Berman's "monastic option" enables us to retain in the world that which would disappear otherwise, and that which is best in human traditions, be it art, music, writing or literature, poetry, film or any other of the creative crafts human minds have shaped. There is in America a very small minority that is still bearing the torch, and this needs to be done with commitment and vigor if we are to retain our cultural jewels with any integrity. The mainstream has gotten to the point of surreality in the extent of its philistinism. It is only through commitment that any cultural quality will survive...
It seems that really we are now living in a kind of new dark age. This has been pointed out by a few social commentators. As we are enmeshed in it, it is hard to tell that it is happening -- but by all appearances, it does seem to be. To sum up, there is no vivacity or engagement in society anymore. We are all just sort of lonely zombies in a stupor of malaise and extreme individualism, wandering without ever really fully transacting with anyone. All people do in their free time, seemingly, is sit at home and watch television. This is no way to exist!
If you're like me, there is nowhere in society to be, and not a whole lot to do. In purely sociological terms, there is no fit, no interaction -- I have no discernible function, have not found any kind of fruitful or meaningful niche, and so I just drift from one meaningless task to the next. I don't know whether this is a result of the fact that we have entered a new dark age, or whether it is my nature, my fate, or my luck. But I do not fit in. I have quite a bit to say, but no way to say it. Frustration at best, depression at worst, and in the middle my arch-nemesis: ennui.
In the United States, if not elsewhere, one sees ubiquitous isolation and a pervasive melancholy which lurk, as Morris Berman noted, underneath the surface bombast. True happiness, and even some approximation of healthy functionality, have become the exception. There is a definite soullessness in a life devoted to power and "success" -- which is to say to the "American Dream." We are markedly lonely and empty. I do not venture to theorize whether this is a result of extreme American individualism, lack of spiritual fulfillment, or the related fracture between modern humans and our evolutionary heritage; perhaps it is a combination of all three. But America, as well as being doomed on a political and economic level, fosters a psychological framework which has become, or perhaps even always was, utterly lacking.
In the West, especially in the United States, economy is everything. Every facet of one's life is tied to the practice of buying and selling goods and services, and every individual is inundated with corporate iconography and direct or indirect advertising all the time. This is a horror and a species of decadent insanity in a declining civilization. An economy should exist to enable one to make a living, not to be life itself.
There are literally millions of us working full-time, all the time, and living in poverty. This is one of the final stages of decline.
In modern America -- and indeed, the whole world -- a lot of perfectly fine people are being totally left out, and through no fault of their own.
One of the most damaging aspects of the super-concentration of wealth and power by the "masters of mankind" is the disintegration of the middle-class. It is now becoming much more difficult for millions of younger people to earn a decent living. The very socioeconomic fabric of society is decaying rapidly. There has been and will continue to be a severe erosion of economic and professional opportunity.
To put it simply, man's spiritual awareness has never been duller or dimmer. Not for centuries. We are truly living in the throes of a new dark age, from which it is not known when -- or how -- we will emerge.
Things have surely declined in certain ways -- without a doubt -- but they were never that copacetic to begin with. One has to realize that the "good old days" is a myth that gets used in every time period. There were never any golden ages, really.
Ours is a culture exclusively of commodities. Everything -- including even ideas, feelings, sensations, personalities, individual character (to name but a few examples which especially demarcate the depth of our shallowness) -- is packaged neatly and marketed for sale in a society in which what is for sale is all that exists.