Bruce Charlton is disappointed with modernity:
I have this strong feeling, which goes way back into my early teen years — that I was very lucky to live in a period of peace, abundance, comfort; and that the existence of this ‘safety net’ this gave me great opportunities to strive to do the best work of which I was capable: to aim high, be idealistic, take the higher risk options.
As an atheist and an intellectual, I saw these opportunities in William Morrisite, or Emersonian terms of enhancement of the arts, architecture, natural beauty, the landscape; self-education; science and philosophy; dignity and creativity of labour; self-sufficiency; knowledge and participation in poetry and literature; establishing wholesome and free social arrangements — and the like.
And I have always been terribly disappointed that very few people even tried to do so.
Instead there was a societal obsession with material accumulation, with getting ever more of what they already had in abundance.
Even worse, there was the whole world of “fashion” — the mass willingness to be manipulated in pursuit of one manufactured triviality after another.
For example, when I first got a permanent job as a university lecturer, I recognized that I had one of the most secure positions in one of the most secure societies in history — and that this meant I had could embark on long term projects in scholarship, writing and research and scholarship; that my secure position made it easy stand aside from trends; that I could be a model of teaching and scientific integrity and it was virtually impossible for my employer to sack me for it!
But in general colleagues refused to acknowledge the basic privilege and security of their position, and persisted in talking as if they could be thrown out into destitution and starvation at any moment — and therefore they had to go along with whatever fashion, trend and politically driven lunacies and lies were floating around the university — and work at terribly unambitious scholarly and research projects that were neither useful nor radical — but merely aspired to be microscopic incremental increases in what were already trivial and irrelevant backwaters of tedium.
Well, it is now clear for those with eyes to see that prosperity, peace, and comfort are not the natural state of all right-thinking persons — but an unearned privilege inherited from the genius and hard work past generations; and now we have become so far advanced in dissipation they cannot long continue.
But it is terribly disappointing to me that our civilization found nothing better to do with its vast opportunities than watch tv, participate in chit-chat, take foreign holidays, buy ever more new cars and clothes and gadgets; and occupy our minds with manufactured news, seduction and pornography, celebrity gossip, the pursuit and promotion of intoxication; cynically contrived point-and-click sentimentality; and idle malice and hatred (aka politics).