The question is not going to be, Will there be an activist state? The question is going to be, What kind of an activist state?
The question is, What do we do now, in a world where, in the absence of liberal aristocracies, in the absence of social democratic elites whose authority people accept, you have people who genuinely believe, in the majority, that their interest consists of maximizing self-interest at someone else's expense? The answer is, Either you re-educate them in some form of public conversation or we will move toward what the ancient Greeks understood very well, which is that the closest system to democracy is popular authoritarianism. And that's the risk we run. Not a risk of a sort of ultra-individualism in a disaggregated society but of a kind of de facto authoritarianism.
This is the road to despotism. This is the fevered dream of theocracy. This is America.
Every culture has its own characteristic mode of anti-intellectualism -- some stronger, some weaker. Our American brand, paradoxically, equates knowledge and complexity with boredom. Thought becomes shameful. Best if not talked about.
David Foster Wallace:
One thing TV does is help us deny that we're lonely. The interesting thing is why we're so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness. You don't have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness, both of which are like sub-dreads of our dread of being trapped inside a self (a psychic self, not just a physical self), has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I'm going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.
Tim Kreider's married friend:
It's not as if being married means you're any less alone.
From the first, and in no small part because of its fervent supporters, it has felt less like a technology and more like a social movement -- like communism, like feminism, like rock and roll. An ideology we could call webism.
One of the mysteries of webism has always been what exactly it wanted, and one of the paradoxes that emerged during the long death of print was that the webists wanted to help. ... They meant this in all sincerity; their anger at the publishers for failing to "use" them properly was proof of this. But to urge the "use" of something was to think of it as merely a technology. It was to forget that the amazing and powerful thing about the web was precisely that it was not a toaster; it was not a hammer. The web could not simply be "used."
The web is not your dream of the web. It is a real thing, playing out its destiny in the world of flesh and steel -- and pixels, and books. At this point the best thing the web and the book could do for one another would be to admit their essential difference. This would allow the web to develop as it wishes, with a clear conscience, and for literature to do what it's always done in periods of crisis: keep its eyes and ears open; take notes; and bide its time.
"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."