really human at all. They are simply monsters which have no soul and which should have rightly been killed prior to birth.

Another effect of the news is that it acts as a salve to our conscience, and we are therefore, in some measure, unburdened. We all know that when a weight has been lifted from our shoulders either physically, mentally, or spiritually, that there is a concomitant sense of relief, in fact a good feeling that comes, even if nothing that could be explicitly interpreted as positive has happened. When the negative is removed, that is counted as a net positive, and hence, when we see proof positive before our very eyes of how much better we are than another, we actually end up feeling pretty good about ourselves by comparison.

There is also the good feeling that invariably goes with diligently keeping up with all the latest, and this provides no shortage of opportunity to congratulate ourselves that we’re doing what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing. i.e. every good citizen keeps up on the news, if one is not up on the news they’re not informed, not interested in the world, etc. “Hey, did you hear about horrible event X? No? Why ever not?!” Keeping ‘up’ on the news has become so ingrained in our culture, that if you happen to state that you neither read the newspaper, nor watch the news on TV, you are regarded as some sort of curio or relic from an age past. To be clear: I am not here speaking of ignoring the truly important events which rarely come to the fore of the news, I’m speaking of shunning the daily avalanche of irrelevancy with which we allow ourselves to be saturated on an almost hourly basis.

Furthermore, as we recline on the couch, sit at our desk, or recline in an EZ chair, with rare exception, there is no action required on our part as we passively imbibe the news, and this goes hand in hand with our tendency to be rather apathetic, or to put it more directly: uncaring for our fellow man. Occasionally, we may engage in limited discourse with a companion about the news item and nod our heads in agreement regarding the horror that is before us, but other than that, the faces and lives which we see materialize and just as quickly fade, have nothing to do with ours, and like all media, are consumed and discarded in an endless cycle of self-absorption. Rarely, we may pause for a moment or two to reflect upon the victim, and benignly commiserate with them, but the next news item is perhaps juicier than the present one, and so the thought passes.

In his book An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis made a keen observation regarding the almost sole media of his day, i.e. print, that reading the news was the lowest form of reading possible, and of those who do:

They never, uncompelled, read anything that is not narrative. I do not mean that they all read fiction. The most unliterary reader of all sticks to ‘the news.’ He reads daily, with unwearied relish, how, in some place he has never seen, under circumstances which never become quite clear, someone he doesn’t know has married, rescued, robbed, raped, or murdered someone else he doesn’t know. But this makes no essential difference between him and the class next above—those who read the lowest kinds of fiction. He wants to read about the same events as they. The difference is that, like Shakespeare’s Mopsa, he wants to ‘be sure they are true.’ This is because he is so very unliterary that he can hardly think of invention as a legitimate, or even a possible activity.

As reading is largely dead in this generation, I think it’s fair (if not awkward) to refer to those who mainly ‘stick to the news’ as the most ‘unliterary’ of media consumers, no matter what the particular medium may be. Those who mainly ‘stick to the entertainment’ are not much better off, and shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory for preferring to watch the latest network sensation over the news. I say ‘no matter what the particular medium may be’ because of the very human tendency that no matter how overwhelming the evidence may be, no matter how convincing or convicting the argument may be, and no matter how applicable and analogous an example may be, if there’s the least chance of evading serious thought or the least bit of culpability, the stock response will be to find the smallest point of contention which doesn’t precisely fit, and thereby reject the entire argument. The tapestry of life is not so simple as to be able to indiscriminately subject it to the semantics of propositional calculus. So, whether we are speaking of reading the print news or being immersed in it via 3D glasses, the Lewis’ diagnosis sticks, and it sticks well because at its core it has nothing to do with the news in and of itself, or the medium by which it is delivered, it deals with our human nature.

In large part, the news also acts to bolster the stereotypes that all of us carry. Rarely does ‘the news’ shake up or challenge our conceptions about people with whom we are unfamiliar or places we have not visited. We desire comfort, not only physically, but, perhaps even more strongly, intellectually and spiritually. The news provides the latter in abundance. So much so that we have a surfeit of material from which we can choose to reinforce almost any uncritical belief we hold. Most things which deviate from our conceptions about the norm are to be shunned for the plain and simple fact that when our preconceptions or biases are challenged, our pride rears up and demands action. Action which takes effort, a commitment to truth, and a willingness to change. Why not just avoid the ordeal altogether and change the channel? Because of the homogeneity of material and views presented, this drastic step is required only on rare occasion.

The other broad category of the news alluded to at the outset is that which deals with human suffering sans intent: suffering caused by accident, natural disaster, disease etc. In the absence of forces which serve to pervert or squash it, most of us, when presented with something (regardless of the medium) that portrays a human being who has suffered as a result of one of these, feels something within which can only be described as compassion. While it doesn’t have the personal touch of the other category previously discussed, the effects are just as inimical, albeit in an opposing sense.

G. K. Chesterton, in his essay The Vote and the House, presents one of his usual cogent arguments in consideration of the impact that habituation to anomalies has upon us:

And this for a reason that any one at all acquainted with human nature can see for himself. All injustice begins in the mind. And anomalies accustom the mind to the idea of unreason and untruth. Suppose I had by some prehistoric law the power of forcing every man in Battersea to nod his head three times before he got out of bed. The practical politicians might say that this power was a harmless anomaly; that it was not a grievance. It could do my subjects no harm; it could do me no good. The people of Battersea, they would say, might safely submit to it. But the people of Battersea could not safely submit to it, for all that. If I had nodded their heads for them for fifty years I could cut off their heads for them at the end of it with immeasurably greater ease. For there would have permanently sunk into every man’s mind the notion that it was a natural thing for me to have a fantastic and irrational power. They would have grown accustomed to insanity.

In our day-to-day lives, accidents of nature, accidents of carelessness, etc. are anomalous. In the presentation of world-wide events, they are not. We witness, at the minimum, every day, the worst that the natural world can throw at mankind, the worst that poor planning or execution wreaks in a person’s life, and the worst that disease can do. Many of these events we would never have been conscious of if not for mass communication: disasters that only occur in certain climates, cultural (and by proxy, technological) manifestations that lead to disaster, and diseases that afflict one in a million, if not one hundred million.

Analogously, we have all heard of the battle-fatigued medics who become inured to the death and misery which surrounds them, or the hardy souls who have witnessed and survived the horrors of living in a region torn asunder by cycles of war which seem to have no end and take it all in stride. Surgeons and doctors whose life mission is working with terminally ill people become desensitized to the death of their patients, for if they didn’t, they would constantly be encumbered by grief. So one anomaly is substituted for another. These are sweeping generalizations to be sure, but in the main, they hold. People in such situations are certainly to be forgiven for a certain ‘lack of humanity,’ although, I hesitate to use such a phrase because of its condemnatory tone, and I also think that it would be inhuman not to be deeply affected and changed to some extent by such experiences.

Aristotle stated that the reason we enjoy tragedies is because the evocation of pity and fear serves to purge these emotions and hence it is ultimately pleasurable (cathartic) to us. The real-life tragedies which we silently, anonymously, and passively witness via the media serve a very similar purpose, but with an insidious side-effect. There are not many people who watch the news with unfettered relish who would be willing to admit that they enjoy seeing other people suffer. But, if these tragedies are not enjoyed per se, and they don’t serve some purpose to us or others, then why do we return to drink from these poisoned wells again and again? It certainly isn’t because it’s important to be informed and up-to-date about the vast majority of these events.

Aristotle’s perspicacity about literary tragedy lends itself to this as well. Just as the dramatization of fictional events serves to temporarily alleviate us of certain emotions, so do the events transpiring around the world serve a similar function. The difference between the two is subtle, and open to philosophical debate, but the core difference between the two is rather prosaic: the former is recognized as having its basis in fiction, and the latter in reality. So in consideration of the motives behind our fondness for watching them, the two are very similar. However, in the case of the latter, there is no suspension of belief which takes place and hence, the insidious side-effect mentioned is that there is a necessary detachment which takes place, all in the absence of an actual manifestation in our lives or community. Hence, while the battlefield medic’s ‘inhumanity’ arises from a need to survive, our inhumanity arises from our addiction to the purgation of emotions. In short, we become callous to real suffering to the point where things that would properly bring forth strong visceral reactions, manage only a sigh and a resignation. And it is here that the inimical effects bring forth their worst fruit: by being accustomed to switching off suffering and misery, we tend not to react as we should towards events that actually are occurring around us and which we could have some positive impact upon.

The West is mired in apathy. Even our most ‘heroic’ efforts for ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’ are anemic utterances shrouded in concern for others when the reality is they serve only to keep alive the dream that our own comforts and life choices won’t be disturbed in the least. Until we understand that the time wasted on the media in general, and the news in particular is much more than a simple waste of time, and that it is effectively rotting us from the core out, we will continue to grow in our lack of utility to our fellow man and such a people will evoke no fear in the hearts of their enemies.