The character of the nation (in progress) and of the social animal

Although I have a beef with the idea of “character”, as a robust parameter to describe any quality of human “nature” (urgh), but it still can be used-and it used-as a shorthand to paint a quick sketch of a person or of a nation (country-albeit not always, eg.: the basque nation-the espn nation-with borders). Take Mr. David Brooks that uses “character” not only as a descriptor of human nature in his failed-according to Thomas Nagel-book, but uses it in the title of the said panegyiric: The social animal. The hidden(really?) sources of love, character and achievement”. I would flinch instantaneously to the character bit, but he is in good company; think of MLK speech I have a dream: “……I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character“. MLK places strong emphasis in “character”, as a distinctive measure of the moral worth of his babies-theirs-denoting a convincing understanding of what he meant. The WSJ, in their tradition to never relent their own selfinterest-and never betray its own character- give the animal a kind-er review. Where does this character thing come from? It has a rather impenetrable history.

I bring this up in the wake of what else, (so sick of it) budget crises, tea partiers (this is when i really wish the multiverse BS would be true, wishful thinking), Libya and of Japan, failed nukes, failed congress, failed banks, fail, fail, fail. But, never before I had heard more reference to “manifest destiny”, the greatness of the US, our moral character, our inmense love of liberty (Bachmann), the sky is the limit bs, we-you-cando anything and everything so embedded in the kitschie US collective psyche: be happy, we are all Harry Potters!. But, I suggest, all is an antidote, an antibody I argue, to the inconmensurable angst of the zeitgeist of the times. Chupate esa. Inner life is miserable these days; and there is a desperate, blind, non-conscious search for meaning. Rationally speaking, with whom i often disagree on account of their lamenisity, has a powerful rant about the zeitgeist of these times, which I mostly share.

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