Man Needs a god as Much as Food

In America, as elsewhere, there exists what Vaclav Havel calls “a crisis in narrative.” Old gods have fallen, either wounded or dead. New ones have been aborted. “We are looking,” he said, “for new scientific recipes, new ideologies, new control systems, new institutions. …“ In other words, we seek new gods who can provide us with “an elementary sense of justice, the ability to see things as others do, a sense of transcendental responsibility, archetypal wisdom, good taste, courage, compassion, and faith.”

Havel does not underestimate the difficulties in this. He knows that skepticism, disillusionment, alienation—and all the other words we use to describe a loss of meaning—have come to characterize our age, affecting every social institution, not least the schools. Having once been president of Czechoslovakia, and having lost the Slovaks to their own gods, Havel knows, better than anyone, that the almost worldwide return to “tribalism” signifies a search to recover a source of transcendent identity and values. He also knows, as many others do, how dangerous such searches can be, which is why no one need be surprised by the rise in the West of skinheads, who have revived the symbols and programs of Nazism, or, as I write [in 1996], the emerging popularity in Russia of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the “Russian Hitler,” who promises the masses a future more fully articulated than a conversion to a market economy. Zhirinovsky takes his story from hell, but we must grant him this: He knows as well as Havel that people need gods as much as food.

 

Quoted from Postman, N. (1996). The end of education: Redefining the value of school. New York: Vintage Books, pp. 23-25.

 

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About adoption through propitiation

I like theology. And I love my wife Katie. Enjoy my blog. View all posts by adoption through propitiation

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