The Roots of Self-Doubt in America

by on July 12th, 2006

It’s been widely and correctly asserted that America today suffers from a chronic sense of internal doubt and uncertainty. Some have hypothesized that the cause is a surfeit of material prosperity and a misguided sense of security. The real cause can be attributed to our post-modern forebears in the 1930s and 1940s who obtusely abdicated our Western legacy of moral absolutes–and their civic offspring–a sense of cultural consensus.

That, in turn, spawned an entire generation of moral agnostics which subsequently created the corrosive by-product, a lethal strain of cultural narcissism erodes our belief in standards of objectivity. There is, indeed, a cyclical effect at work here insofar as our cultural relativists are, ironically, our modern day absolutists because their polity indulges every form of diversity save that of ideology.

The symptom of this cultural malaise is the collective challenge to our nation’s founding values that we’ve suffered, values that were informed by a tacit but unwavering adherence to principle and an equally uncontested endorsement of American exceptionalism.

The blame for our deviation from our Founding Fathers’ vision can be traced to the 1960s which saw the genesis of liberalism’s vision of misguided egalitarianism, distorted social mores, and a cynical disdain of the absolutes that sustained us during perilous and challenging times when the fate of our Republic hung in the balance.

While our choices for a viable remedy seem limited, a beginning would stipulate that we agree on the ground rules, which may itself preclude progress due to the lack of agreement on even the most fundamental elements in our culture. But the structure and predictability that an agreement concerning the basics would provide might be seen as a conjoint reward worthy of the risks.

To begin that exercise we might work to remove the cultural stigma against judging aberrant behavior across our social spectrum. The implicit sense of disapprobation for socially unsavory behavior that was firmly in place some fifty years ago kept much of the incivility in check, and its absence makes painfully clear the vital role it played. We can’t expect to remedy what took decades to create, but neither can we simply concede the argument and let this cultural plague spread any further.

Mella is Founder and Editor of

Philip Mella