"Italian Actors" by Antoine Watteau (Pierrot the sad clown in the middle)‘The Collapse of Character’ by Joseph S. Salemi The Society May 3, 2019 Culture, Humor, Poetry 23 Comments —from A Gallery of Ethopaths What generates the half-assed views That this dimwit nation spews? Why are persons mindless lemmings? From what source is this stuff stemming? Collapse of character’s the cause: A nation’s strength lies not in laws Or money, soldiers, guns, police— These things just maintain the peace. The iron in each person’s spine Keeps us stable and in line, And if that iron’s rusted out The country won’t survive a bout Of warfare, trouble, bad luck, pain… It can’t face up to stress or strain. An army of three score battalions, Or booted cops on panting stallions, Or gold bars stacked in Knox’s vaults Are useless against grave assaults If citizens are swishy wimps As boneless as a shoal of shrimps. And that’s what we’ve become today: Narcissistic dorks at play, Obsessed with “how we think and feel” And lacking any moral steel. You see this best in “victimhood”— A posture that’s now understood To grant one privileges and rights That trump all else. The smallest slights Become a kind of tragic pain That lawyers milk for easy gain. A language I call “Victimese” (As common now as cheddar cheese) Is spoken by a million boobs As mindless as dead TV tubes: I’ve been wronged, demeaned, oppressed! My urgent needs must be addressed! Our age resounds in cliché prating But of all whines, the one most grating Comes from the self-styled bleeding “victim” Who moans as if the world had picked him Out for especial exploitation, Torturing pain, and condemnation. You see these victims everyplace Posturing profile and full-face, Telling how they received a blast Of psychic trauma in their past From evil fathers or weak mothers, From overbearing elder brothers, From cruel, unfeeling, hard-boiled teachers, From straitlaced nuns or wicked preachers; How race or gender or sex preference Meant they got no share of deference; How they were made to feel ashamed; How they were mocked or teased or blamed; How they were never praised or flattered. As a result, their pride was shattered And this abuse has left deep traces Making them psychic basket cases Who cannot function up to standard. But they’ll consider themselves slandered If you concede your full assent Saying you know just what they meant. When next you meet these sorts of whiners Just hit them with these quick one-liners: “Yes, you’re a poor neurotic cripple Glued to some ethopathic nipple. Sorry you’re such a wiped-out loser: A nerd or whore or idle schmoozer.” If you say this, they’ll go berserk And shout that you’re a callous jerk Whose outer shell’s too rough and spiky To rub on someone’s wounded psyche. They’ll run to their support groups screaming And see their therapists that evening. Such nonsense is now commonplace— There’s no one left who has the grace To keep pathology well hidden. They open up to you, unbidden, And tell you how screwed up they are, Revealing every psychic scar, Every flaw and moral failing, Sicknesses from which they’re ailing, Or their traumatized persona Canyon-gashed like Arizona. This age abounds in infantilish Twits who think dysfunction’s stylish, And they assume the world can’t wait To hear about their parlous state. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 23 Responses Steve Shaffer May 3, 2019 Just… Bravo! Love it; sending it to some friends… Reply Sally Cook May 3, 2019 Dear Doctor Salemi – AMEN and AMEN! Reply James Sale May 3, 2019 This is a very fine critique indeed; each couplet packs a mighty punch. Without wishing to be too theological about it, the modern problem is the absence of any general belief in transcendence and the transcendental, for only the existence of something bigger and beyond human capacities could vouchsafe a morality that wasn’t entirely subjective. And while I think psychology is an important discipline with some revealing observations to make, nevertheless the turn ‘inward’, as it were, has meant for most people the entire rejection of that external reality that would enable them to escape from their endless solipsism which characterises their characters. A recent, quite brilliant book on this topic, which was a NYT bestseller, is The Road to Character by David Brooks, and it is full of insights as he reviews of the lives of several famous ‘characters’: Frances Perkins, Dwight Eisenhower, Dorothy Day and one of my great heroes, Dr Johnson. But thanks for a wonderful excerpt, Joseph Salemi: I especially like the couplet ending ‘Canyon-gashed like Arizona – the rhyme is unexpected, as is the metaphor! Reply Steve Shaffer May 3, 2019 Along the lines of what James has commented, I just posted this blog this morning; it’s kind of on the same theme. https://christianity2020.wordpress.com/2019/05/03/scaring-the-hell-out-of-children/ Reply James Sale May 3, 2019 Good article Steve and I much enjoyed it. Thanks. Steve Shaffer May 3, 2019 Thanks James! I’m glad you liked it. David Paul Behrens May 3, 2019 An accurate and prolific rendition of today’s society. Reply C.B. Anderson May 3, 2019 You nailed it, Joe. If any snowflakes drinking from sippy-cups read this, I hope they are offended. They will call you insensitive, but the truth is that you are only too damn sensible. Reply Wilbur Dee Case May 4, 2019 Although his meter’s bumpier than that of Juvenal, Salemi’s message is on target and quite suitable. In this part of “A Gallery of Ethopaths”, he draws “collapsing character”, one of our nation’s greatest flaws, and points out how important character is for a land; it is that only, only that, that makes a nation grand. Iambic couplets move along in quick tetrameters, as generalities pass by in wide parameters. One can’t quite shake the feeling that Salemi is correct, and wish he wasn’t. Character’s not something to neglect. Reply David Watt May 4, 2019 ‘The Collapse of Character’ sums up the current lack of personal integrity evident in Western society. The message is powerful because it may equally apply to Australia, Britain, or elsewhere. Reply Sally Cook May 5, 2019 I wonder if these types have any concept of what life really is about ! If we believe in something further on down the line, a thing more perfect than our own reality, then would it not be reasonable to assume that this world is a proving ground? Well, nobody likes a whiner, but going beyond that, self-absorbed whiners are dangerous to self, one’s immediate circle, and the larger society. I’m very much afraid that if we were to become involved in a world war, I shudder to think what would happen. Bottom line – how could a gaggle of little self-interest groups mount any defense, and would they even think it worth their while? Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 5, 2019 Dear Sally — Thank you for your perceptive comments. Quite coincidentally, last week one of my colleagues at the university told me something that could be a perfect biopsy slide of the sort of whining, self-absorbed “victimhood” that I have tried to describe here. My colleague told me that she had a female student in her class who is a total loser — a student who has managed to find excuses to avoid doing any work, or even showing up regularly. The student fails tests, misses deadlines, and all the while claiming that she is “disabled” because of mental problems. The student has asked for an Incomplete grade in the course (the normal escape route for lazy and unproductive undergraduates), but is now arguing that she should have more time than usual to complete her missing work. When told by my colleague and by a school administrator that make-up deadlines were unalterable, the student said “Well, I’ll have to consult my therapist about all this…” Consult her therapist?!? About an objectively fixed deadline? To cap it all, during a recent class session dealing with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, my colleague showed a few film clips from the famous 1948 Olivier production of that play. The student in question jumped up and left the classroom in the midst of this showing. Why? Well, as she claimed later, she was “triggered” by the scene of Ophelia’s madness, and could not stay to watch it! You’re “triggered” by a scene from a 500-year-old Renaissance play, written in early modern English? What kind of a gutless nonentity is this student? And what the damned hell does “triggered” mean, anyway? That you can’t emotionally endure even a fictionalized reference to anything that bothers you? Enough is enough. I don’t care if you’re “disabled,” or a “victim,” or “emotionally challenged,” or “oversensitive.” And I’m sick of how this country bends over backwards to cater to a vast array of self-pitying losers. God help us when the next war comes, and we have to face an army of real men. Reply C.B. Anderson May 5, 2019 Well, Joe, you have triggered something in me: despair about the future of what should have remained a great nation. I don’t know which is worse, the frail pantywaist subhumans or the misguided morons that cater to them. Stop doing this, or I will have to hire a therapist of my own or file a lawsuit for inflicting extreme existential distress. Seriously, I think you are in the business of writing classics for the future, if there is a future in which anyone is left to read them. God bless. Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 5, 2019 Many thanks, Kip. Your opinion means a great deal to me, and always has. Hugh Maclean June 4, 2019 Machismo unhinged. Remember Jesus watched over the weak and vulnerable. The meek shall inherit the earth. Not with Salemi around they won’t. Run corporal Pile here comes drill sergeant Salemi. Reply Joseph S. Salemi July 3, 2019 The name is “Pyle,” not “Pile.” You can’t even get a sit-com character’s name straight, Hughie? Sally Cook May 5, 2019 Dear Joe – Your colleague’s stupid student has a lot more problems than Ophelia.! Who in blazes does she think she is? Sounds as if she is just a wavering footstep away from an exhilarating book burning! People who construct their own reality inevitably become fascists, cloaking this tendency in the sweetest of wet blankets. Know-nothing hypocrites, all. Reply C.B. Anderson May 5, 2019 Sally, to answer your first direct question: She doesn’t think she is anyone. She has no identity except for the pathological excuses with which contemporary society has provided her. Too bad for her and for everyone else who has to live in a world where such persons get to vote. Reply Sally Cook June 14, 2019 Kip, while those were rhetorical questions, I’m glad you decided to answer them. Gregory Spicer May 9, 2019 Well, what an extraordinary complain-a-thon this has been, let me fetch you all a box of tissues. Reply Joseph S. Salemi May 9, 2019 It looks like the little schmuck has returned. He presents no discursive argument, just a snotty remark. Reply James Sale May 10, 2019 I wouldn’t call this extraordinary; it is a satire, which by its nature attacks abuses, and Dr Salemi is an expert in writing them. But if we look at the wider picture of the pages of the SCP we find many other types of poetry, including those which focus on the more beautiful and lovely aspects of existence. However, Dr Salemi writes brilliant satires, that is his metier, and no-one really should be telling a poet that he should not be writing in any particular form that he or she feels drawn to. Indeed, most of the comments are not complaining, but celebrating the power of the writing – mine comment is certainly to that effect. Reply Mal Beveridge May 14, 2019 Nnow that i liked. 🙂 Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.