Saturday, 12 March 2016

What is the evidence that people despair in The West?

Two bits of evidence came to mind while thinking about Richard Adams's great fantasy novel Watership Down (1972) - the one about rabbits. If you have not yet read it: you should give it a try: I will try to avoid spoilers.

During their adventures, the heroes come across two contrasting dystopias: Cowslip's Warren, which superficially seems like a hedonic, lotus-eater's paradise; and Efrafa which embodies military virtue of courage, loyalty and organization.

But although both warrens have good qualities, each has a sign that something is very wrong, and indeed intolerably, fatally wrong - and these are signs we see in the modern West.

In Cowslip's Warren the 'poet' rabbit is a kind of degenerate who tells 'decadent' stories of despair, paradox, unattainable yearning, the beauty of horror - and the traditional encouraging stories of the rabbit's trickster-god El-Ahrairah are regarded by the Warren with embarrassment as being childish, simplistic, outdated.

Something is deeply wrong when the creative artists communicate inversions of the Good.

And in Efrafa, for all the efficiency and technical capability, the does (female rabbits) have stopped reproducing (by reabsorbing their kittens): a sign of their profound stress and despair.

I feel this way about our civilization. Our most admired and accomplished art is despairing, our women have (all but) stopped reproducing.

Whatever else is happening is pretty much irrelevant: these signs indicate extreme, underlying despair - which despair is what underpins our self-hatred, our inability to defend our values, the active but denied pursuit of cultural suicide.

Addressing this despair, and replacing it with hope, is the prime task.