The spiritual crisis of post modern, Western society

Torah and sociology series addressing two aspects of the relationship between Torah social values and perspective and the spiritual crisis afflicting post modern Western society.  

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Dr. Chaim Charles Cohen,

Chaim C. Cohen
Chaim C. Cohen
IN: CCC

The foreboding signs of Western society’s oncoming spiritual crisis

Twenty first century, western society finds itself in a deepening socio-political crisis, whose essence is really a spiritual crisis. The pace of social change is staggering. For example, Israeli religious high school educators say that every five years now brings forth a ‘new social generation’ of students. We also are seized by an impending sense that we are losing control over the socio-political consequences caused by technological changes, and the economic movements of a globalized economy.

Eight years ago, for example, who would have thought that an American president (and many other politicians) would decide to use Twitter as their primary means of communication with the public. Also, medical advances have made biological, gender change readily available to the public, and thus over night created the divisive social issue of transgender political rights. Similarly, the horrendous social dilemmas caused by mass   transcontinental, illegal immigration have been made possible only due to the mass availability of the internet and cell phones. 

The tone of political discourse in America and Europe has become so polarized, embittered and volatile that it conveys a grave sense of deep anxiety and loses of national self confidence and direction.  Similarly, for the first time in human history, America and Western Europe are suffering from negative fertility rates, meaning that they find themselves in a slow process of national suicide, whose end will be the extinction of thousand year old   national heritages.

We are also experiencing an unprecedented, unstoppable rise in irresponsible drug use among middle age, middle class employed (primarily male) adults, accompanied by a dramatic rise in the suicide rate of middle age males. Finally, most of Europe is experiencing a sustained unemployment rate of well over ten per cent, meaning that many individuals do not establish socially independent lives until they are in their late 30’s.

The unexpected election of a total political novice and outsider such as Donald Trump has been like kerosene, sending forth high scorching flames on the bonfire of these very deep strains, tensions and contradictions afflicting post modern western society. 

Torah and the sociology of post modern, Western society spiritual crisis

After a recess of ten months, I am happily returning to dialogue with the readers of Arutz Sheva. This renewed column will address two aspects of the relationship between Torah social values and perspective and the spiritual crisis afflicting post modern Western society.  One, it will discuss our community’s efforts to  cope with the  serious,  challenges created for our Torah way of life by the dramatic, radical social changes of the past thirty years in the post modern society that envelopes us. Second, it the column hopes to indicate and teach what post modern society can learn from the social wisdom of our Torah.

I feel personally compelled to address these issues because of the nature of the political discourse that has descended upon my very dear liberal American family and friends since the election of Donald Trump, and the corresponding polarized, extreme  nature of the political discourse in the academic-liberal media that I follow very closely.

I feel very frustrated, and even somewhat intellectually threatened. I simply cannot even   quietly, cautiously, in a non-judgmental manner, share my conservative social ideas with my family and friends. The Trump victory has made my liberal family and friends feel very threatened, and thus they have adopted a very combatitive, aggressive style of political discourse (as is that of Trump and his followers). Any opinion that questions, or is not identical with the doctrines and tenets of ‘politically correct, liberal social philosophy’ is simply not only wrong, but illegitimate.

For example, any conservative social argument that promotes the interests of  ethnic nationalism over that of multi-culturalism is immediately and emphatically  branded as being ‘fascist’ and thus is not just politically incorrect,  but also politically illegitimate, and thus dangerous . Similarly, any conservative argument that argues the  social advantages of the traditional, two gender, two parent family gender (the Torah model) versus the disadvantages of the radical, total liberation of  gender and sexual identity is immediately  branded as being oppressive chauvinism and homophobic, and thus is not just politically incorrect, but politically illegitimate, and dangerous. (I am not arguing that conservative political and social commentators are more tolerant, They probably are not. However they do not dominate the media, and more importantly they do not determine what can be taught, and not taught, in academia.) 

I would prefer to have my conservative, social analysis presented in both the conservative, and liberal media. But no liberal media outlet is willing to give fair space and time to a Torah based, conservative social outlook. I consider this a sign of our difficult times, and a sign of the spiritual crisis afflicting Western society. The situation of political discourse was not so extremely polarized thirty years ago , and certainly not fifty years ago when I began to study at Cornell  University in the 1960’s

And so I am happily returning to the ‘pages’ of Arutz Sheva. Writing conservative social analysis for Arutz Sheva’s conservative readers acts to reenforce previously held beliefs. Arutz Sheva may or may not have that many liberal readers (liberal sites have few conservative readers) but I would be thrilled to dialogue with liberal minded readers of Arutz Sheva.

 However writing a balanced, thoughtful conservative commentary, that deepens our understanding of the complexity of our socio-spiritual situation, and helps us better understanding the range of social forces challenging our Torah way of life, should help us better cope with these forces. A conservative social commentary should allow us to more maturely understand how the ways of the Torah can help us better cope with these crisis based challenges. A conservative commentary shold help us more truly recognize that the depth and breadth of the wisdom ‘sea’ of G-d’s Torah is infinite.     
    








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