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February 05, 2007

A society running on guilt?

There are definitely times when you have to wonder about the society we live in - the society we have created around us. Look about us and what do you find? Anyone who does manage to rise above the average, who dares to stand above the crowd, immediately becomes a target for those who cannot stand anything or anyone who threatens their cosy view of their own self importance. It often seems to me that those who do this have something to hide themselves, in that they hope that by distracting the rest of us, by diverting our attention to the misdemeanours or flaws in someone else, they can themselves be made to look and feel better.

I know I have written on this subject before, but enforced watching of CNN and the debates (a year in advance of the elections!) on the merits of the various potential Presidential Candidates, and the so-called "Experts" on military affairs (many of whom do not seem to have held any high ranking post and many more who seem never to have served in any military capacity in a war zone!) all decrying everyone else, it does stike me that there is something desperately wrong with our society and the attitudes it engenders. This made me think deeply (always dangerious!) on how I view the people around me and the manner in which I select my friends. Surely I cannot be unique in selecting those I feel comfortable with as friends, people for whom I have some affinity? I would not choose to have Mr Blair as a friend simply because I have nothing in common with him, least of all his political philosophy, but primarily I see nothing in him that attracts me to his company. That can be said of a vast number of people I meet, we share the same space briefly (in the figurative sense) and move on. We are polite, we deal with one another (mostly) courteously, but I would not seek to pursue a future contact as there was no meeting of minds.

I cannot pretend to understand the mechanisms that operate in selecting friendships since it is always complex, especially in the social context. I am even less able to understand why some people seem to take great pleasure in pulling down someone for some error of judgement at some stage of their lives, completely ignoring all the good things that person may have done. Why this line of thought you ask? Well, it was occassioned by a news item here outlining the recent case of a man who has done a huge amount of charitable work bringing help to literally thousands, but who is now the target of a vitriolic campaign over an alleged misdemeanour committed in his youth. Local opinion is that he has an enemy in the press who is determined to destroy him. They even name the name, but shrug and say 'it is our way'.

If it is 'our way', what does it say of 'our' society? And while this may well be a different place and a different culture, I have to say that I find the same approach in the UK. As soon as some newspaper takes a dislike to some public figure, they are vilified. I am constantly surprised by the way the media deal with some of our public figures when I am abroad. And yes, I do know that I am pretty negative about politicians and bureaucrats! I also believe that we should be accountable for our actions - but I worry that our unhealthy fixation on the wrongs of others is nothing more than a comfortable way of hiding our own shortcomings.

If I look back at the Witch Hunting age of the 17th Century I have to ask myself whether we have replaced the Witch Finder General and the Witch Finder Army with a more insidious version. Has our Press, our 'Caring' society become engaged in a new witch hunt in which any man or woman who dares to be different, dares to have an opinion not shared by the 'people' (in reality usually the latest set of prejudices driven by the chattering classes of which the Blairs are a part) must needs be hounded and 'investigated' until we can find something we can 'accuse' them of and destroy them.

I hope I am wrong, but I am concerned that we are living in a very sick society, one which will destroy itself from within unless we can learn to accept that we are all flawed, we all have things we are ashamed to admit to and we are all somewhat less than perfect. Only when we learn that we cannot improve our own standing by dragging down another will we be able to move forward again.

But I won't hold my breathe for a while yet.

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 5, 2007 11:54 AM

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