In writing about The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism Max Weber noted that in the final stage of this evolution, it might truly be said: “Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.” Is this where we are at the moment – laughing at the nullity and assuming we have reached a higher level of civilization?
Oscar Wilde once argued that “when bad ideas have nowhere to go they gravitate to American universities and become courses.” Surely there is truth in this claim, but only a partial truth. Bad ideas emerge as satire when the nation engages in nervous laughter about what to believe and comedians provide the course for the future.
When every condition is a joke, the nation is in trouble. Americans need relief from quotidian tension; they also need serious reflection on the present state of affairs.