Wednesday, February 16, 2005
On Democracy and Decadence
To certain political persuasions, American society is seen as “unjust” -- wrought with “inequality” and “oppression.” To this most basic Leftist tenet is often added a marked discontent over the individual’s free choices in leisure and personal lifestyle. In the eyes of our intellectual and moral betters, our culture is seen as corrupt, and the choices of its citizens, crude and tasteless.
The perpetually disenchanted, when not telling us that we live in the worst of times (their glass is always more than half empty), will at least remind us that our “materialism,” “greed,” and “selfishness,” have produced a garish aesthetic. We must ask ourselves, are freely chosen and less refined expressions of leisure less valid because a haughty intellectual clique has determined them to be so? Such critics are apparently blind to the fact that, for every kitsch venue of excess, freedom continues to bestow -- tenfold -- products and ideals that exhibit the human spirit at its most innovative and refined. They also overlook the fact that, on any given day, American’s are attending symphony halls, theaters, libraries and museums, as well as the local bowling ally or shopping mall.
America is often caricatured by those on the puritanical Left (much of European public opinion can be included here), as a society filled with shallow entertainment and cheap pastimes. In their eyes, adventure flicks at the Cineplex just can’t match the excitement and substance of an evening read of Marx or Chomsky. To control freaks of the utopian vision, everyone’s tastes and preferences are potentially uncontrolled corners in their rigid universe. They truly believe that the dusty gray constraints of their socialist ideal would be best for all of us. Their self-appraisal stems from a genuine belief that they are better and wiser human beings who have thus earned a right to rule over all aspects of other people’s lives.
For all their feigned bohemian posing, the “Progressive’s” true obsession is with conformity. The euphemism of “equality” aside, their ideal is imposed uniformity. The family with a brighter colored car, interior design, or smile, just wouldn’t be “fair” in the utopian planned society.
The haughty academic intellectual, so distressed by the lifestyles of the “masses” (who they simultaneously tell us they love) would gladly protect us all from our own feeble choices. Such protection has certainly been “offered” (imposed) before. In every instance where collectivist ideology has sought to reign in the excess neon of capitalist vitality, the authoritarian nerd has erected a stark and sterile prison.
It is beyond irony that the same clique that chastises the taste and lifestyles of their perceived inferiors will gladly defend tax-compelled support to “art” like Robert Mapplethorpe’s S&M photos. Pushing this level of irony to extremes, the defenders of such crude expression regularly tell us we are thwarting “freedom of speech” by not wanting our confiscated wealth directed to such purposes.
Odder still, is the Left’s traditional defense -- initially -- for all manner of decadence in the name of “unique” artistic expression, while loathing tamer mass art styles they see as “bourgeois.” Of course, after “the revolution” all experiments in free expression are deemed threatening to the new order, which is why totalitarian, “politically correct” art is universally bland and unoriginal.
Freedom means, by default, that all possibilities will manifest. Rabid criticisms of the common citizen’s simple and diverse indulgences will no doubt continue to be made by those who would impose a more rigid and lifeless standard.
This issue, perhaps more than any other, shows us the true reason for the collectivist’s hatred for the open society. Opposition to capitalism, “injustice,” and “oppression,” are mere mantras, which hide the Left’s more basic disdain for human nature itself.
When choosing between assorted “shallow” pastimes and cruel tyranny, the Socialist will always side with the forces of state control over the free lifestyle choices of their fellow citizens.
What could be more “unjust” or “oppressive” than that?