Culture of Crisis




Jon Kofas writes: On 19 October, vice president Cheney told an audience in Ohio that "terrorists" could bomb U.S. cities with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. Questioning that senator Kerry was capable of handling such a threat, Cheney naturally asked citizens to vote for Bush. Though this is extreme rhetoric on the part of an individual who has a record of massaging facts to fit his ideological positions, there is actually nothing unusual about politicians using every method possible to win elections. More revealing than Cheney's rhetoric, the U.S. has a crisis culture that extends from politics to food diets to pharmaceuticals to education, to the Catholic or Anglican Church to popular entertainment, to "teen crisis", etc. It seems that every aspect of American life is in a crisis, and unless we get into the "crisis mode" we have this existential void that prompts us to create a crisis so that we feel alive again. Perhaps it is indicative of the "Age of Anxiety" in which we live. Perhaps it is the leaders - political, religious, academics, civic, etc. - who, like Cheney, desperately need to justify their own positions and to continue securing public support for their positions. Perhaps people will not pay attention or care, unless it is articulated in the language of "crisis." Perhaps we are filled with anxieties and "crisis" mode thinking because as the great German theologian Paul Tillich observed we are asked to make of ourselves what we are supposed to become in order to fulfill our destinies. Unlike Hinduism and Buddhism that emphasizes spiritual tranquility, today's secularized-Christian West has traded inner peace and serenity for the anxiety that comes with the quest of materialism.  Because as a culture we are overly anxious about everything from what we eat to how we perceive the outside world and what we expect of it, we can expect that hyperbole from our leaders will continue.

RH: Perhaps this is the price of progress.  I like my life, and would not enjoy the unprogressive tranquility of nirvana. Jon Kofas' computer is a product of the restless West.  Does he recommend that we go back to the abacus?

Your comments are invited. Read the home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on:   http://wais.stanford.edu Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004

Top

last updated: November 22, 2004