People who blame materialism blame it because they feel it doesn’t nourish them. And you could say it’s true: materialism, by definition, isn’t heroic. In the West we no longer prize heroism. People no longer want to do dangerous, outstanding things. All they want is to live as long and as comfortably as possible. And so this new Western ethic of survival, simply surviving as a human being–merely surviving–as though the world were everything, and the manner in which you live in it secondary–seems to other people, other cultures . . . well, ignoble.
This and much like it is delivered not in a classroom or on a political talk show, but at dinner. I sometimes host dinner parties, and I think many of my guests might well hold opinions not dissimilar from those expressed above, but I can’t recall any of them fulminating quite so explicitly over wine and salad, as if they were explaining the world to a sixth-grader.
That said, I found myself quite enjoying the way Hare manages to leaven his extended flat political speeches with a fairly bubbly Albee-ish family drama, wherein a creepy but brilliant father playfully bats at his faithful but dull son’s lover, a Yale professor who’s so desperate to do the right thing at every moment that she almost never succeeds.
I’m sure much hay was made of the fact that the men are British and the woman American — Hare offers commentary throughout on the different ways in which the two nations do power, war, gender, politics, education, medicine, et. al. — but that sort of thing both bores me and makes me feel sorry for the British, because when they they appear so bent on defining themselves on the basis of their differences from us, as they so often do, it just makes them look pathetic. (A hint for the Commonwealth: The opposite of affection is indifference, not disdain. We know you love us “underneath.”)