Category Archive 'Decadence'
06 Aug 2017

The High Life, Silicon Valley-Style

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When they are not saving the planet from the rest of us or enforcing the rights of the transgendered, Silicon Valley moguls drop by Hiroshi in Los Altos to dine on gold-topped Wagyu steak.

Business Insider:

Hiroshi is an unusual restaurant for unusual clientele.

Located in Los Altos, California, the newly opened Japanese restaurant accommodates only eight people per night and has no menus, no windows, and one table. Dinner costs at minimum $395 a head, but it averages between $500 and $600 with beverages and tax. …

Located in a plaza in Los Altos — residents past and present include Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg — Hiroshi looked plain from the outside.

There were no hours posted on the door. A sign read “Open by appointment only.” …

Dim lighting cast a yellowish hue on the dining area, which was nearly swallowed whole by a single wooden table.

It was made from an 800-year-old Japanese keyaki tree. .. [I]t took 10 men and a small crane to lift the table into the restaurant. New walls were constructed around it.

I followed the aroma of meat crackling over an open fire to the kitchen, where I found the chef and owner, Hiroshi Kimura. He arrived at noon to prepare for the evening’s dinner.

On a business trip to the Bay Area in 2016, Kimura surveyed the restaurant scene and decided that few locations served the region’s wealthiest.

He decided the tech elite needed a high-end place to eat. The restaurant’s details — from the privacy shades on the windows to the discreet back entrance — caters to their needs.

Hiroshi accommodates just one seating of up to eight people per night. If a customer’s party has only six people, they must buy out the whole table. Dinner starts at $395 a head, but Biggerstaff said it averages much closer to $500 to $600 with beverages and tax.

Dinner is about 10 courses, and the menu changes daily. One dish, the tonkatsu sandwich, consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet prepared in a demi-glace.

Kimura and his sous-chef, who has a background in French cuisine, present each dish — like these sōmen noodles topped with caviar — simply and tastefully.

Kimura specializes in a rare dish. “Since the age of 16, I have spent 40-plus years in pursuit of perfecting the art of wagyu steaks,” he wrote in a statement on the website. …

Wagyu fetches high prices. The American steak purveyor Allen Brothers sells four two-ounce tenderloin medallions for $165 online. Two rib-eye steaks cost a whopping $280.

Hiroshi has whole tenderloins flown in weekly from Japan. A supplier sends them sealed and packed on ice, via FedEx and includes a certificate of authenticity.

Kimura did not reveal much about how his wagyu steak is prepared. But we know he cooks the steaks over a hibachi — a traditional Japanese stove heated by charcoal. …

The wagyu steak is sprinkled with gold flakes and served with white asparagus and a ponzu sauce. “The gold is more for show,” … “It doesn’t really have any flavor.”

The dish arrives on a sheet of thin, fragrant wood, which prevents the sharp cutlery from destroying the plate.
Each guest has a miniature hibachi stove so they can cook their steak longer or reheat it.

RTWT

26 Apr 2017

Not For Republicans

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Heat Street:

Ever feel like your job in Hollywood or your large trust fund has left you out of touch with the working class in America? Well, now there’s a new way to reconnect with the hoi polloi: Buy a pair of $425 jeans that promise to show “you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.”

Luxury fashion retailer Nordstrom was previously best known for dropping Ivanka Trump’s brand back in February—unofficially out of political spite, officially because of declining sales.

The company is now desperate to ruin its own brand further by selling a pair of working class-inspired pants, so that people with $425 to spare can feel part of the masses. Per the item’s description on the website:

    Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.

RTWT

26 Apr 2017

If You Watch This Video, You’ll Be Sorry

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Bill Nye the Science Guy (if anyone were ever tempted to accept this bozo as an authority on “climate change,” just refer them to this) introduces Rachel Bloom who sings (in the intrinsically annoying rap style) the bizarre recent perspective of the Community of Fashion Establishment that holds that sex is not binary, there is some kind of spectrum (if so I’m on the very extreme male end), and whatever “feels right” (boy scout uniforms, 1936 Bendix wringer-type washing machines, mashed potatoes and dwarves?), go for it!

01 Apr 2017

Today’s Students Not Part of Our Common Culture

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Patrick Deneen has more bad news from the Academe.

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.

It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.

But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?

Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide.

Another must-read.

13 Mar 2017

Camille Paglia on Transgenderism and the Late Stages of Culture

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02 Mar 2017

Better than the War on Drugs

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French Opium Party, 1918

09 Feb 2017

This Culture Yearns for Death

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Palomo Spain men’s wear at 2017 New York Fashion Week. more examples here.

Vogue:

[A]s the first look walked out, a man to my right said out loud in pure exhilaration: “Gender! So last season!”

What would result lived up to and, in fact, beyond the hype—and it was a privilege to witness. Not a moment too soon, and somehow fitting for the final day of the menswear loop, Palomo sent out a lavish and over-the-top collection that, at its core, gave a bejeweled and feather-trimmed middle finger to the unaccepting and the regressive. How fabulously timely.

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PaperMag:

The 24 year-old, who told Vogue in an interview last month that he works with “materials that are usually used for womenswear”, founded the label less than a year ago and has since been doing the most to shatter the traditional gender binary that has long ruled men’s fashion.

Alejandro’s Spring ’17 collection is so goddamn regal it hurts. Think Elizabethan ruffles meets Studio 54 with thigh-high boots (held up by garters no less!), pleated schoolgirl skirts and of course, a lot of skin.

Adios forever heteronormativity, one corset at a time.

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W Magazine:

[T]he Palomo Spain fall 2017 collection looked like what would happen if a young Spanish prince got into his mother, the queen’s, wardrobe. Or if a matador was feeling a bit kinky. (It also owed a major debt to the in-your-face hauteur of the the bad boys of the so-called Movida Madrileña of post-Franco Spain, like Pedro Almodovar.) The show opened with a feminine take on suiting, with ruffles, bell sleeves, and exposed shoulders. And closed with virginal boys in all white gowns and garters, plus one latex suit that resembled a bridegroom’s condom.

“It’s all the boys in the club,” said Palomo of his collection the following day. “You’ve got the dandies, the very serious, masculine guys, and then you’ve got the slutty boys in high boots.”

For his first two collections, Palomo had a much more romantic, poetic approach, but for this season he wanted to be less “beautiful” and more naughty. “It’s not this naive thing anymore,” he added of his relationship to fashion. “I wanted to go a little further to a more sexual place. It’s about trying to find your sexual self inside and exploring it. What’s the role of sex in our lives?”

Before he could answer, the tall and slender model named Pol Roig waltzed over wearing a bedazzled sequin houndstooth blazer, knee-high sliver go-go boots, and nothing else. He reached his hand into the pocket of Polomo’s pants and pulled out his iPhone. “See! This is what I’m talking about,” said Polomo, with a laugh. “We thought about putting trousers on him, but he looks better without.” And it’s true, he did. He just lacked pockets of his own.

“When you feel attracted to something, you can’t control your body,” said Polomo, who nervously stroked a rose flower while he spoke, eventually breaking its stem.

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It seems odd that at least one major industry is dominated by the mentally disordered and psychologically defective. That sexual perversity is able to strut openly as an identity is symptomatic of Liberal Egalitarianism’s inability to resist any grievance-bearing constituency.

This sort of thing went on, as well, in Ancient Rome, and, then as now, was recognized as gravely symptomatic of that Empire and Society’s imminent downfall.

Apart from celebrating our culture’s impending Apocalyptic collapse into supine decadence, I personally find it impossible to understand the point of all of this. How do you make money by producing a clothing line of grotesque statements of perversity that not even a West Village Queer could possibly wear anywhere outside a Gay Pride Parade?

Macy’s will not be purchasing this stuff for its Men’s Department. There must be some unfathomable-to-straight-guys connection between these kinds of costume statements and clothing for women that women actually buy. There is a profound mystery there.

08 Feb 2017

The Disgraceful State of American Higher Education

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José Clemente Orozco, The Epic of American Civilization, 1932-1934, Dartmouth University Library. “Academia as a corpse of dead knowledge, birthing intellectually stillborn graduates each year as the world burns in the backdrop.”

Anthony Esolen, at National Review, wonders aloud whether higher education in today’s America is even possible.

The frieze beneath the rotunda of the state house at Providence, the city where my college is located, proclaims, in the words of Tacitus, the happiness of the times when a man “may think what he will and speak what he thinks.” This may still be true of men sitting at a diner or a bar, drinking beer and arguing about politics. Rational argument and freedom of thought, like the exercise of religion, has retreated into the realm of the private. You may still think what you will, so long as you keep it to yourself. You may not think or speak freely in our political assemblies, our newspapers, and our colleges.

Here the reader may supply plenty of anecdotes about professors, insufficiently “liberal,” who have been driven from their jobs or burdened with legal troubles because they violated the new iron etiquette that governs the public sphere. My favorite, if such it may be called, involved an instructor of composition at the University of Winnipeg who remarked, near the end of a semester, that the most important work that most women do will be to raise their children well. For that remark — which would have struck sensible people alive three cultural minutes ago, both men and women, as a bland truism — the instructor was relieved of his duties forthwith, barred from his office, and forbidden even to administer his final exam.

People who say that such events are rare and therefore not to be taken too seriously are either fools or liars. A thousand public lynchings are expensive and tiresome. Two or three will intimidate your enemies very nicely and save you the sweat and the struggle against your conscience. That is especially true if the victim is powerful and visible, as was Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard who opined that the difference between the numbers of men and women pursuing the natural sciences at the highest level might be due rather to predilection and intellectual inclination than to sexism. Again we are dealing with a bland truism; but the long knives came out, and Summers was dispatched. …

In such a world, it is insufficient to say that higher education suffers. Except in the most technical of disciplines, and perhaps even in those, the very possibility of higher education comes to an abrupt halt. If a professor must negotiate an emotional and verbal and political mine field before he opens his mouth, then he is no professor any longer. He is a servile functionary, no matter his title and no matter how well he is paid. He instructs his students not in freedom but in his own servility. That many of the students demand this servility of him and of themselves makes their capitulation all the worse.

The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.

Read the whole thing.

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Mene Ukueberuwa, in the New Republic, blames all this on the rise of the Administrator.

This crisis of confidence at colleges—driven by conflict-shy administrators and self-effacing professors—has come to a head in the culture of protest that has developed on American campuses. Once again, political polarization is only one part of the story. Today’s college students are certainly more liberal and more ideologically uniform than their counterparts of the mid-twentieth century. But the focus on the little things that we see in campus protests—as in the movement to suppress insensitive Halloween costumes at Yale in 2015—shows the extent to which the political fervor is being driven by the absence of bigger, richer ideas to seize students’ attention. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made this case in a column during the same outburst of protests, which swept through dozens of campuses that fall. “The protesters at Yale and Missouri,” he pointed out, are “dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.” In other words, if hollowing out collegiate culture of all of its challenging substance really was just a ploy to dodge controversy and keep the money coming in, then it looks like the strategy has decidedly backfired. …

21 Dec 2016

How Things Have Changed

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06 Oct 2016

Liberal Democracy’s Minimalist View of Humanity Leads Directly to Unlimited Entitlement

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legutko
Ryszard Lugutko, Professor of philosophy at the Jagellonian University in Cracow.

From The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko.

Liberal and democratic thought had been, from the very beginning –- with few exceptions -– minimalist when it came to its image of the human being. The triumph of liberalism and democracy was supposed to be emancipatory also in the sense that man was to become free from excessive demands imposed on him by unrealistic metaphysics invented by an aristocratic culture in antiquity and the Middle Ages. In other words, an important part of the message of modernity was to legitimize a lowering of human aspirations. Aspiring to great goals was not ruled out in particular cases, but greatness was no longer inscribed in the essence of humanity. The main principle behind the minimalist perspective was equality: from the point of view of a liberal order one cannot prioritize human objectives. Only the means can be prioritized in terms of efficiency, provided this does not jeopardize the rules of peaceful cooperation. …

There were, as I’ve said, exceptions to this view –- few, but worth noting. Among the eighteenth century authors, Kant, who defended liberalism, set up high standards for humanity; in the 19th century, John Stuart Mill and T.H. Green had similar intentions. The last two aptly perceived the danger of mediocrity that the democratic rule was inconspicuously imposing on modern societies. They both believed –- differences notwithstanding -– that some form of liberalism, or rather, a philosophy of liberty, was a possible remedy to the creeping disease of mediocrity. Mill remained under the partial, albeit indirect influence of German Romanticism, and thus attributed a particular role to great, creative individuals whose exceptionality or even eccentricity could –- in a free environment -– pull men out of a democratic slumber.

But these ideas did not find followers, and liberal democratic thought and practice increasingly fell into the logic of minimalism. Lowering the requirements is a process that has no end. Once people become used to disqualifying certain standards as too high, impractical, or unnecessary, it is only a matter of time before natural inertia takes its course and even the new lowered standards are deemed unacceptable. One can look at the history of liberal democracy as a gradual sliding down from the high to the low, from the refined to the coarse. Quite often a step down as been welcomed as refreshing, natural, and healthy, and indeed it sometimes was. But whatever the merits of this process of simplification, it too often brought vulgarity to language, behavior, education, and moral rules. The growing vulgarity of form was particularly striking, especially in the last decades, moving away from sophistication and decorum. A liberal-democratic man refused to learn these artificial and awkward arrangements, the usefulness of which seemed to him at first doubtful, and soon -– null. He felt he had no time for them, apparently believing that their absence would make life easier and more enjoyable. In their place he establish new criteria: use, practicality, usefulness, pleasure, convenience, and immediate gratification, the combination of which turned out to be a deadly weapon against the old social forms. The old customs crumbled, and so did rules of propriety, a sense of decorum, a respect for hierarchy.

Read the rest of this entry »

09 Jun 2016

Contemplating The Trump Phenomenon

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Trump-Tirade

Charles R. Kessler does not agree with NeverTrumpers like myself, but he does accurately perceive Trump’s flaws and has interesting thoughts about the rise of Trump in his current essay in Claremont Review of Books.

Trump’s own business record is indistinguishable from his career as a celebrity. He stubbornly defends his crudity, anger, and egotism as integral to the Trump brand, which he promotes incessantly, and as in touch with the working class voters he covets. To conservatives enamored of the gentlemanly manners of Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, this indecency offends.

Yet it hasn’t disqualified Trump as a candidate, because it helps to certify him as a non-politician, a truth-speaker, and an entertainer. Trump seems to know the contemporary working class well, its hardships, moral dislocations, and resentments. Readers familiar with the new working class described by Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 (reviewed in the Summer 2012 CRB) will have a roadmap to the America that Trump sees and rallies to his side. As the Obama team got a jump on its rivals by exploiting new campaign software and technology in the 2008 race, so Trump got a cultural jump on his rivals in the 2016 primaries. He saw that the older, politer, less straitened America was fading among the working and lower middle classes. Downward mobility, broken families, disability and other forms of welfare support—these were increasingly the new reality for them.

This left them lots of time for TV (as Murray shows), especially for reality TV shows. Trump was more in touch with these developments, and also with the anxieties of the working part of the working class who feared falling into this slough of despond, than any of the other candidates. To put it in business speak, as the New York Times did, Trump “understood the Republican Party’s customers better than its leaders did.” It didn’t help that much of the rank-and-file had lost confidence in those leaders. Trump ran rings around them, and employed new media to do it. Steve Case, the founder of AOL, described that part of the achievement in an email to the Times that had the odd rhythm of one of its subject’s tweets. “Trump leveraged a perfect storm. A combo of social media (big following), brand (celebrity figure), creativity (pithy tweets), speed/timeliness (dominating news cycles).”

Every republic eventually faces what might be called the Weimar problem. Has the national culture, popular and elite, deteriorated so much that the virtues necessary to sustain republican government are no longer viable? America is not there yet, though when 40% of children are born out of wedlock it is not too early to wonder. What about when Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president? Many conservatives think that’s also sufficient reason to worry the end is near.

Whole thing.

14 Apr 2016

Diagnosing Decadence

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

Dan Greenfield contrasts the barbarous, vigorous, and decadent stages of civilization in another of his superb must-read essays.

The decadent civilization has a million laws which it applies selectively. Its universal laws, inherited from a vigorous civilization, are buried between equivocation. Decadents don’t believe in objective truths and so they cannot have universal laws. Instead they mire them in so many legalisms as to be meaningless. The laws must be interpreted by a specialized caste. Everyone is always in violation of some obscure law. Life depends on a lawless dispensation from the law. Justice is impossible. Corruption is mandatory. The only way for the decadent civilization to function is to bypass its own safeguards through corruption, black markets and lobbying. This is true in all things.

The crucial task of the law is interpretation that keeps everyone from constantly being punished. This task is accomplished by lawyers, lobbyists and the politicians who are constantly adding more laws to fix the interpretations in the old laws creating a complex mass of contradictory information.

This holds true in every other area of decadent life.

Read the whole thing.

Right now, a lot of people are eager to embrace the barbarian (Donald Trump) precisely because at an instinctive level they perceive him, with all his faults, representing an alternative to the decadence of our current elite culture, and they are ready to jump over the cliff to escape the latter.

19 Mar 2016

2016 Election Not Important

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NewZealanderLondonRuins
Gustave Doré, A Traveller from New Zealand Contemplating the Ruins of London.

“[W]hen some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s” — Thomas Babbington Macauley.

Selwyn Duke explains that the presumably-disastrous next presidential election doesn’t really matter all that much. America (and the rest of the West) is doomed anyway.

Many people lament that “Obama has destroyed America these last eight years” or, alluding to same, will say “I don’t recognize my country anymore.” This is much like viewing a woman who marries a greasy-haired, dope-smoking, heavily tattooed and pierced, unemployable reprobate and saying that her matrimonial decision destroyed her, when the real problem was that she was the kind of person who could make such a choice in the first place. Do you really think Obama isn’t a symptom at least as much as a cause? Do you think the 2008 A.D. America that elected him would have been recognizable to 1950 Americans?

And even if the next president is an anomalous good result, he won’t even be a pause that refreshes, but will at best slow down the runaway train racing toward the precipice. This is because our main problems aren’t illegal migration, trade deals or health care, as significant as those things are. Our problems are more fundamental.

Do you really want to save America? Okay, then completely transform the media, academia and entertainment so they’re not brainwashing citizens 24/7 with anti-American, anti-Christian, multiculturalist, socialist, feminist and a multitude of other lies. End legal immigration, which, via the importation of massive numbers of Third Worlders, is changing our country into a socialistic non-Western culture. Even more significantly, convince the 70-plus percent of Americans who are moral relativists to believe in Truth; these are people who, as the Barna Group research company put it, believe that what we call “truth is always relative to the person and their situation” and whose most common basis for moral decision-making is “doing whatever feels right….”

Read the whole thing.

01 Mar 2016

“The Age of Trump”

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TrumpCampaigning

Eliot A. Cohen, in the American Interest, points out that Donald Trump is not the solution to America’s problems, he is really the most alarming symptom of the disease.

Politicians have, since ancient Greece, lied, pandered, and whored. They have taken bribes, connived, and perjured themselves. But in recent times—in the United States, at any rate—there has never been any politician quite as openly debased and debauched as Donald Trump. Truman and Nixon could be vulgar, but they kept the cuss words for private use. Presidents have chewed out journalists, but which of them would have suggested that an elegant and intelligent woman asking a reasonable question was dripping menstrual blood? LBJ, Kennedy, and Clinton could all treat women as commodities to be used for their pleasure, but none went on the radio with the likes of Howard Stern to discuss the women they had bedded and the finer points of their anatomies. All politicians like the sound of their own names, but can anyone doubt what Trump would have christened the Hoover Dam—or the Washington Monument?

That otherwise sober people do not find Trump’s insults and insane demands outrageous (Mexico will have to pay for a wall! Japan will have to pay for protection!) says something about a larger moral and cultural collapse. His language is the language of the comments sections of once-great newspapers. …

The current problem goes beyond excruciatingly bad manners. What we increasingly lack, and have lacked for some time, is a sense of the moral underpinning of republican (small r) government. Manners and morals maintain a free state as much as laws do, as Tocqueville observed long ago, and when a certain culture of virtue dies, so too does something of what makes democracy work. Old-fashioned words like integrity, selflessness, frugality, gravitas, and modesty rarely rate a mention in modern descriptions of the good life—is it surprising that they don’t come up in politics, either? …

The rot is cultural. It is no coincidence that Trump was the star of a “reality” show. He is the beneficiary of an amoral celebrity culture devoid of all content save an omnipresent lubriciousness. He is a kind of male Kim Kardashian, and about as politically serious. In the context of culture, if not (yet) politics, he is unremarkable; the daily entertainments of today are both tawdry and self-consciously, corrosively ironic. Ours is an age when young people have become used to getting news, of a sort, from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, when an earlier generation watched Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. It is the difference between giggling with young, sneering hipsters and listening to serious adults. Go to YouTube and look at old episodes of Profiles in Courage, if you can find them—a wildly successful television series based on the book nominally authored by John F. Kennedy, which celebrated an individual’s, often a politician’s, courage in standing alone against a crowd, even a crowd with whose politics the audience agreed. The show of comparable popularity today is House of Cards. Bill Clinton has said that he loves it.

American culture is, in short, nastier, more nihilistic, and far less inhibited than ever before. It breeds alternating bouts of cynicism and hysteria, and now it has given us Trump.

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