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The American

TRAGEDIES

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dangerous. Humanity is deemed arrogant, a beast ravaging the planet, gluttonously munching on junk food and junk lifestyles, or as a virus, out of control. The new liberal elite disdains religion, but in fact has adopted a ‘secularly correct’ version of earlier religious outlooks. We can hear Isabella’s contemptuous put down of angry ape-like behavior in Measure for Measure raging out when we consider ourselves today: “…man proud man, dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he is most assured.” The impetuous hominid, always striving, never just ‘be-ing’, always accumulating, always seeking to improve…’til what? Of course, many of the books within the canon have dystopian themes, from Shelley’s Frankenstein and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe

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he start of a new year is a time to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. However, today’s society seems incapable of reflecting on the past, and petrified of the future. We are caught in the existential headlights of the ever-present. Those of a so-called spiritual bent say it’s the only place to be, with true meaning found in just ‘be-ing’. Not that you’d notice any of that in last year’s preoccupation with the Mayan ‘end of the world’. This lean towards the fantastical and superstitious, as somehow ‘open minded”, illustrates how far we have gone down the road of despair with human inspiration. As I have mentioned before in The American, I have spent some time over the past two years (re-) reading key philosophy texts and some of the Great Books from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. This was part of attending The Academy, an initiative set up by The Institute of Ideas (who also organise The Battle of Ideas conference and two month Battle Satellite Festival in which I participate), which aspires to inculcate the ideals of a liberal arts collegial environment where reading, thinking and discussing (sadly in serious decline in contemporary universities) actually happens. Society regards much of what is at the heart of human progress – science, the arts, technology and politics – as being IM

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42 February 2013

Alan Miller argues that personal responsibility, freedom and creativity mustn’t become victims when acts of nature or violent tragedy strike to Sartre’s Nausea. Today however, what seems so stark is the generally accepted idea that humans are a nasty little species that should expect the wrath of Mayan prophecy – or ‘Mother Nature’ – to level us and put us back in our place. Many pundits succumbed to the idea that Hurricane Sandy was ‘Nature’s Revenge’. Contrary to this convoluted mumbo jumbo eco-religious fairytale, I subscribe to the view, well presented by the NY1 weather forecaster a few hours before it hit us, that this was simply a rare combination of several elements. It hit part of New York and New Jersey exceptionally hard with tragic loss of life. The authorities handled it very professionally and Mayor Bloomberg’s ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ was just how leaders should behave. It should be a lesson to the same leaders too that the continual ‘better safe than sorry’ for every minor issue since 9/11 ends up contributing to a lackluster response when it really counts, for the crying of ‘wolf’ reaps no more reward. Many are still dealing with the devastation on a daily basis in Rockaway, Staten Island, Long Island and beyond. I was very proud of the behavior of so many New Yorkers who volunteered to help fellow citizens. This was not the land of greedy, selfish, dog-eat-dog we are continually hectored about.

The American Issue 718 February 2013  

The American has been published in Britain since 1976. It is the only monthly magazine / website / community for Americans visiting and livi...