Hatred & Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England

Hatred & Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England

Hatred & Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England

Hatred & Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England

Synopsis

To understand hatred today, start with the Victorians. This book explores the depths of loathing in Victorian fiction and society, highlighting numerous cultural contradictions. It shows that the fanatics and terrorists troubling us in the 21st century have many precursors in our supposedly moral ancestors.

Excerpt

When I began writing this book, actors appeared nightly on U.S. television, warning viewers that hateful thoughts could lead to hate crimes, “so watch what you say. Hate destroys.” Advertisements flooded network television, offering Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride) to an estimated ten million Americans experiencing “social anxiety disorder” (SAD). and a team of psychiatrists in California announced that Samson, the biblical figure, may have suffered from “antisocial personality disorder” (ASPD). This seemed fitting, if scarcely plausible, when they added that generalized anxiety disorder “afflicts more than one-half the general [U.S.] population.” the psychiatrists doubtless boosted that figure by including as examples of social phobia fears about eating alone in restaurants, writing in public, and using public rest rooms.

A staple of American life before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, these claims flourished while Americans enjoyed the longest period of peace and prosperity in more than two generations. Polled in December 1997, however, 57 percent of them believed that “the people running the country don’t really care what happens to you.” If we can trust that figure, then collective happiness is neither a simple nor a logical effect of social harmony and increased wealth. Indeed, that greater prosperity can magnify incivility is a problem for politicians, cultural theorists, and writers tackling the social scene.

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