Why Our Society Suffers from ‘Mass Derangement’

Dec 11, 2019 by

by Shane Miller, The American Conservative:

A hierarchy of victims, tripwires everywhere, no forgiveness—it’s a recipe for madness in any era.

In his 19th-century study of crowd behavior, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote: “We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” Looking at the contemporary political scene, this analysis holds up well.

For following in Mackay’s footsteps is the acclaimed British writer Douglas Murray, with his masterful book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity. Arguing that society is suffering from a “mass derangement” due to the social justice and identity politics craze, Murray says the purpose is to “embed a new metaphysics into our societies: a new religion, if you will.” To do this requires a new set of heresies, or “tripwires,” as he calls them. These tripwires are constructed around four main issues that make up the social justice faith: gay rights, women’s rights, race issues, and trans rights. The political culture this has created has led to multiple people being publicly immolated for the crime of transgression.

The most plausible diagnosis for this cultural decay is that it’s a consequence of the loss of grand narratives and meaning that were once provided by the West’s religious and intellectual heritage. Murray also describes the astonishing appeal of these ideologies as a post-recession phenomenon, with the impact of the 2008 economic downturn having left young people feeling precarious and looking for ways to make sense of it all. As a result, politics isn’t a necessary nuisance; it’s the source of one’s purpose and meaning in life.

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