Brooks sees the disease, and he ALMOST gets the cause:
And there was something else. When you look from today back to 1945, you are looking into a different cultural epoch, across a sort of narcissism line. Humility, the sense that nobody is that different from anybody else, was a large part of the culture then.But that humility came under attack in the ensuing decades. Self-effacement became identified with conformity and self-repression. A different ethos came to the fore, which the sociologists call “expressive individualism.” Instead of being humble before God and history, moral salvation could be found through intimate contact with oneself and by exposing the beauty, the power and the divinity within.
Brooks is right -- most of the nation is self absorbed, self promoting, out to "get it all", "only going around once -- and grabbing for all the gusto". We used to have "shared values" -- actually we basically had ONE "shared value" -- that we were all children of God that would finally be judged by a standard that was much higher than our own. Gayle Sayers said it as "God is first, my friends are second, and I am third". I'd argue that God, Family, Friends, Country, and then self might be good, but the only REALLY important think is that God in position one. See, it IS always "God" in position #1 -- for some folks it is self, for some political party, for some money, for some the Packers (OK, so that one is hard for me) ... the point is that EVERY human has a "God" -- the issue is just which one.
The difference in America is that the vast majority of folks have took the eternal, the transcendent and the redeeming person of Christ out of their lives and replaced it with some earthly idol -- for a lot of folks and the media, it is his holiness BO, but one idol is pretty much like another.
The idea that of the supposed "civility thing" being somehow worse now is absurd. The Democrats booed Bush in at least '05 during the SOTU, and I think at other times. John MacEnroe made swearing at the line judges a standard part of tennis, and odd happenings at celebrety awards events are also so normal that they hardly bear reporting except for the media to make some tenuous connection with Joe Wilson and claim that somehow "town meetings" are responsible for the "loss of civility".
Egads, "Bush lied, people died", "Bush=Hitler" and at least some screaming and chanting set of protesters at any sort of a Republican event has been old hat for as long as I have known. It is true that it IS very different to get Republicans away from family, church, job, hobbies, volunteer work, etc to speak out. Democrats figure that leftward demonstrators are "comforting" and supposed "right wingers" are somehow "chilling". The left is always hot to defend your right to agree with them and pretty certain that anyone that doesn't agree with them is dangerous, racist, evil, stupid or all of the above. Democrats don't believe in debate -- they have all the correct positions, it is up to the Republicans to shut up, work hard and pay for whatever crazy scheme the Democrats dream up.
Nothing important ever changes. If it changes, it is just mechanism.