The Echo of Laughter in the Secular World
Adaptation to the world has always been, Darwin teaches us, a struggle. And uphill battle where casualties are the norm. Many fall aside. And when that happens, it is often labeled failure to adapt. Terry Eagleton has written a piece that links the role of capitalism to the shedding of beliefs in the sacred. The contradiction is in the continuing emotional resonance of metaphysical values in daily life--whether they become a source of inspiration or one of parody. Jon Stewart’s Daily Show popularity suggests the preference is leaning toward the latter.
The Western audience in search of spiritual transcendence, at least in the traditional ways, has increasingly shrunk in influence in the modern secular world. Their voice is one voice among many. Again in the West, the central role and legitimacy of the institutions traditionally vested with a monopoly over spiritual values have eroded over time. The question is what scope is left for such institutions to play in the modern political world. That is the essential unanswered (and perhaps at his juncture unanswerable) question of our time. How it is officially answered is the line drawn in the sand between cultures.
“Modern market societies tend to be secular, relativist, pragmatic, and materialistic, qualities that undermine the metaphysical values on which political authority in part depends. And yet capitalism cannot easily dispense with those metaphysical values, even though it has difficulty taking them seriously.”
“Civilization is precious but fragile; culture is raw but potent. Civilizations kill to protect their material interests, whereas cultures kill to defend their identity. These are seeming opposites; yet the pressing reality of our age is that civilization can neither dispense with culture nor easily coexist with it. The more pragmatic and materialistic civilization becomes, the more culture is summoned to fulfill the emotional and psychological needs that it cannot handle-and the more, therefore, the two fall into mutual antagonism. What is meant to mediate universal values to particular times and places ends up turning aggressively against them. Culture is the repressed that returns with a vengeance.”