A Nation of Personality

We in the US have become a nation of personality rather than a nation of character.

Technologists invented ways to make “moving pictures”, which became “movies”, which have become videos.

Artists invented ways to tell stories and make dramatic art with each advancement of the technology.

Business people using the skills of marketing and public relations invented ways to progressively promote the actors making them famous in the minds of people who would in turn buy tickets and then merchandise.

Hence, we have the Kardashians and other reality show personalities dominating news and politics. People magazine replaced Shakespeare.

Our founders, rich white guys all, had a common education in the classics. They reflected the religion of the time, but also philosophers such as John Locke and especially the Stoics–Seneca, Marcus, Cato. Remembering Benjamin Franklin’s wry comment that by signing the Declaration of Independence these rich guys were risking it all, “We shall hang together or we shall hang separately.”

Modern Stoic Ryan Holliday writes, “At the core of the American experiment was liberty. At the core of Stoicism we have not only a love of freedom, but the counterbalancing virtues to that freedom: Justice. Duty. Self-Control. Honor. Selflessness. Remember that the comfort you enjoy now grew out of a philosophy that was made to embrace discomfort and to do the right thing, whatever the costs.”

In the writings of the founders, we often find reference to these virtues and to the concern that, upon losing these virtues, democracy and freedom would no longer exist.

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