Saturday, 19 January 2013

When did luxury set in?

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At some point the problem stopped being poverty and became luxury.

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At some point the mass of people stopped being over-worked and became idle; at some point they stopped starving and being thin or began overeating and becoming obese; at some point they stopped having too few amusements and began spending most of their time on amusements; at some point poverty stopped being austere and became self-indulgent (tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, life as psychodrama); at some point people stopped having nothing to do and found that they could not escape the relentless distractions...

At some point ugliness became a vast and tidal force, fashion became an imperative, the mass media came to define reality - we saw our own lives and the world through ideological lenses.

- But when?

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In the USA it was earlier than in the UK; but in England it was about the mid 1960s.

But I recall in the early 1970s when I realized that the Old Left world view I had imbibed from William Morris, Bernard Shaw and the early socialists had gone.

I always supposed that when people had enough, they would be satisfied with enough, and not want more and ever more, and would move onto higher things.

I assumed that people would be satiated with food, toys, fashion, holidays, news, sports, pop music, gossip about remote or imagined stuff - yet these are ever more dominant.

I hoped that people would flip from consuming and amusing, to conserving, creating, appreciating'; would recognize the dead end of materialism and would spontaneously become more spiritual.

Ha!

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There has indeed been recognition of this within mainstream culture, since the Beats of the 1950s, then the Hippies of the 1960s, then the beginnings of the Small is Beautiful/ ecology/ Green movement in the 1970s...

But this movement has been incorporated into consumption on the one hand (consuming ever more Green products and ideas) and New Leftism on the other hand (the soul destroying corruptions of political correctness - and the intrinsic dishonesty of that world view).

Thus this impulse has been ineffectual because - even when utterly sincere - it has joined with Leftism and been assimilated to modernity.

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Leftism is nihilism; and destroys whatever it incorporates; and by now the Left is so large and inclusive and its propaganda so relentless and universal that people have lost the ability to comprehend any alternative. Thus they are trapped.

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Yet, this movement of thought which we see so perverted and made counter-productive and corrupted to evil in the modern 'Green' movement, is based-on a good impulse and recognition and aspiration - to live in a world where Nature is regarded with reverence and Natural Things are treasured: a world where water, trees and landscapes are loved.

Leftism intrinsically and necessarily perverts and inverts all this - if not immediately then sooner or later (usually sooner).

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The craving for Nature is a reactionary impulse that can only be defended and lived by in a reactionary context and will be perverted by and form or taint of Leftism, progressivism, modernism; a yearning for The Natural is a world view which is rooted in respect-for-tradition, the ancient, the existing; instead of belief in progress, the new, the future...

If all the goodness and wholesomeness of the world is not to be destroyed incrementally, then there must be a world view which regards the spontaneous and universal and old by assumption (an assumption which can be overturned in specific instances, but is nonetheless the assumption), superior to the contrived, local and recent.

That is the only foundation upon which we may build. Anything built upon Leftism will collapse due to lack of foundations, if not swiftly demolished and replaced by something 'better'.

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9 comments:

Matias F. said...

Panajotis Kondylis in "Der Niedergang der b├╝rgerlichen Denk- und Lebensform" wrote that the Hippie movement advanced consumerism, because they embraced irrationalism, thought that a natural way of life means a pursuit of emotional self-fulfilment.

One could also say that the Green movement represents the last stage of the development of Cartesian metaphysics / nihilism as Heidegger has analysed it. The "ego cogito" / will to power realises its own will to power as a destructive force and seeks to preserve the world by estinguishing the will to power. That's why the Green movement is specifically anti-Western male.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MF -I'm not sure what age you are, but I was a teen in 1973-4 when what is now the 'Green' movement got going - and from my perspective it was mostly EF Schumacher, who was initially a Buddhist but soon became a very traditionalist Roman Catholic convert and spawned the modern RC neo-distributism of Joseph Pearce.

The other figure for me was John Seymour with his 'self-sufficiency' books - who began as a William Cobbett figure but soon became assimilated to Leftism.

Both Schumacher and Seymour seem to have (ahem) embraced the sexual revolution whenever the opportunity arose; I am not sure whether Sch repudiated this behaviour at the end or not.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

… the modern 'Green' movement, is based-on a good impulse … to live in a world where Nature is regarded with reverence and Natural Things are treasured…
…The craving for Nature is a reactionary impulse…


Naturalism is not based on a good impulse, nor is it reactionary; it goes along human appetites deformed by our fallen nature. Respect of nature can come only from reverence to its Author. It was certainly not the case for Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, who was, among other things, a predecessor of the sexual revolution.

1 to 1 said...

The most obvious reason it will never be enough is that almost all consumption is done in the pursuit of status, power, and sex.

However, status, power, and sex are not goods we can make more of. They don't increase with GDP. Their distribution, while not necessarily pure zero sum (I think some societies do a better job with this) are certainly not limitless and never seem to change that much. As such whatever level of material good can be produced will always go back into competing for those three social goods.

Only by solving the status, power, and sex competition can you solve the material competition. That's why its a social/spiritual/religious problem and not an economic problem. It's why things like monogomous marraige, which ratchet down the competition for sex, are attempts to address this.

Brett Stevens said...

I don't think the situation has changed, except for technology.

In the West, our peasants have always been among the wealthiest peasants on earth. Thanks to an organized society and the rule of kings, they were the healthiest and longest-lived, too.

With technology, there are more luxuries because it's cheaper for us to make these things. However, we're all probably living at the same levels, except for the influence of the socialist entitlement state, of course.

The point is that all the groans of the proles were always lies. The French Revolution was a lie, the civil rights struggle was a lie, the Red revolution was a lie, just as all of leftism was a lie.

As a nihilist, I can't compare leftism to nihilism. Nihilism is ultimate realism that recognizes nothing is inherent. Leftism presupposes an inherency and in fact an inherent primacy to human judgments, feelings and desires, which are the least stable (and most monkey) parts of humanity.

Worship of the past is, as with all things conservatism, derived from the Platonic ideals: goodness, truth and beauty (notice for the informed observer: these are vectors of description to the same ideal). If those out there take mythic imagination and relativity seriously at the same time, they will realize the futility of inherency, and the essential power of creativity as primary in our quest for reconciling nihilism with a belief in optimums (optima?) such as truth, goodness and beauty.

Leftism is not by itself an ideology. It is a reaction to the logicality of conservatism, which is not inherently logical like continuing to breathe, but more threateningly, always represents a better choice that is possible if people just stop being silly, distracted, narcissistic, and otherwise misdirected from reality. For that reason it threatens them, and they wish to destroy it.

Matias F. said...

I was inaccurate when I wrote the Green movement, I meant ecological awareness in general, which I believe started from the top, i.e. Rockefeller Foundation, United Nations, Club of Rome etc. and then proceeded downwards in society. The elite has pushed a message of impending doom since the late 1960's, be it due to overpopulation, running out of resources or climate change.

Those that become lovers of Nature for personal reasons usually imbibe the metaphysics of liberalism sooner or later, because it is being pushed by the media and seems to be concerned about the same things.

JP said...

I always supposed that when people had enough, they would be satisfied with enough, and not want more and ever more, and would move onto higher things.

FDR announced "Freedom From Want" as an objective in 1941. Even at the time it was recognized that achieving this was impossible, as wants are limitless while resources are limited. The goal is, accordingly, evil.

this movement of thought which we see so perverted and made counter-productive and corrupted to evil in the modern 'Green' movement, is based-on a good impulse and recognition and aspiration

What happened to "don't give them credit for good intentions"?

Only half kidding...

dearieme said...

In the USA it was earlier than in the UK; but in England it was about the mid 1960s.

So it wasn't (just) the welfare state - perhaps the universality of TV with multiple channels, after some lag as children grow?

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP "What happened to "don't give them credit for good intentions"?"

I wasn't crediting the intentions, but the motivations.