The Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is metastatising throughout popular culture – this is not a problem safely confined to university campuses
When I watch videos like this and think to myself “This is it; this is the end of Western civilisation, the acceleration of the fall of Rome”, am I on the money, or am I overreacting just as cantankerous old men once ardently believed that rock ‘n roll was corrupting the kids?
I honestly don’t know any more. Some people seem to be clapping along and cheerfully encouraging this quadrillion gender + ‘satisfy any passing whim that pops into your head’ worldview and its metastatisation throughout the culture, as though it is the most positive and welcome development in the world. A smaller number of people (such as myself) are sounding notes of caution to varying degrees, though perhaps not loudly enough. But the bulk do not seem to believe there is an issue at all.
And now we must suffer the perverse spectacle of Bill Nye the “Science Guy” bestowing the imprimatur of science and rationality on avant-garde gender theory by bopping along while actress and singer Rachel Bloom frantically cavorts, declaring:
‘Cause my sex junk is so oh, oh, oh
Much more than either-or, or, or
Power bottom or a top off
Versatile love may have some butt stuff
It’s evolution, ain’t nothing new
There’s nothing taboo about a sex stew
Sexuality’s a spectrum, everyone is on it
Even you might like it if you sit up on it
Drag queen, drag king, just do what feels right
You’re a tall pansexual flirty wood sprite
Sure, why not? After all, it’s science.
Rod Dreher seems pretty clear in his verdict:
Keep in mind that Bill Nye is considered a pop culture icon by the rationalist crowd intent on demonstrating what poltroons religious people are. And yet, this trash makes “Veggie Tales” play like the Oresteia.
[..] Crazy people. Batsh*t crazy.
I think I’m with Rod.
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I think in this case I’m more inclined to think ‘well this is a bit rubbish’ than ‘OMG THIS IS THE FALL OF ROME’.
To be fair, I wondered whether this might be the moment that the fall of Rome accelerated rather than being its final outcome. But fair enough 😉
What is the essential nature of decadence?
It’s not lust or greed or cruelty. There was an abundance of all three in ancient Rome at the height of its power. The aristocrats of Georgian England were up to their eyeballs in gin and whores most of the time and their Victorian successors were little better, even if they were rather more discreet. Yet this was also a time of unprecedented scientific and technological advances, when Britain gained a level of economic, military and political power far out of proportion to its size and population.
Indeed, the normal pattern across all societies in the history of the world is that the people who have the means to indulge themselves will usually do so, regardless of whether their society happens to be rising or falling at the time. We could certainly find examples of modern political, social and intellectual leaders who did great things in their public lives while indulging their baser instincts in private.
The true meaning of “decadence” is simply that something has decayed from its proper state. Therefore, a decadent institution is one that no longer serves its intended function. In the political sphere, a decadent person is one who can no longer perform the normal duties of a citizen or subject. On the personal level, decadence implies an inability to carry out the basic responsibilities that a person has towards other people and towards the maintenance of his or her own wellbeing.
In order to suffer this decay, it is necessary for an individual, group or institution to lose sight of what is necessary and important. They cease to do what they need to do because they have forgotten why they need to do it. Decadence is fundamentally a loss of perspective. It’s a fatal loss of orientation leading to a crash, like a pilot getting lost in cloud and not even knowing which way up he is until he sees the ground rushing up to meet him.
It tends to happen in any society that has become significantly richer and more powerful than its contemporaries, because after a while the people start to take their prosperity and security for granted. They forget that things were ever different in the past and no longer seriously believe that they could ever be different in the future. So, the effort needed to maintain that society begins to seem like an irksome chore rather than a vital necessity.
The rot always starts at the top because the richest and most powerful members of society are at the least risk of suffering any adverse consequences from behaving in a selfish and irresponsible way. But their example glamourizes and legitimizes such behaviour and encourages others to do the same. Of course, many people will be disgusted by the antics of the decadent elite. The risk among this group is of a creeping decadence of citizenship, in which decent law-abiding people gradually decide that there is no longer any point in trying to do the right thing because it won’t make any difference.
To put it more bluntly, great societies are built by their people and destroyed by their rulers.
So, does this mean that America is decadent? It’s easy to find signs of decadence in its institutions and its cultural and political elite, according to both the definition of decadence that I’ve proposed here and by the more common usage of the word. The key question is how far it has spread. A society may be considered decadent if the decadent individuals and institutions can consistently exercise power over the ones that are not. Since the rot always starts at the top, it naturally provokes the kind of political and cultural conflict between the elite and the rest of society that we see in the United States today.
In an autocratic society, a conflict of this sort is likely to be fatal. Either the elite put down the masses by force and carry on leading their society towards total collapse, or the masses overthrow their rulers and destroy the existing order in a different way. In a democratic society, it is possible for reform and renewal to come about through largely peaceful means. The fact that a presidential election has just been decided by anti-elite sentiment suggests that it is still possible for this to happen in America. Democratic societies are resilient because they have the means to change course without a coup or revolution. One of the reasons why a bureaucratic “Deep State” is dangerous is that it obstructs the normal process of change and makes political conflicts last longer and become much more bitter than they would otherwise be.
But at this point all we can say with certainty is that the conflict has begun and it will not end until one side has been comprehensively defeated.
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Goodness me. Comment of the year – thank you for that contribution, it deserves a much wider audience than my own humble blog can provide. Much food for thought here in your eloquent discourse on decadence.
I think you’re over generous. Words appeared to be chucked in because they rhyme (e.g. Depardieu). It’s slightly reminiscent of 70s Eurovision in that sense “Bing bang bong I love this song”, without any of the fun aspect, it has the earnestness of 1980s songs at Labour demos.
Objectively ; musically it’s sh*t ; the lyrics are sh*t ; the dancing is sh*t. Even the Jeremy Corbyn pop songs are better.
You are most probably wrong. Many people have predicted the demise of Western Civilization many times since what we call Western Civilization’s birth. Not one of them has been right yet. I see no reason to conclude that you are any better at projecting its demise than has been anyone else who has engaged in this particular kind of prognostications.