I have this strong feeling, which goes way back into my early teen years - that I was very lucky to live in a period of peace, abundance, comfort; and that the existence of this 'safety net' this gave me great opportunities to strive to do the best work of which I was capable: to aim high, be idealistic, take the higher risk options.
As an atheist and an intellectual, I saw these opportunities in William Morrisite, or Emersonian terms of enhancement of the arts, architecture, natural beauty, the landscape; self-education; science and philosophy; dignity and creativity of labour; self-sufficiency; knowledge and participation in poetry and literature; establishing wholesome and free social arrangements - and the like.
And I have always been terribly disappointed that very few people even tried to do so.
Instead there was a societal obsession with material accumulation, with getting ever-more of what they already had in abundance.
Even worse, there was the whole world of 'fashion' - the mass willingness to be manipulated in pursuit of one manufactured triviality after another.
For example, when I first got a permanent job as a university lecturer, I recognized that I had one of the most secure positions in one of the most secure societies in history - and that this meant I had could embark on long term projects in scholarship, writing and research and scholarship ; that my secure position made it easy stand aside from trends; that I could be a model of teaching and scientific integrity and it was virtually impossible for my employer to sack me for it!
But in general colleagues refused to acknowledge the basic privilege and security of their position, and persisted in talking as if they could be thrown out into destitution and starvation at any moment - and therefore they had to go-along-with whatever fashion, trend and politically-driven lunacies and lies were floating around the university - and work at terribly unambitious scholarly and research projects that were neither useful nor radical - but merely aspired to be microscopic incremental increases in what were already trivial and irrelevant backwaters of tedium.
I remembered something similar from my medical student days. In general, university was a great opportunity - but we had to work hard, do exams and so on. Then, at the end of the academic year there was this wonderful period of about a week after the exams were over and we were supposed to hang about and await the results just in case we were required for an additional 'viva' examination (for distinction or to determine pass-fail).
To me this was a great opportunity to do all those things which I hadn't been able to do during term - one memorable time, three of us listened to Wagner's Ring opera cycle over four consecutive days.
But instead of making the most of college without work, most of the students went back home and took summer jobs the instant that exams were over - they didn't need the money, they certainly could afford to do what they were supposed to do (await the results) - but they simply could not cope with the void of not having classes and exams. They had nothing to do.
And the big picture of society at large was exactly the same. Prosperity came, Peace came, Comfort was established; but society had no idea what to do with it except deny that it had come or else dissipate it in utter triviality.
I noticed that people were mostly doing things to occupy their minds and have something to talk- (boast-, joke-, get angry-) about; that society was increasingly about filling-in-time.
For a long time I waited for this to change - and for people to acknowledge the possibilities and opportunities.
And after a while it became clear that this was not going to happen - but instead as the mass media developed and grew, society was developing truly transcendent capacities for passivity of will and dissipation of time.
I cannot think of a single modern society which used well the opportunities given by the establishment (for a few generations) of peace, prosperity and comfort.
In particular, all the modern societies used PP&C to reject religion - not to enhance it; and within religion, all the mainstream Western religions were corrupted by PP&C, became less spiritual, less devout, more worldly.
We did not use PP&C: IT USED US.
(The only exception that I know of is the Mormon church in the US; which used prosperity to become more devout and for the most prosperous members to grow the church by natural increase (large families) and missionary work. This was a rare, tremendous, yet un-recognized, achievement - actually to take advantage of PPP&C, rather than be corrupted and destroyed by it.)
Well, it is now clear for those with eyes to see that PP&C are not the natural state of all right-thinking persons - but an unearned privilege inherited from the genius and hard work past generations; and now we have become so far advanced in dissipation they cannot long continue.
But it is terribly disappointing to me that our civilization found nothing better to do with its vast opportunities than watch tv, participate in chit-chat, take foreign holidays, buy ever more new cars and clothes and gadgets; and occupy our minds with manufactured news, seduction and pornography, celebrity gossip, the pursuit and promotion of intoxication; cynically-contrived point-and-click sentimentality; and idle malice and hatred (aka politics).
So much did we desire these things - or so weakly did we reject them - that we have as a society eroded and all-but overthrown (to the best of our ability) the only things that might have compensated - marriage and family. These have been picked-at, disrespected and mocked, weakened, corrupted, inverted.
The direction that modernity has channelled its opportunities is utterly disgusting; compounded by the refusal to admit what we have done.
With Man it is less important that he has nothing-to-stop-him doing something than that he is motivated to do it.
And that Man without religion is a pitiful thing; en masse he is a despicable thing.