Heard on Campus: George Packer at the Penn State Forum

December 09, 2014

“Today instead of elites we have celebrities. They dominate the landscape like giant monuments to aspiration, fulfillment and overreach. They’re as intimate as they are grand and they offer themselves for worship to ordinary people searching for a suitable object of devotion. In times of widespread opportunity, the distance between these gods and the mortals closes. The monuments shrink closer to human size; the lives of America’s celebrities become gossipy diversions; they loom large in times like now when inequality is soaring; trust in institutions is falling; and the normal paths of upward mobility seem blocked. Celebrities no longer rise with their fellow American; they rise from them. They constitute their own super class."

-- George Packer, staff writer for The New Yorker, on "The Unwinding - America Today: A Collapsing, Changing Nation," in President's Hall in The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus.

"When the middle class hollows out and inequality reaches levels such as we see today, people begin to believe that the game is rigged; that they no longer have a place at the table; that they’re disposable. Some of the characters in my book feel that way as they become conscious of the courses of history pressing on them. During their adult lifetimes, the period covered by the book, the character of America has changed. It’s become more free and less fair. It’s become more diverse and less secure. It’s more inclusive and more stratified. There are more choices, but they exist in a world without solid structures. There’s more social equality and less economic equality – much less."

The next Penn State Forum will feature Cathy Willis Spraetz, president and CEO of Chimp Haven, on "Chimpanzees in Captivity: From Research to Retirement," on Jan. 13 in President's Hall.

The Penn State Forum Speaker Series is open to the general public. Tickets for the Penn State Forum are $19 and include a buffet lunch. Tickets may be purchased through the id+ office in 103 HUB-Robeson Center, phone at 814-865-7590 or email at idcard@psu.edu. For more information and a complete list of speakers, visit http://pennstateforum.psu.edu/.

Last Updated December 09, 2014