All of these are symptoms of the same disease: a manic reinterpretation of “democracy” in which everyone must have their say, and no one must be “disrespected.” (The verb to disrespect is one of the most obnoxious and insidious innovations in our language in years, because it really means “to fail to pay me the impossibly high requirement of respect I demand.”) This yearning for respect and equality, even—perhaps especially—if unearned, is so intense that it brooks no disagreement. It represents the full flowering of a therapeutic culture where self-esteem, not achievement, is the ultimate human value, and it’s making us all dumber by the day.
When a house has just lost its soul, a stricken silence falls over the sudden emptiness that no one will fill again. And all the noises that may be made later in that house will be like a scandalous din, ugly echoes from one room to another, from one corridor to another, sharp and discordant as if the walls are no longer able to absorb any music once the source of harmony has been taken away. But this strange detail about the power of death can only be picked up by ears that are very attentive to the smallest murmurs of life. Rational people go through these empty spaces with the serenity of a lawyer, and their indulgent smiles categorise you if you decide to point out in their presence that there is something lacking in the atmosphere.
We react differently to death. Some are so consumed by grief and agony that they nearly succumb themselves. Others take a moment to reflect on life. I tend to put my thoughts into words, as I don’t emote physically often. I’ve known people who look at death and laugh. They’re so amused with the grand irony of life — that no one escapes alive — that their attitude is sometimes perceived as callous and cruel. I don’t see it that way. It takes a brave person to see the face of death and respond with a one-finger salute. Perhaps because they, too, will one day find themselves groping in the darkness.