Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Fashions in Madness
Humans are innately free but also ignorant, unfinished, hence a kind of madness characterizes human existence. An excellent special on PBS on the life of Louisa May Alcott the other day reminded me of the tendency of kindly, well-meaning people in the nineteenth century to rush into the wilds to start utopian communities. Alcott’s father moved the family to Fruitlands, a vegetarian community in Massachusetts where even potatoes and carrots were No-Nos because they grew in darkness under the earth. The family nearly starved, but the mere fact that they made the move makes my point. What happened to utopian communities? We’ve replaced that madness by improving upon another nineteenth century eruption, the anarchist bomber. The anarchist at least tried to survive. Our madness is presently regressive. The suicide bomber is seeking utopia in the sky with virgins. It isn’t fair to characterize that madness as theirs because to exempt ourselves from the ranks of the foolish and of the violent is to indulge in hypocrisy. Let’s by all means get back to rural utopias. Maybe we’ll learn something useful before the oil runs out.