One of the things that makes the culture wars so vicious is that the attack on Western culture is a thinly disguised attack on Western civilization posing as progress. The “right side of history” and all that mindless propaganda.
We can think of culture as a common way that people think about things together with the institutions that pass along knowledge from generation to generation. The current era of nihilism does not do that; instead it seeks to substitute feelings for reason. It is part of the tradition of German romanticism that ushered in the totalitarianism that so ravaged the 20th century.
The arguments then, as they are now, are utopian, often if not always incorporating racial dogmas. They are deterministic and depend on the fanaticism of true believers. Religious belief was, and is, the great enemy of the utopians. “Religion” Marx famously said “is the opiate of the masses”.
Always and everywhere, utopians attack the basic institutions of the societies they mean to replace. Chief among those institutions are the traditional nuclear family, individual autonomy, free markets, religious institutions, property rights and the rule of law.
One of the chief weapons of utopians is the unwillingness of elites to establish limits. And so utopians continually push the limits until those limits collapse. Anyone who doubts this should read Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.
More than anything, the re-making of society in the collectivist vision depends on decadence. One definition of decadence is the “act or process of falling into an inferior condition or state; moral degeneration; turpitude; unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence.” This decadence is a block to the inter-generational transmission of knowledge. And it eases the way for a societal take-over by radicals. See for instance the collapse of the Weimar Republic by the Nazis, Czarist Russia by the Bolsheviks, Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
From a societal standpoint, cultural transmission is accomplished by stories and symbols. What stories are told, what symbols are presented and how those symbols are interpreted dominate culture formation. Those who occupy the commanding heights of a nation’s political-economy have a powerful voice in determining both which stories are told and symbolic interpretation. That is one reason why university professors, journalists, writers and artists are so important to a vibrant society.
It is (or should be) beyond obvious that the cultural assumptions of Western elites are at best incoherent and at worst hostile to classical western Liberalism. Similarly it is obvious that there is a self-serving refusal to define cultural limits, and that high culture collapsed long ago under the onslaught of the development of mass man and relativism. As a result, the cultural transmission belt has been severely damaged.
But don’t take my word for it. Try an experiment. Watch the 3 short YouTube segments referenced below. (The third is a separate You Tube link.) Each represents a sliver of popular culture. The first two are songs from the early 1960s. The first is a clip of Shelly Fabare performing “Johnny Angel” on the Donna Reed show. The second is a clip of the Shirelles. They ask the timeless question “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as they perform the classic Carole King song.
The third video brings us into modern pop culture. It is a clip of the wildly popular Cardi B. It premiered June 11, 2021. Entitled “Megan Thee Stallion – Thot Shit [Official Video]” it has already garnered almost 19 million views, including 657 thousand “likes”.
After watching these 3 videos ask yourself this question. Which cultural vision do you prefer and what do the videos represent? The first two or the one represented by Cardi B? And before dismissing the Cardi B video as an anomaly take a look again at the number of views and “likes”. Also note her single “Up” debuted at Number One on the Rolling Stone Top 100 earlier this year.
So ask yourself again, which is your preferred cultural message and messenger, and why?
The third video, that of Cardi B can only be seen by directly going to You Tube. The URL is this address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KynkMn5Hv3Q