Of Tribes, Truth, Nostalgia, and Devolution

“To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues.”  

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

I am certain that I am not the only writer who is having difficulty summoning the creative muses in today’s politically supercharged climate. Their wings are too small, too frail to navigate the whirlwinds of public discord, of such diverse sentiments. I sit and wait and try to imagine what I could say that would matter, what might interest, inspire, or enlighten some reader or listener somewhere, but all my ideas seem too nostalgic, or too academic, or too likely to alienate one Tribe or the Other.

So I won’t write about any of the various interpretations of Entitlement. I won’t say, for example, that despite an element of truth in one Tribe’s claim that many of the Other take freedom for granted and have become lazy and abusive of the social systems, they (Tribe 1 folks) are themselves guilty of a similar un-Christian-like self-indulgence: they believe they entitled to judge Others even though they have no idea what it would be like to walk in their shoes, and they ignore or refute the very idea of social impediments.

And I won’t try to alarm those passionate believers in Democracy by reminding them that, in today’s Age of Information, there is more disinformation or non-information than truth, and that the truth doesn’t really matter because it is relative to one’s personal agenda or one’s Tribal ideology. I don’t want to imply that whoever or whatever entity controls that stream of anti-knowledge might also control our beliefs and our lives, making us all fodder for The Matrix. Perhaps we are all frogs being fattened for Snakes.

No. And I won’t write about my hometown or my youth. No one wants to hear sentimental crap about life in a college town during the ‘60s and ‘70s, or about harsh winters leading to brilliant springs and that feeling of the first warm sun on face, or about the secret places by the creek, in the woods, or in the old cemetery, all those images that adorn my mind and provide hope and inspiration that life is cyclical and that maybe we can go home again. . . .

As a teacher, I should not dwell on the state of today’s youth and their dependence on technology or their social media addiction (as this would only serve to reveal my own technological ineptitude). I will not criticize their parents, who so often enable them. And certainly I’d better not talk about a public education system that, in its desperate attempts to fix itself, has either submitted to government agencies (led by grossly under-experienced, overly theoretical, and socially naïve administrators) or have chartered cruises for those who can afford it to islands of fast-track promotion.

I won’t talk about pop culture today, about how the Arts, especially music, have devolved, or how the public’s interest in and understanding of the most fundamental building blocks of different art forms has all but disappeared, and that only small, elite groups foster traditional arts. And I’d better not speak about how the education system has sold out to mega-corporations that have seized these once-great creations – these Celebrations of Humanity – and reduced them to byte-sized commercial baubles to be consumed like a MacDonald’s burger and excreted similarly. I should not write about Consumerism as not only an environmentally and economically unsustainable system, but also as a killer of any kind of creativity that is not about profit.

What I want to write about is something beautiful, or something dark and mysterious. I want to catch a muse, drop it in a font of water, watch it spread like dye, and maybe see some kind of magic or dream rise from it. But most likely, that will be my last composition.


Pete Howard works as an English teacher, a musician, a writer, and a house painter.

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