Skip to main content

What Our Words Tell Us

David Brooks draws on what the search of frequently used words from Google's book database of 5.2 million books published between 2008 and 2015 tells about changing culture :
Over the past half-century, society has become more individualistic. As it has become more individualistic, it has also become less morally aware, because social and moral fabrics are inextricably linked. The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.

This story, if true, should cause discomfort on right and left. Conservatives sometimes argue that if we could just reduce government to the size it was back in, say, the 1950s, then America would be vibrant and free again. But the underlying sociology and moral culture is just not there anymore. Government could be smaller when the social fabric was more tightly knit, but small government will have different and more cataclysmic effects today when it is not.

Liberals sometimes argue that our main problems come from the top: a self-dealing elite, the oligarchic bankers. But the evidence suggests that individualism and demoralization are pervasive up and down society, and may be even more pervasive at the bottom. Liberals also sometimes talk as if our problems are fundamentally economic, and can be addressed politically, through redistribution. But maybe the root of the problem is also cultural. The social and moral trends swamp the proposed redistributive remedies.

Evidence from crude data sets like these are prone to confirmation bias. People see patterns they already believe in. Maybe I’ve done that here. But these gradual shifts in language reflect tectonic shifts in culture. We write less about community bonds and obligations because they’re less central to our lives.
This observation  by David Brooks emphasises the important interrelations between culture, democracy and economics. Individualism far from reducing the role of Government presupposes it. The more we become individualist the larger the need for Government to resolve the messiness between individual relationships. So in the end individualism becomes a futile attempt.

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Prayer of Anselm

Come now, little man, turn aside for a while from your daily employment. Escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares. Let your burdensome distractions wait. Free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him.  Enter the inner chamber of your soul. Shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him. And when you have shut the door, seek him.  Now, my whole heart, say to God, ‘I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek. ANSELM OF CANTERBURY

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus! Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world

A Faith of Contradictions

I want a faith that can fully credit contradictions, and that can prove the darkest night to be perfectly light, and the greatest of trials to be perfectly right, and to be evidences of unbounded love. Yea, I want a faith that can fully rely upon a promise with a rational prospect of the promise being fulfilled...I thirst, pant and groan, for the faith of which Christ is the Author and Finisher. WILLIAM GADSBY  William Gadsby was a 19th Century  Particular Baptist who experienced acute sufferings in his home life which exerted a heavy burden on his faith and ministry. He ministered for 25 years while nursing his wife, who suffered with acute mental illness.  Gadsby died before his wife did and before she gave most encouraging signs of not having lost the faith she embraced as a girl, the faith Gadsby had been so confident that the Lord would preserve in her.  The strain for him, though, was at times unbearable, as her illness led her to erratic and destructive behaviour, including atta