Thursday, December 30, 2021

The spirit of revolt--100 years ago

 JAMA (which is the journal of the American Medical Association) has an interesting feature called "JAMA Revisited," reprinting articles from the past.  In the October 12, 2021 issue it reprinted an article titled "The Spirit of Revolt" from October 8, 1921, 100 years ago.

"Psychologists today are more concerned with the changing spirit of mankind than with any other psychologic problem.  The literature on the spirit of revolt, of restlessness, of lawlessness and of radicalism is daily becoming greater.  The subject is engaging the attention of our greatest minds.  Thus James M. Beck, Solicitor-General of the United States, devoted the presidential address before the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, held recently at Cincinnati, to this subject. There is throughout the world today, he pointed out, a revolt against the spirit of authority.  Pending criminal indictments in federal courts have increased from 10,000 in 1912 to more than 70,000 in 1921.  The losses from burglaries repaid by casualty companies have grown in amount from $886,000 in 1914 to over $10,000,000 in 1920. [purchasing power of about $138,974,000 today]"   

After quoting some murder statistics from New York City and Chicago, Mr. Beck goes on to report the problem is worldwide.  He attributes it to the rise of individualism which began in the 18th century and which had steadily grown with the advance of democratic institutions, and also the growth of technology saying that man had become the tender of machines rather than a constructive thinker.  "The increase in potential of human power has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in the potential of human character."

The article goes on to say that despite the current (following WWI) peace commissions and conferences,  "Radicals are advocating methods of government that are the expressions of primitive emotional and mental processes. . .  Prejudices, fixed ideas, suspiciousness, sentimentality and outbursts of passion are making more difficult the task of establishing law and order. . . The craze for speed dominates everything, speed in transportation, speed in thinking, speed in living and, as revealed in the war, speed in killing. . . mob spirit governs and the urge is uncontrolled." 

Well, that certainly sounds familiar, sort of like the evening news.  Much of the collapse and the coarsening of the general populace that the writer of the JAMA article describes can certainly be blamed on the "Great War" (estimates of 22 million deaths) which had killed so many in Europe and more civilians than military, and the worldwide pandemic of 1918. However, in the U.S. we had the most socialistic president, Woodrow Wilson, until Barack Obama claimed the honor in 2008. The eighteenth century was a period of "enlightenment" and the degrading of a Christian society and disrespect for Biblical authority. Then the nineteenth century gave the world Marx and Nietzsche.  Yes, we were well on the way to the Antifa and BLM riots of 2020, and the acceptance of them has been building for 100 years.

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