Framing our own modern technological zeitgeist against the framework of such a bombastic figure is slander at best. You illustrate, rightly, earlier in the essay about being careful to compare eras with, "So it’s never helpful (or truthful) to characterize earlier eras like Lincoln’s as more respectable or dignified than our own, top hats and high collars notwithstanding. The historical record is clear that politics has always been cutthroat and politicians have always been capable of the worst of human behavior." Then proceed to completely tear down that original assessment by arguing that the world Lincoln lived in was somehow better for intellectual profundity than our own with this, "In 19th-century prairie towns like Springfield, Illinois where the isolation was real, it was somehow possible to “live large,” to practice the virtue of magnanimity: a generosity of spirit and intellect that is the opposite of our modern smallness, that seeks contentment not in self-gratification or the attainment of celebrity but in giving oneself fully to a transcendent purpose." And while it may be obvious that I disagree vehemently with that assertion, I have to ask: Do you honestly believe that a world with less information readily available to the general public was more intellectually rigorous? It seems silly to make such an assertion considering the fact of a more democratic, free flow of information of all kinds to all people. To consider that only in isolation that one could possibly "live large" or that "the virtue of magnanimity" does not stretch to our modern "smallness" is a plague, factually improbable and more importantly tragically misguided. It is a symptom of generationism I think that makes normally measured, brilliant people speak about modernity as if it were some sort of disease. How ironic.
More information about text formats