There is in that obsession with the trivial — pursued relentlessly in the midst of the collapse of demographic, economic and military strength — something of the moral of the age. A civilization completely consumed by political correctness, which required counseling for the merest shock, which believed it would preside over the End of History, is now bankrupt, unable to defend itself and without a single darned light bulb in the hardware store. What lesson was it? Perhaps it is this: never mind if you lose your pants as long as you can save your face. Or as someone else put it, those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.
This is, of course, not the kind of 'madness' that really debilitated psychiatric patients exhibit; it is the 'madness' that comes with persistent psychological denial of reality; the insanity that derives from frantic attempts to avoid dealing with a real, imminent threat to one's health, or safety, or life; and displacing one's attention to somthing unimportant, non-threatening, and trivial.
You can think of psychological displacement as a special form of denial. It allows the individual to feel as if they are in control by focusing on a less-threatening problem so as not to have to deal with the real threat.
What do you do when faced with the 'collapse of demographic, economic and military strength?' Ban lightbulbs because lightbulbs are the imminent threat you can deal with.
What do you do when faced with the threat of a nuclear Iran? Why, legalize illegal immigrants; or improve your golf skills; or, even work on your re-election campaign. In the end, you can always blame Bush or the Republicans or Congress.
The entire purpose of displacement is to gain control over the conflict you won't acknowledge. By focusing on something you have some control over, the psyche is much less threatened. You can even pretend, that if it weren't for X,Y, or Z, everything would be perfect hunky dory.
Anything is preferable to focus on instead of the real danger.
Displacement can be thought of as an slightly more mature type of projection. In projection, the individual remains oblivious to the fact that he owns and is responsible for the emotions that he imagines are in the person or group into which he is projecting. In other words, ownership of the idea and/or the emotional affect is banished from the self.
In displacement, the idea or emotion is deflected from one object to another, less threatening one, but the ownership of the negative emotion or idea (e.g. animosity, anger) is retained--and is often raised to a virtue. A common example is the person who is angry at a loved one, but settles for kicking the dog. The anger is evident in the action and is still owned by the person experiencing it, but the object of the anger has been displaced by the dog.
The relentless pursuit of the trivial is a way of avoiding the essential. It allows you to lie to yourself and maintain that oh so important self-esteem (i.e., "saving face") that is also relentlessly pursued in today's world..
If the world comes crashing down around you, well that happens in the future. And, in the long run we're all dead anyway.