"Things have moved backward in a terrifying way."

Us literate types have heard of Rouseau, the French philosopher who initiated Romanticism. As Bertie (I feel that Bertrand Russell and I are on a nickname basis at this point) puts it, Romanticism substitutes esthetics for utilitarianism as the ethical premise.

This means that Romantics judge the ethical value of a position based on a generally unquantifiable sense of how 'good' it is rather than how it affects others.

The idea is that we can never really 'know' anything, facts are illusory either in a Cartesian 'it could all be a dream' sense or that the world is so fluid that what we think we 'know' is constantly being invalidated by change. The solution is to rely on 'cogito', our internal values which are, in this view, the only thing we can be sure of. 

It is the kind of thinking that led, via Nietzsche and others, to the Third Reich. The idea there is that their national 'cogito' is the source of virtue based on the internal (non quantifiable) values of the citizens... without regard to the consequences to others. In this case, the rest of Europe and, of course, the Jews, etc, who were victims of the Holocaust.

We are entering a Romantic era in America. After several decades where the national ethos opposed racism because it resulted in more people being productive and happy (utilitarianism), and environmental activism (for the same reason) and tolerance (for the same reason), we have a new era where the country has decided that what the correct ethical evaluation is based on what we 'feel' is right. 

That feeling is, as it was in Rouseau's time, heavily influenced and supported by religion. "The reason my sense of right and wrong deserves prominence over the utilitarian support of society is that I believe in God and that makes my view Holy."

The people who ran the Inquisition had not heard of utilitarianism. For them, it was the only path. Once they conceived the idea and attributed it to God, they were doing people a favor by torturing them until they finally accepted Jesus and were thereby saved from an eternity of damnation. It was, to them, perfectly ethical.

Which is to say that the new Romanticism is very, very dangerous. It appeals to the same lump of brain matter that makes people love God and that is much, much more dangerous than the one that makes people love cocaine.

Our national 'cogito' has turned to intolerance and religion. Romanticism supports a ruthlessness that we liberals can never match.

We are in serious trouble.