What Happened to the natives BY THESTIGMS . What is not obvious is what has happened to the American people. It isn’t Just the commuters, whom we have come to visualize as a supine breed who have got on to the trick of suspending their sensory faculties twice a day while they submit to the creeping dissolution of the railroad industry. It isn’t Just they who have given up trying to rectify irrational vexations. It is the American people everywhere. But notice that no one did.
And the reason no one did is because we are all increasingly anxious n America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our right; we are afraid that our cause is unjust, or that if it is not unjust, that it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to Justify the horrors of a confrontation with Authority; we will sit in an oven or endure a racking headache before undertaking a head-on, I’m-here-to-tell-you complaint.
That tendency to passive compliance, to a heedless endurance, is something to keep one’s yes on in sharp focus. I think the observable reluctance of the majority of Americans to assert themselves in minor matters is related to our increased sense of helplessness in an age of technology and centralized political and economic power. The habit of looking after our own needs obviously had something to do with the assertiveness that characterized the American family familiar to readers of American literature.
With the technification of life goes our direct responsibility for our material nvironment, and we are conditioned to adopt a position of helplessness political apathy is a related phenomenon. more and more power drains away from the individual to feed vast reservoirs in far- off places; and we have less and less say about the shape of events which shape our future. From this alienation of personal power When our voices are finally mute, when we have finally suppressed the natural instinct to complain, whether the vexation is trivial or grave, we shall have become automatons, incapable of feeling.