Source: Judith Acosta
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
(Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
The other day I was watching TV.
(We’re quarantined. Sometimes there is little else to do.)
In any case, in the mindless surfing that approaches an altered state, I saw an ad that left me nearly apoplectic. It consisted of a series of faces covered by masks of all types and sizes. The voice-over repeated like the peeling of bells over St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Easter: “This is not a mask. This is not a mask. This is not a mask. This is solidarity.”
It propelled me off the couch. I screamed, “IT’S A MASK.”
It’s a mask that we would not have been allowed to wear into a bank or a federal or state office or municipal office a mere three months ago.
It’s a mask. It’s a mask. It’s a mask.
Like a man condemned to psychological torture in the Gulag, I started to recount all the lies we were being told under the guise of erudition and belonging.
I am not a man (anymore).
I did not have sex with that woman.
I can marry anyone, including my cat.
It’s all Trump’s fault.
Then I wondered: Can a culture go nuts? What are the signs? And what happens when it really does?
Unfortunately, there are few signs for those who are already indoctrinated and for whom the insane culture is normative. The Aztecs are a perfect example . A highly complex culture, replete with infrastructure, religious and imperial hierarchies, and an incredibly successful system of commerce and agriculture, they were also a war machine running on an engine of blood lust. The Aztec empire performed an estimated 200,000 human sacrifices a year, including (maybe especially) young children and babies. Their rituals, bloody and horrifying to any sane person, were normative to them. Does that make the culture normal?
Of course not.
It reminded me of that Kantian/Berkeley nonsense every baby boomer has been bottle-fed about trees falling in the forest. If no one hears it, does it make a sound? I remember how I answered in Philosophy 101 in college when everyone else said “no.” I said, “Of course it did. Who made you the center of the universe? If someone dies in the Sudan from starvation and you weren’t hungry or present to bear witness to their agony, did they not exist? Did their suffering not exist?”
This is what happens when God has been evicted from a culture. It is indeed a strange thing that is happening to western civilization. In the earlier stages of our culture, the existence of things unseen was hardly questioned. Today, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist at all. The locus of control has moved from a universe of the Divine to the essential singularity: One’s Self.
As a result of this tectonic shift, there are things happening in our culture that are truly insane. Period. As a result of this increasing insanity I have resigned from the National Association of Social Workers. I am taking down the shingle that used to stand for compassion and righteousness, but now stands for nothing more than social indoctrination and lunacy, an organization that protests against the death penalty for serial killers but rallies in favor of partial birth abortion.
And what are they selling by telling me the mask means “solidarity?” Does the sickle and hammer at football games come next? Is mass social consensus the new righteousness? Does it mean that those who don’t like the hypoxia resulting from masks are no longer good Americans?
Someone posted a thoughtful comment on one of my earlier articles on masks (“Until We Have Faces”). He asked whether the mask was any different than neckties which are important to people of a certain social standing. And I say, yes, it’s very different. Neckties are not mandated by the government under penalty of heavy fines or incarceration. They are not automatically equated with being a part of the “fatherland.”
I paced and thought about all the cultures that have waved the banner of solidarity as the new anthem of holiness: Russia, China, Nazi Germany, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba. And I shuddered. What is happening to my beautiful country? How could anyone go mad in the streets, burn minority businesses and try to topple the Lincoln Memorial yet make a mask the new symbol of holiness?
Can a whole culture go mad?
Unfortunately, I think so.
In The Republic, Socrates paints a portrait of people who have lived their whole lives chained to a blank wall. They can see shadows and even give names to the shadows. Those shadows are their only reality. Socrates talks about how rational people are like prisoners who deliberately break free from the cave and come to see reality instead of shadows.
In this country, we’ve been keeping company with shadows for over 60 years. Since the late 50s and early 60s there have been a series of laws and national decisions that have furthered the indoctrination of school-age citizens and facilitated the down-spiraling orbit of western civilization. Starting with Vitale (’62) and Abington School District v. Schempp (’63), continuing to Roe v. Wade (’73) and on to the appeasement of Iran with the Obama Capitulation, we have become increasingly self-loathing (the ills of the world are all America’s fault), self-destructive (the second-largest killer of our youth is suicide), and simultaneously self-aggrandizing (my feelings are all that matter, therefore today I’m a man/woman, and maybe tomorrow I’ll marry my cat).
In my 35 year tenure as a therapist I have worked with thousands of people. It is not very difficult to know without doubt when you’re sitting with someone who is only seeing shadows.
I am quarantined in a country full of them.
People who see the world outside the prison must begin to say, out loud, “IT’S A MASK!!!!!”
Judith Acosta, LISW, CCH, is the author of The Worst is Over and The Next Osama.