Ed Driscoll

Cyclical Emotionalism

There’s an interesting passage in David Frum’s How We Got Here. Actually, there are scads of interesting passages, which is why I’ve frequently referred to it here. Not the least of which is the book’s thesis, neatly encapsulated by its subtitle, “The 1970s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life–For Better Or Worse”.

The 1970s was noted for ushering in an era of florid emotionalism, which replaced the previous generation’s cool, crisp “Man In The Gray Flannel Suit” get-the-job-done professionalism. This was quite a surprising development, as most who forecasted the future (Alvin Toffler being a notable exception) took the reserved emotionalism of the mid-20th century, mated it with early number-crunching computers, and believed that the trend would last indefinitely. The anonymous jumpsuited figures that inhabit George Orwell’s 1984, or George Lucas’s THX-1138 illustrate that belief perfectly. But our future is very different from theirs. Ours is a world of over-emotionalism. But perhaps it wouldn’t be wise to plot that trend indefinitely into the future, either, as Frum explains.

(There’s a lot of material below, which I scanned from my copy of Frum’s book. I’m eschewing the usual block-texting so that it wouldn’t all be in blue italics. And apologies in advance for any typos or missing words created by the OCR process.)


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(Begin excerpt)

What an amazing turn of events. Only a generation before [the 1970s], the United States had been the homeland of efficiency and practicality, a country so uncongenial to dreamers, artists, and poets that they fled for Europe as soon as they could scrape together the boat-fare. And yet, if we cast our mind back only a little further, the turn of events might not seem so amazing after all. The