In 1982 Peter Weir and Mel Gibson made a film adapted from a 1978 Christopher Koch novel, The Year of Living Dangerously, about an attempted coup in Indonesia in 1965.
While it isn’t clear yet whether we had an attempted coup in the USA in 2018 (or earlier), we did have a year in which people despised each other seemingly as never before in our country — sometimes with reason but quite often not.
2018 was The Year of Living Hatefully — one of them anyway.
Practically no one was happy. Or if they were, they didn’t show it. All they wanted to do was vilify the opposition or even their neighbors.
Democrats hating Republicans (see the new movie “Vice“) and vice versa were just the tip of a rancid iceberg. Never Trumpers hate Trumpers and the reverse, Sanders supporters hate Beto supporters, Antifa hate the bourgeoisie, the Proud Boys hate Antifa, FOX hates CNN and MSNBC hates FOX…It goes on and on. Families and friends split from each other. People shut up at work for fear they’ll be fired. Thanksgiving is a festival of hostility, Christmas (when we’re allowed to speak its name) is only slightly better.
Twitter has become axis mundi for hurling vicious insults at people you never met, or don’t even know, while our college campuses — suffused with reactionary “intersectionality” — have become ground zero for the promotion of competitive victimhood, another perfect excuse to hate the other without knowing him or her or “zhe.”
That all this is happening in a country awash in affluence, also as almost never before, with close to full employment for all ethnic and racial groups, even some salaries rising after decades, is the cliché about not being able to stand prosperity on steroids. The way we are going utopia would be Hell.
So what’s behind all this?
Before all Democrats scream Donald Trump and all Republicans shout The Media, allow me to remind everyone this has been going on for a long time. Calling 2018 The Year of Living Hatefully (or, perhaps more accurately, living in or through hate) is but the culmination of a trend that has been going on for many years.
There is and has been an emptiness in American society and I am going to suggest a cause I never thought I would, not because it is unique to me — it hardly is — but because I have, until relatively recently, been a rather typical agnostic of my generation.
It is the absence of God, augmented by the ongoing secularization of our culture largely perpetrated by that same generation (mine). We now almost have in America what the French call laïcité. It doesn’t work there (they hate each other more than we do) and it won’t here.
And before you go after to me to remind me that church- and synagogue-going people can be just as bad as everybody else, I will say, “Yes, of course,” then continue on to say that the majority of believing religious people, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition (I don’t know the others well enough to comment), tend not to live lives as dominated by hate.
They are the people we see in the old Hollywood movies that we like to watch over the holidays. They are Americans from an era that may never have existed but may actually have more than we realize. (Excuse the Zen-ish deliberate contradiction.) It’s Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” You can bet he went to church. Why can’t we be like that now?
As for whether 2019 will be any better in this regard — most likely not. Signs point to it being even worse. But we are not prisoners of the zeitgeist of an era, this or any other, at least not totally. We have some freedom and we can disconnect ourselves from the misbegotten rage around us. That doesn’t mean we don’t work for a better world. It just means we do it with the right spirit, with love, not hate, corny as that sounds.
Happy New Year to the readers of this site who are the best people in the world, some [he smiles] even like characters in an old Hollywood movie.
Roger L. Simon — co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media — has been working on a new novel that will be published in 2019.