Many Americans are just getting out of rehab for their addiction to AMC’s taut modern-western crime-drama, Breaking Bad. The expression “breaking bad” is street slang meaning to break loose from the established traces and give in to wildness and wickedness. The series told the tragic, traumatic tale of Walter White, an unassuming high-school chemistry teacher who secretly cooks crystal meth to pay for his cancer treatments. Hoping to find success as a quiet, civilized criminal, Mr. White finds that the world he has sold himself to is one where logic and longevity do not exist. There is but one way to go and that way is down, the slope slick with blood. Walter White falls, ultimately embracing his doom as a devilish drug-lord. Though the program is an interesting study in corruption, it also plays out the consequences of a life of contradiction: the calamity and confusion that springs out of double-dealing and ends-justifying-means philosophies. There is a current crisis of contradiction that is a cut deeper, however, than just breaking bad—and that is breaking mad. The West is wild once again; and quite mad, too, for it has made the wide world its prison.
Uncle Sam’s Madhouse
Pornography is free speech. A baby is a choice. Marriage is between two men or two women. A man is a woman, if he wants. A woman is a man, or equivalent to one by all means. From murder to sex to narcotics, the category of permissiveness is ever growing and giving contradiction more and more legroom to run by removing the boundaries of objectivity. When objectivity is rejected, insanity sets in, for nothing can be true if everything is true. “Subjectivity is the only universal here,” leers the American Mad Hatter as he pours his brew, and the confusion is as overbearing and overwhelming for the American Alice.
Lunacy is the new great American revolution; and like all revolutions, it is contradictory. The devastating function of this revolution is that it perpetuates and feeds off the thing that caused it to begin with. Contradiction makes men mad; and madmen live by contradiction. This is both the bane and the banner of the American mentality. Reason and truth are growing out of vogue for they are inimical to the absurdities of individualistic sophistry, political posturing, and the moral miasma that bestows mass control through mass confusion. Other pillars upholding this American lunacy are, of course, cynicism and boredom, but over and above these poisonous attitudes is a culture of contradiction that cannot but drive people out of their minds.
What else but insanity can preside when the open-minded diversity agenda consistently strives for the homogeneous contrary through closed-minded equality? What else but insanity would not recognize multiculturalism as anticulturalism (for culture actually does melt in the melting pot)? What else but insanity would render houses and streets across the nation indistinguishable from one another? Or perhaps the real question is, what else can result from all these things but insanity? America has lost its mind. Local peculiarities are fast fading, as is the charm connected with peculiarity. The blinding, unchanging highway has buried the open road and its landmarks. The roles of man and woman are lost in a fog of sexist equation and confusion in the frantic effort to defend gender.
Rather than holiness being the source of health, health has become holiness itself in organic, non-GMO, fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free products. Death observances are a flagrant denial of the final fact, as the bizarre American funeral industry does everything in its power to negate the reality of death with painted corpses and upholstered coffins that play music underground through a Spotify streaming account. Where is the diversity in fast-food restaurants or shopping malls? Cookie-cuttered. Mass-produced. Made in China from sea to shining sea. America is immured in contradiction. Uniformity, not diversity, is the real aim and the real result; and this contradiction is the cause of a very real madness that modernity embraces as the new normal.
The Culture of Contradiction
The modern American madness is chiefly propagated by the contradiction involved in quarantining traditional ethical principles from one another, isolating the virtues (or “values,” to use the modern, muddy term) from the context of an integrated moral universe, leaving Americans in a state of profound moral imbalance and ambivalence. Fortitude cannot survive if it need not be seasoned by humility. Charity will wither when forgiveness is optional. Justice without mercy is a monster. This segregation, this violent separation of grounded and grounding realities, is done in the land of “inclusiveness” and “tolerance.” If liberalism gradually dilutes all things human unto destruction, it is not liberating. It is enslaving. It is mental paralysis. It is a world of Orwellian doublethink and doublespeak. As G. K. Chesterton famously wrote in Orthodoxy, “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason,” living separated from the real world and everything in it, with nothing but his mind forever turning in upon itself. “Have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?” asks Banquo of Macbeth, for insanity truly does take reason prisoner, locking it in a padded cell with nothing but itself.
“In truth the prison unto which we doom ourselves,” Wordsworth writes, “no prison is.” The most startling contradiction of the insanity of contradiction is that America can hardly be American anymore, that is, a nation with identifiable bones, blood, and beauty. The land of the free has become a prison. Until identity is loved over ideology, the craziness will continue. Patriotism is impossible when regional character is destroyed; and a people who have no true, meaningful love for their country are a people who have lost touch with a basic tenet of human piety and human sanity. Unfortunately, the American lunatics can be lulled in their straightjackets by sex, drugs, video games, virtual-reality technology, mindless movies, mindless music, and mindless media. All of these are, after all, far preferable to facing the fearful truth of political corruption, economic failure, the $17,600,000,000,000 national debt (and counting), fierce global unrest, and the loss of an objective moral universe.
Again, from Orthodoxy:
Their attitude is really this: that the man must stop thinking, if he is to go on living. Their counsel is one on intellectual amputation. If thy head offend thee, cut it off; for it is better, not merely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a child, but to enter it as an imbecile, rather than with your whole intellect to be cast into hell.
In Detention and Denial
Breaking Bad followed the trajectory of the immoral life to its natural conclusion, and it is a trajectory and a conclusion that bears a strong parallel to the intellectual life gone wrong. If people give in to the promise of peace and power through secular and self-centered devices, they step on a slippery slope above a gulf of devastating consequences. Man must never expect to be his own savior—it is a contradictory premise. Like Walter White, those who give in to the insanity born of contradiction only serve to perpetuate the illusion and the contagion in themselves and in others. Though no one can ignore the unhappiness shackling society, most ignore the cause. They deny it. If a cure is inconvenient to the markets, the malady is contradicted—even though it is everywhere and obvious. What else can explain Islamophilia in the face of Boko Haram? Or the sanction of a football player kissing a man on public television? On an even darker note, one of the surest signs of a mad culture is the rise of true madmen, true psychopaths—lost souls like Adam Lanza and, most recently, Elliot Rodger who sought satisfaction in slaughter, driven mad by a world of contradiction that left them suffocating in mental conflict, without recourse, without succor.
To claim that Americans at large are a sane people is similar to the assertion of an inmate who says he is Napoleon. He may be in deadly earnest, but it is earnestness wrought of obsession on a microcosm rather than a macrocosm. It is earth without heaven. It is madness—the operation of reason without rationality, without first principle or final purpose.
Euripedes said: Those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.
In God, therefore, we trust.