Chapter one of Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason explores the expansive spread of irrationalism and non-intellectualism in the modern American society. In this chapter, the author strives to show that a majority of the population of the United States of America is presently living on lies and delusions. These two enemies act as a hindrance to a productive and progressive society. They have been instilled into the citizens through conservatism, incorrect religious, social and economic teachings and the heralding of politically correct but socially wrong theories. An overwhelming majority of Americans have been cheated into being sycophants and upholders of falsified truths in a manner that depicts their utter ignorance and lack of insight. Susan Jacoby draws her inspiration and passion from a careful scrutiny of the present culture of the highly modernized and civilized American society.
She relates her day to day experiences in this modern world to what was done many years ago before the infringement of corrupt morals and truths into this society. The author stands out as an impressive chronicler who is in a position to compare and contrast the way of life of the two ages. At the end of this chapter, she comes to a succinct conclusion that something went wrong somewhere along the way. The author has presented a detailed and convincing evidence to support her argument.
Because of the above reason, Susan Jacoby is completely justified to bring such a sensitive analysis of the American society. This analysis seeks to critically evaluate the argument presented by Susan Jacoby in chapter one of her New York Times Best Seller. This will be achieved through an in-depth consideration of the assumptions and facts presented by the author in this first chapter. Throughout this first chapter, Susan Jacoby manages to fully capture the attention and concentration of the reader.
This is brought about by the use of appropriate language which is appealing to any age group. The chapter addresses the entire American population as a whole. It also aims at enlightening and opening the eyes of anybody who considers himself an American citizen. The sole purpose of this chapter is to make it clear to every right-minded American citizen that the battle for reasonability, which is a significant component of the American culture, is on the verge of being lost (Jacoby 2). The chapter therefore appeals to the readers to reconsider their beliefs and all that they have considered as the gospel truth for decades. However, a keen reader does not fail to notice the conspicuous fact that this book is especially directed to a much younger generation. Being a woman well into her old age, Susan Jacoby must have felt the need to urgently come to the rescue of this young Americans who are supposed to carry on the spirit of the nation to the coming generations.
Despite the fact that a lot has already been lost, the author hopes that the younger American generation will be in a position to unravel the truth that the American society has been misled. In coming up with such a grandiose chapter, the author base her argument on a number of assumptions that are clearly explained. One notable assumption is the point that among the developed nations, the United States of America is the most susceptible country that opposes the voice of reason (Jacoby 4). The author explains that the media has played a big role in making the masses attach themselves to lies and misconceptions that cost them a clear understanding of the situation as it is. The author reiterates this by pointing out that a majority of the American population relies heavily on the media for acquisition of knowledge and understanding. This has provided the same media with a chance to manipulate the population to the extent that they only take in what is considered as the truth by the media. Another evident assumption is the fact that the present system of American education is marred with flaws at the expense of the country’s student population.
The author deems what is taught in American schools as inappropriate for a generation that wishes to break away from the cocoon of falsified theories and concepts. She blames it all on teachers who have failed to adjust to the changing scientific world and who hold onto old unproven religious beliefs. These are the very teachers who have insisted that the creation theory should be taught alongside the evolution theory in American schools.
The failure of these teachers to comprehend and apprehend the role of science in everyday life has contributed to a mildly scientific American population. America’s widespread belief in superstitions is one of the evidences the author offers in support of the above assumptions. Susan Jacoby estimates that more than fifty percent of the American population believes in the existence of ghosts. These good people are not in a position of being set free from such big lies because of the misinterpreted biblical teachings and beliefs that they have been obliged to feed on for the better part of their lives. Religion is regarded as a perfect and unquestionable thing that is at the helm of everything that goes on in the world.
The country’s eighty percent of people who believe in miracles bear witness to this. Another major assumption by Susan Jacoby is that most of the American population has placed itself in a position that opposes contemporary scientific thinking. The American people do not want to admit that religion has immensely contributed to the betterment of their lives as compared to science (Jacoby 5). Although America is the most scientifically advanced nation in the world, it is ironical that its very own people fail to understand the role of science in their lives. For instance, a couple of centuries after the discovery of the dumbfounding truth that the earth revolves around the sun, one in every five Americans still believe that the sun goes around the earth. Another severe reality is that more than two thirds of the entire American population is unaware that DNA is the main factor behind the inheritance of characteristics.
The final assumption evident in the book is the fact that America has a queer attraction to odd values that stand in opposition to intellectual modernism and rationalism. The American society has continued to hold on to these values even when it has become clear that they won’t contribute in any way to their individual and social development. Some of these strange values have been brought to existence by a literal and marginalized interpretation of the bible. In conclusion, the first chapter of Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason critically analyses the situation of the present American culture. It clearly illustrates the shortcomings of shutting oneself in a conservative world and resisting the forces of scientific change. The chapter serves as a key pointer to the fact that it is time the American population stopped looking up to media and political leaders for decision making and definition of right and wrong.
Finally, the chapter calls upon each and every American citizen to accept only tested truths and appreciate the role of modern intellectualism and rationalism.
Jacoby, Susan. Age of American Unreason. New York: Pantheon, 2008. Print.