It Is Up to Us to Begin the End of Our Culture’s Insanity

“At the University of Pennsylvania, separate dorms have been set up for minorities in the name of racial harmony.”

“Grades are so inflated at Harvard that 85 percent of students graduate with ‘honors.’”

“An apprehended mugger successfully sued a New York policeman for using excessive force.”

These statements read like today’s headlines, but they are in fact taken from the interior cover of Martin L. Gross’s 1997 book The End of Sanity: Social and Cultural Madness in America. From that same blurb come these descriptions of Gross’s book: “Watching the nation’s tradition of fairness and individuality decline, he describes how it is giving way to a reign of conformity and error, including the insidious ‘Political Correctness.’ The crisis he describes goes beyond an attack on reason—actually heralding the end of sanity in American life.”

I recently picked up Gross’s book for a song at a library sale, brought it home, and found myself taken aback by the author’s observations from 27 years ago. In his chapter “Dogma in the Dominant Culture,” for instance, Gross writes of his parents’ generation, “People were not merely a collection of vying, whining, hyphenated, gender-split, litigious groups as they are today. It was before people were sacrificed to a dogma that insists that one ‘victim’ is worth a thousand of the hard-working bourgeoisie.”

Gross’s chapter titles alone give you the gist of his thinking and demonstrate their obvious correlation with our present times. Here, for instance, are three of them: “Colleges in the New Establishment: Extraordinary Ignorance, PC, and the New McCarthyism,” “Affirmative Action: The New Racism and Sexism: Are You One of the Preferred?” and “The New Immigration: The Plot Against the Europeans.”

My fascination with The End of Sanity led me to investigate Gross’s other books. Here are three samples along with their publication dates. See if the themes ring a bell: The Conspiracy of Ignorance: The Failure of American Public Schools (2000) and National Suicide: How Washington Is Destroying the American Dream from A to Z (2009). His novel, Man of Destiny (1997), features this accompanying blurb: “When Charlie Palmer, a newly elected congressman, speaks out against the realities of corrupt party politics, government waste, and injustice, he is urged to run for the presidency, and his enemies will stop at nothing—not even murder—to destroy him.”

Sound familiar?

Long before Gross delivered those jeremiads to the public, he published in 1978 The Psychological Society: A Critical Analysis of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Psychological Revolution. Today our therapeutic culture has become a hot topic, but 40 years earlier Gross was already addressing the idea that “psychology is an art, science, therapy, religion, moral code, life style, philosophy and cult.” 

My point here is not to wonder at Gross’s powers of prognostication, impressive as they were. Long-time readers of Chronicles will recollect that these same topics were frequent subjects for articles and editorials during those years.

No, the best lesson we might take from Grossand all the other writers who decades ago engaged these topics—has to do with the passage of time and the insanity that exists in our culture today.  How many of us have said or heard during the last four years, “I can’t believe how fast everything has changed, how fast things have been destroyed.” The truth is, the typhoon causing our present-day cultural and political ruination—the sorry mess at our southern border, the assaults on the family, the rewriting of our history, the self-inflicted racism, the twisted ideas of gender—is a storm that gathered strength over the course of decades.

With that realization there should come another revelation. American values and institutions and those transcendentals we call truth, goodness, and beauty will take at least as many decades to restore as were required for their destruction. To imagine that a particular political party or candidate will magically bring about immediate rehabilitation is to live in delusion.

Instead, we ourselves must be the rehab crew for this crucial project. We should remain engaged politically, yes, but most of all we should frame our lives with the faith and the moral codes long associated with the West and its culture. Parents and grandparents must teach our children those verities, as so many I know are doing now. Only if we commit to the long haul in this culture war do we stand a chance of victory.  

As an old proverb has it, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.” Time to plant.

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