Tony Dobrowolski | Out of The Pages: Looking back to go forward


PITTSFIELD >> We live in a world now where insults are treated as insight; where sound bites, texts and tweets are considered analysis.

There's no room for thought or civility in this kind of world. There's no room for order. Leadership and what passes for decorum are based on how much buzz, er noise, that you can generate. Being loud and obnoxious are considered to be virtues now, not vices.

Given all the racket, it's nice to know that there are still a few places left that celebrated a society where order and decorum were the standard not the exception.

As an example, I give you the television show Downton Abbey which ended its six year run on PBS on March 6.

For fans of the show the two-hour finale was especially satisfying as all sorts of dangling plot twists were cleared up. But from this viewpoint, the best thing about the finale is the way everything came to an end.

Unlike other series finales, or most things nowadays, nobody died. Nothing was blown up. Nobody insulted anybody else on a sixth grade level. The story ended as it began. A glimpse into the life of the British aristocracy as it dealt with the societal changes that were occurring in the early 20th century.

Downton Abbey ended with the characters hopeful and resilient that they would be able to adapt to the changes that were coming in order to maintain their way of life.

There was no animosity. No cheap shots. Just a realization that life was changing and the characters would have to change with it.

Our society is changing now, too. But unlike the characters in Downton Abbey, lots of people don't want it to change. They want things to be the way they used to be.

It's not hard to understand why people are so angry in this country now. The economy continues to stall, wages don't keep up with inflation and good paying jobs are hard to come by. People feel disillusioned and abandoned.

Under these kind of conditions, it's easy to see why people would follow someone from outside the establishment who loudly promises he can bring back what's gone forever but provides little or no details on how he's actually going to do it. It's a gut reaction, not a cerebral one.

When you feel the system doesn't work for you anymore, it's tempting to identify with a leader who criticizes everybody that criticizes him. Who cares about the details. He's saying what you really believe, right? It's about time someone did.

Unfortunately, this kind of approach doesn't do much of anything except spur thoughts of mindless aggression and finally evening the score. It has dragged the level of discourse in this country down to juvenile levels. The presidential debates, particularly on the Republican side, have resembled pro wrestling's Monday Night Raw more than anything else, although Thursday's GOP debate was much more civil.

All that's missing from these events is someone getting hit over the head with a chair, or a candidate leaping off his podium and pile driving an opponent into the floor.

We're better than that in this country, or at least we should be. Downtown Abbey's time period took place a long time ago. But the characters proved that they could adapt if they had to. Despite our differences, that's what we need to do now. My hope is we still can.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at


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