The Tango of Decline

TangoThumbby Glenn Fairman
How true that political decline mirrors the individual and social erosion of a people. It begins as men draw away from the traditions, icons, and virtues that symbolically set a people in motion. Since unaided Human Reason cannot account for the superiority of one value over another, that which is reverenced by the City succumbs to the eventual unraveling of its moral tapestry. Culture and the newly emancipated and unencumbered soul then begin their symbiotic dance: reflecting inflamed passion and desire for the new and uncharted regions of Being–morphing and mutating in a downward spiral of chaotic expression and viral incubation.[pullquote]The upending of the old regime portends the destruction of the possibility of Wisdom as the Cult of Youth and its irresponsible spirit of Eros and abandon runs roughshod through civil society–mocking piety and moderation, dissolving the bonds of filial piety, and leveling the hierarchies of taste that once characterized the high from the low.[/pullquote]

After the first generation has thrown off the insufferable shackles of moral constraint, each succeeding cohort diminishes into luxury and barbarism like a copy of a copy–growing more blurred and faint. It is here that the descent into voluptuousness and the Spirit of Narcissism proves corrosive to self-sustenance. The upending of the old regime portends the destruction of the possibility of Wisdom as the Cult of Youth and its irresponsible spirit of Eros and abandon runs roughshod through civil society–mocking piety and moderation, dissolving the bonds of filial piety, and leveling the hierarchies of taste that once characterized the high from the low. Self Love soon replaces duty and sacrifice and the orgasm becomes the sole secular sacrament of a people increasingly infatuated with their own mirror image.

Inexorably, the character of politics soon becomes epidermal and the satiation of desire with the material becomes the greatest and highest political aspiration. It is here that the individual, spiritual, and political consciousness of a people becomes wholly debased—How else can we explain the galactic level of debt mounted so self-righteously on the backs of our children to satisfy the rapacious appetite of the tyrannical “Now?”

With such a descent into the abyss of self-absorption, the possibility of politics and the Good Life vaporizes. Passion trumps Reason, Desire and Carnality strike down Wisdom, and a people of the disheveled soul each goes to his own house in a spirit of unreflective abandon—leaving in their wake the rusted hulk of what had once been a great and proud people.
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Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca. He can be reached at arete5000@dslextreme.com.
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8 Responses to The Tango of Decline

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Glenn, I’ve sometimes been told that I have a way with words. But I’m in the Wayne and Garth position of “I’m not worthy.” You’ve really expressed the situation well.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    The Owl of Minerva flies at dusk……wisdom comes too late to be of value at the end of an age……

  3. Glenn — I try to write; you actually do it. Bravo. Love the comparison of the many-copied document and the successive generations. Because I still have FB contact with a couple hundred of my ex-students I get a peek into how their generation is dealing with the world and they fall into 3 categories: the stable, Christian, hard-working young American; the clueless, utterly unaware that anything is amiss; and the totally debauched. I have intense discussion with those folk — those who are still with me, that is. 🙂 Thanks for another great read.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Let me add to the mutual admiration society. I gain much from reading both you and Glenn, Deana.

      In this day in which the value of words and thoughts is diminishing, one of the best things anyone can do (and this used to be the point of a classical Western Civilization education) is to be exposed to the best of the best.

      And this is so not only in regards to writing style but morals. It’s long been noted that one of the best ways to improve one’s writing is to read the best. That’s why I’ve delved thoroughly into Hawthorne and many other great writers.

      So this is also true of the people with whome we tend to hang around. I’m an unreconstructed smart-aleck and curmudgeon and have no plans to change that, in the broad. What what I have changed is removing myself from, for example, the poison that has become National Review comments.

      The story here at StubbornThings is that this site was created, in part, as a place to go other than what has increasingly become a fever swamp over at National Review (both regarding the commenters and even the featured writers, if not especially so). And I have been prompting people, in a way that hasn’t been blunt enough, to not make a religion of their conservative-bitching.

      I stumbled across an excellent article this morning at National Review Online by the almost uniquely reliable Stanley Kurtz titled The Wannabe Oppressed. It talks about how the environmental movement has become a religion. And I may do an article on that.

      But the counterpoint is what I perceive as many people making a sort of religion out of their conservative bitching. And although it is true that we must educate the yutes (and many grownups) who have been poisoned by indoctrination into Cultural Marxism, we cannot make this our stand-in religion, as I think many do.

      Grievance and victimhood is the basis for the religion on the Left (and, in fact, I agree with Dennis Prager that Leftism is a religion). Conservatives must shoot higher than either being forever aggrieved or (in the case of homosexuals) doing what Thomas Sowell advises against, and that is taking some “pet” group and joining one’s sense of aggrievement to them by using them as pawns in a purely psychological game.

      Thus I ultimately hope that StubbornThings becomes a good template, a place where one can come to read things and be the better for it. And both you and Glenn have gone a long way to making it so (as have the many other fine contributors).

      And that is the point of this place. As much as I could use the money, I’m reminded of that last line in the Declaration of Independence:

      And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

      George Washington didn’t make a dime from his involvement in the Revolution. Instead, he risked it all, and suffered much, for a quite uncertain outcome. Maybe one day I’ll put up a donation widget to help with the costs. I don’t know. But I still consider this place to be on a mission in an over-commercialized world (especially the conservative talking-heads one) that has lost track of, and lost faith in, its values.

  4. Kurt NY says:

    It’s been said that the fish always rots from the head, and such is true of culture as well. The trajectory of a culture is that of its elites. It seems true of all elites of every culture of which we have record, that those elites have never been characterized by adherence to their societal norms, their very status freeing them from being held accountable to those standards.

    Yet, in a healthy society, the elites feel it incumbent upon them to behave in public as if they did adhere to those standards. In other words, while elite power is such as to free them from having to behave in ways of which society would approve, the overall society is seen as exercising enough power that to deviate from those standards in public would lead to a loss of that elite status, so they behave in public as if they were paragons of propriety, hypocrisy being the tribute vice pays to virtue.

    So, even though we all know old Hollywood was characterized by a lot of questionable moral behavior, its publicity mills were always at pains to downplay those aspects, which was mirrored in the way in which political elites conducted themselves as well. Yet, Hollywood has long ceased to care very much about being seen as moral, choosing instead to revel in its offending of conventional morality – indeed defining art as necessarily being transgressive, an act of the deepest contempt for its host society.

    And, when its elites choose to behave in such fashion, society decays, not least because the non-elites begin to pattern themselves after the amoral behaviors of the elites. Which we see in today’s society. So a societal downward spiral begins as there is no moral basis to reverse the rot.

    So until we re-establish control of our elites, holding them accountable to the standards the heart of society adheres to, we will not succeed in arresting our downward trajectory into chaos and decline.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I characterize the Left, or those who associate with the Left, as the “not that” species of mankind. They don’t have to be for anything in particular (other than giving lip service to the victims-of-the-week, such as “the environment” or homosexuals). They just have to against the mythical big, bad “right.”

      As Dennis Prager notes, being on the Left is the easiest thing in the world. All that you have to do is to declare that you “care.” But actually caring about anyone in any substantive way is entirely unimportant and irrelevant.

      What Leftism or “Progressivism” buys for oneself is akin to a Middle Ages “Indulgence.” You profess to care for “the poor,” for gays — for whomever — and you are let off the hook regarding your own dodgy behavior.

      This is the dynamic we are steeped in now. This is why all real standards of ethics and moral behavior must be mocked by those on the Left. It as also why those on the Left have such an inflated sense of their own self-worth. And this is also why they must have an inflated sense of the badness (the un-worth) of “the right.” Their deluded and conceited psychological construct would fall apart without these elements. And this is a psychological construct, not a moral construct, upon which their beliefs are based. This is worth noting.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Very good points there. One of my disagreements with Limbaugh has been his description of liberalism as “the most gutless choice” people can make. I think of it as the easiest choice. You’ve given a good part of the answer of why, including the key point that since liberals judge on the basis of belief rather than behavior, it follows that being a self-professed liberal inoculates you against any and all accusations of bad behavior — even the hypocrisy of violating the professed standards of liberalism (such as being too greedy to pay one’s legal taxes, or treating women as sex objects instead of independent individuals).
        I will note that one other way in which liberalism is an easy choice is that the basis of liberal policy is to see some problem (and they are as good as anyone else is at spotting societal problems), come up with an immediate answer (preferably one relying on a maximum of government involvement), and then stopping there without considering what other effects their answer might have — whether it will work at all, in fact.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Good points, Timothy, as were those of Kurt. I read a book about 10 months ago from a hard-core Christian pastor. Let’s just say that my reading is sometimes “diverse” because he was more fire-and-brimstone than I care for. But he made what I thought was the central point of his book which is that more and more Christians are delving into their faith as a form of self-fulfillment rather than, as has traditionally been the case (and is inherent to the needs of any kind of real and good morality), self-denial.

          I’m a flaming capitalist and believe in freedom, free markets, and limited government as the only good principles (that is, where government necessarily intersects) for a society. I’m fully on board with the idea that anyone can grow up to be president, that one can go as far as one’s talent, hard-work, and sheer luck can take you. I’m not for setting necessarily false-humble goals and see nothing inherently noble in worldly poverty (spiritually-driven poverty, on the other hand, is a different subject).

          That said, we cannot live in a good society if the driving force of people is toward little but self-fulfillment — a kind of hedonism, if you will. Without an appreciate for self-restraint (this is Thomas Sowell’s whole shtick) we will collapse into something bad. And many see us doing that right now.

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