Death by Treacle
Sentiment surfaces fast and runs hot in public life, dumbing it down and crippling intimacy in private life
"It’s also my suspicion that the sentimental wave paced, or perhaps helped cause, a decline in American tolerance for risk. As we move from a culture that celebrated risk to a more cautious culture of “risk factors” and “at-risk” people, victims of random, tragic fate become more monstrous to our sense of fairness. This and the corporate-class bogeyman of sentiment-drunk jurors who grant extravagant personal injury awards must explain the growth of product warning labels such as “Shin Pads Cannot Protect Any Part of the Body They Do Not Cover,” “Wheelbarrow Is Not Intended for Highway Use,” “Do Not Use Hair Dryer While Sleeping,” or “Eating Rocks May Lead to Broken Teeth.”
The strong timbre of the victim in public life at this point has tangible and serious effects. Among other things it distorts our sense of risk in foreign and domestic policy. Indeed, victims seem to occupy a special tier of citizenship in public deliberation according to a makeshift sentimental hierarchy; let’s call it inequality. Publicly shared sorrow puts a thumb on the scales of public discourse."