web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Suffocating In Mass Society: The bloodless death of individual dignity in America (Second of Two Parts)


Beres-Louis-Rene

“The mass,” said the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset in 1930, “crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select.” Today, in deference to the Many, the intellectually and culturally unambitious mass not only celebrates the commonplace (which it has been taught to do), it openly proclaims and spreads our American epoch of engineered mediocrity as an enviable form of democracy. While the unparalleled danger of our apocalyptic time palpitates under the miming masses who wish merely to “succeed,” the dignified grace of the Few is harder and harder to discover.

This is not an argument for monarchy or social aristocracy. It is not a call for hierarchic separations based upon considerations of wealth or birth. Not at all. It is, rather, a plaintive cry that we now demand more of ourselves, as Americans, as persons, as thinkers, and as people of belief.

Ortega y Gasset reminds us that “…the most radical division ….is that which splits humanity into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves, piling up
difficulties and duties; and those who demand nothing special of themselves, but for whom to live is to be every moment what they already are, without imposing on themselves any effort towards perfection; mere buoys that float on the waves.”

In 1965, the Jewish philosopher Abraham J. Heschel offered an almost identical argument. Lamenting that “The emancipated man is yet to emerge,” Heschel asked all human beings to raise the following questions: “What is expected of me? What is demanded of me?”

Indebtedness – an indebtedness to become Few – is, for Heschel, given with our very being in the universe. Living at a moment in history when it is almost impossible to think of collective human behavior without anguish and disgust – especially for Jews – it is required that camouflage and concealment in the Many give way to what Heschel calls “being-challenged-in-the-world,” to becoming and sustaining the Few. Resisting the luring flushes of creature comfort that always accompany mass, a courageous individual who risks disapproval for the sake of becoming. Few now offers America the only real republic worth preserving.

The Many make the American imagination thoroughly reproductive. Feeding off familiar images of contrived pleasure and contentment, this anonymous mass – by its persistent forfeiture of individuality – routinely subordinates all intellectual life to a ritual of mimicry. In this America, which routinely blocks access to more genuine images of meaning and self-worth offered by the Few, the sinister caress of the crowd manifests itself in everything – from an insufferably vulgar politics and cheap entertainments to widespread gluttony, dehumanized public schools and random violence.

The Many, of course, can never become Few, but certain individual members of the mass can make the transformation. Moreover, just as more and more individual Americans must now accept the perilous challenges of the world, those who are already part of the Few must maintain their essential stance against mass. Aware that they comprise a last barrier to America’s spiritual, cultural, intellectual and political disintegration, these select few amongst the Few must understand, soon, that staying the more difficult course of personal challenge and renewal is the only decent option. With their minds now fixed on what is truly precious, the Few will brood and dream at the edges of our material world, consciously separating themselves from those who must always epitomize cowardice, compromise and servility. With the market for individual meaning removed from the sweating palms of the crowd, these Few Americans will steadfastly refuse the inhuman disfigurement that comes with “fitting in.”

For now, the Many still rule uncontested in America. Joined at the hip with this pattern of rule, the upcoming presidential election will change nothing of ultimate importance to our lives. True change can happen only when expanding numbers of Americans begin to distance themselves from an anesthetized society of strong appetites but little taste, of surface confidence but limited ideals, of great zeal but no aspiration, of democratic politics but no ascertainable wisdom. Once this distancing can come to pass, the destructive propositions of the Many will collapse. Then, and only then, will we Americans be able ward off the laughable conceit that we have been “successful.” Only then – no longer shorn of all dignity and reverence – will we reasonably expect not to suffocate in a despairingly lonely crowd.

(c) The Jewish Press, 2004, all rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Suffocating In Mass Society: The bloodless death of individual dignity in America (Second of Two Parts)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The concealed wooden doors opened to reveal stairs leading to an ancient mivkah.  The mikvah is a Jewish ritual pool that has been used for thousands of years -- to this day --  for various purification purposes.
2,000 Year Old Mikvah Found Beneath Jerusalem Living Room
Latest Indepth Stories
Mahmoud Abbas trying to see if he has supporters on the UN Security Council.

Nothing in the NEW Paris Proposal differs much from what was offered by Olmert and rejected by Abbas

Matan Katzman. regional executive at the StandWithUs

No longer will delegitimization efforts go unchallenged. That’s a silence we will continue to break.

Flag of Sweden

Increasingly, Sweden is becoming a country where anti-Semitism & supporting terrorism is acceptable.

Community-Jewels-logo

Rabbi Pfeffer points out that at his site, there are no one-line answers. “We want to show the people we’re interested in their questions,” he says.

The problem with US treatment of Israel did not start with Obama but with birth of Jewish State

The pathetic failure of the Marianne to reach Gaza is the best thing that has happened to Israel since Hamas mis-fired a rocket on its own civilians.

Wonder why Israel has the world’s most insane rules of engagement imposed on its military? Read on..

Think political Islam’s a problem now just wait until an Islamist nuclear umbrella covers the region

Fiorina’s wrong about Islam which embraces our death&destruction confusing pc theories for hard fact

Bangladesh PM Hasina is fighting terror not only for her nation but for the entire civilized world.

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

PM Netanyahu has pledged the nation won’t rest until the hero Eli Cohen is returned home to Israel

“Palestinian armed groups” & “local authorities” are named in the report; Hamas’ absence stands out

Dating apps have really changed the way many young Jews approach dating.

The families of those slain even publicly forgave the murderer. Charleston was serene and at peace.

Changing plans needn’t be a frustrating experience. Sometimes the new path proves far more rewarding

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres

A “Palestine” could become another Lebanon, with many different factions battling for control.

Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/suffocating-in-mass-society-the-bloodless-death-of-individual-dignity-in-america-part-ii/2004/10/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: