Michael Gerson’s latest column bemoans the death of historical meaning in our personal romantic narrative. It’s true that the therapeutic historicism that still seems to undergird a lot of popular culture — people telling their stories to one another — is actually being undermined or deconstructed by something that’s not very therapeutic and not very history-obsessed either. The bad thing about hookup culture, or really the anti-culture beneath it, is that it might suck a decade or two of your life into a smithereens of physical and emotional novelties upon which no intelligible or humanly compelling narrative can be imposed. The upside is that charismatic novelty tends to push back against the cloying, tutelary aspect of therapeutic history. Our bad longing to be beasts is making a renewed effort to compensate for our bad longing to be brutes. However, we must be reminded that the ’70s and ’80s were much beastlier decades than the one we’re living in now. The ‘flattening’ problem that Bloom worried about was too nervous about a brutish end of history than an infinity of beastly novelties, but we’ve put so much effort into sanding off the sharp edges of our beastliness that it’s no surprise collective naughtiness seems at the same time to be getting safer and more dangerous. What strikes me as odd or funny is how democratic it all remains; very few people champion the hook-up culture as a means of Darwinian or aristocratic self-sorting, which of course it could be.

More on: Love, Smithereens

Articles by James Poulos

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