I agree there’s more than enough blame to go around. Personally, I criticize liberalism and conservatism, Democrats and Republicans, Trump and Biden, theism and atheism, and every aspect of American or Western society, from politics to economics to pop culture. This isn’t hard to do, assuming the critic is guided by ideals.

Plato said that ideals transcend the material world we inhabit and are known only by abstract theorizing. A better approach, I think, is to take ideals to be inspiring fictions. The implication is that reality is flawed everywhere you look, because perfection is fictive. As long as you set your sights on a vision of how the world should be, you’ll never go wanting for subjects of criticism.

I agree that Americans should be more self-reflective, humble, and realistic. I’d say the same about Canada where I live. Canadians are sanctimonious, wannabe do-gooders. Our culture is one of the most boring things on the planet.

Neither Americans nor Canadians on the whole are likely to be so enlightened as to regard their ideals as mere myths, their pride and self-confidence as arbitrary faith. We need those myths to get along in our large numbers, as Yuval Harari points out.

Enlightenment is for the philosophical underground, not for the majority of liberated people. What humbles us best is the shocking, monstrous truth found most directly in philosophy and in daily experience of the world’s mindless unfairness. Most people distract themselves from that truth by trusting in uplifting myths, including their religious ones and their political conceits. Only the social outsiders can afford to be fully enlightened, as it were, since they have nothing left to lose.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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