Our most advanced pharmaceuticals are designed to make us less depressed. Our technology alleviates the horrors of ever leaving our own home. Our politicians spend their time telling us about these elusive vagaries called human rights. And our best communications are designed to feed us cheap violence, cheap sex, and feel-good propaganda like Oprah or Dr. Phil.
Liberals champion this worldview by pushing human rights, equality, self-esteem, and that happiness to which we are all so entitled. The wheels of democratic government are greased by the needs of people, and politicians feed their families by bloating the self-esteems of the people who least deserve it. Yet, this same heir of self-importance appears on the right, as well. Neo-nazis and nationalists are usually scowling or brooding, or in short, taking themselves too seriously.
The traditional antidote to this hubris was religion. Say what you will about religion; at the very least it taught us that humans are not the end or purpose of existence. With God above, humans occupy a middle ground. This comes out clearest in the Christian concept of stewardship. We are not the most important beings, but we are guardians of nature and thus given ability and dominion over it. It is, according to the classical Christian, our duty to take care of and preserve what is natural.
What is truly odd about moderns is that all of the modern ideologies confirm that we, in fact, are not all that important. Evolution shows us that we are merely one more step in the infinite staircase. We are one more species without souls. Astronomy has shown us that our galaxy is one of an infinite many. Even our explorers showed us that our God is not the only god that humans worship, and our system of values, one of many. Some of the most honest men of the last two centuries have concluded from all of this that we are but poor monkeys, and nothing more.
Some people are okay with this newfound monkey status. Many are completely content to live their lives indulging in animal pleasures. No decent government or philosophy would deny them this. The problem arises when these particular humans start taking themselves too seriously?that is, when they start interrupting the stone-cutters and poets, who have dreams and ambitions above food and sex.
Moderation is one of those virtues that one can work a life-time at mastering and never get it right. Moderation does not mean that we relegate all of humanity to the level of monkeys, nor does it mean that we are all gods. Moderation means calling a monkey a monkey and calling that divine spark, rare as it is in humans, divine. It also means allowing for that in-between ground, in which most people naturally fall. Modern society, on the other hand, encourages us all to act like monkeys and consider ourselves gods, while humans (poets and stone-cutters included) are almost nowhere to be found.