Thursday 2 May 2013

Modern life - since the sexual revolution = dating and careers


'Modern Life' as it is portrayed in the mass media - in innumerable novels, movies, TV shows and commentaries - is depicted as essentially a matter of dating and careers.

In fact, the 'work' side is usually left-out (unless it is 'cool'); and life is a matter of dating - and dating is a matter of sex; albeit much is made of the delay between dating and sex - presumably this makes for a good plot.

(Indeed, the effectiveness of this narrative constraint of delay, plus the attractions of a successful career, are perhaps the only things that stand between modern culture and the explicit propagation of a radically-simplified view of modern life as sex, sex and then more sex - and the narrative complications this leads to.)


But my point is that this is the implicit world view of mainstream modernity.

As a child or teen looks ahead: that is what they see, that is what is in prospect. They see a career - education, training, jobs - and they see the prospect of dating a string of (hopefully) appealing folk.

That Is Life.


This is the primary triumph of the Left - to have excluded marriage and the family from the mainstream depictions of Modern Life.

Now, marriage and family must fight for a niche in the framework set by the primary demand for education-work and for serial dating.

Depictions and advocacy of marriage and family nowadays are required to justify the abandonment of the primary lifestyle narrative of modernity.


This is a tall order!

Essentially it means that if marriage and family are to be depicted positively, desirably, in mainstream culture, they must be portrayed as providing a superior form of the kind of life characterized by careers and dating.

That is, since a life based around work and dating seems to offer (from the teenage vantage point) progress and stimulation, prestige and excitement, self-esteem and strong emotions yet with an escape clause (you can always quit the job, quit the relationship, move somewhere else - this providing the pornographic appeal of 'travel' to the modern mind) - therefore marriage and family must also be presented as providing similar 'goods' to the work and dating lifestyle - while also retaining the escape clause.

Which is exactly how marriage and family are generally depicted - a mainstream trope is about people escaping marriage and family - because they fail to live-up-to the standards of a life based on dating and career - and re-entering the mainstream of a modern life focused on career-progess and serial dating.


Things keep moving; and for the elites the depiction of marriage and family as the primary lifestyle path is now regarded not just as dull and stultifying (which was the attitude of avant garde intellectual Leftism from the late 19th century, becoming dominant and mainstream from the mid-1960s) - but wrong.

So positive depictions of, and advocacy for, a life based on the expectations and hope of marriage and family, are increasingly regarded as actively evil, and these must be prevented and punished.


But what a bleak, empty, nihilistic and despair-inducing prospect of life it is - this dating and work scenario!

It is the kind of thing which could only satisfy a person as a life-plan in that most deranged and impatient period of youth; and even then only for a few years at most.

After which it is an infallible recipe for despair and hysterical distraction-seeking, for suicidal-tending hopelessness on a mass scale...

Which (looking around) is precisely the effect it is having - and this was (no doubt) the intended effect all along.



Daybreaker said...

"Dating" isn't just about sex, it's also about status displays and competition. "Career" in meaningless but hopefully "glamorous" high-status jobs is even more so.

Political correctness' shaming weapon is devastating against people whose idea of "modern life" - their life - is a status competition fought within modern rules.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - ""Dating" isn't just about sex, it's also about status displays and competition."

True, but then sex isn't just about biology, is it?

Daybreaker said...

True, but then sex isn't just about biology, is it?
That's very true.

Matthew C. said...

So true. So sad.

JP said...

"Dating" isn't just about sex, it's also about status displays and competition.

The purpose of the status displays and competition is... to get sex (more of it, with richer / younger / better looking people).

So yeah, it is all about sex.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - but it is certainly not 'all about' sex as pistons and cylinders - it is 'all about' sex 'in the head' - the fantasy of sex (and its pursuit) as The Answer, as totalizing absorption, cure, gratification, obliteration of angst and despair - sex in a DH Lawrence kind of way as an imagined, potential, possible *salvation*. And sex in this form may entail, in practice, zero (or near zero) sex in a biological sense.

JP said...

That's way too much work for too little payoff. I'd rather stay home and read a book. =D

Imnobody said...

But what a bleak, empty, nihilistic and despair-inducing prospect of life it is - this dating and work scenario!

Indeed. Great post.

George Goerlich said...

So sex as salvation is the focus of modern life, but a wholly modern version of sex separated from any higher purpose (family, reproduction, love, spiritual union).

Modern life, democracy, all of it is about leveling, tearing-down, a great flattening of all things to the meaningless and utterly material horizontal plane of life.

The Crow said...

In days past, there was no information beyond one's immediate environs. Now with TV and internet, anything is available to anyone, anywhere.

Samson J. said...

So it follows that simply teaching one's children - and perhaps the other neighbourhood kids! - the value of family is quite a reactionary thing to do. Well, that's easy, then. Any of us can be lights to our communities in this way.

I don't know, it's awfully hard to understand for me, as I always wanted a family just like the one I grew up in. And I certainly never looked forward to a "career" as a teenager, though I did want to be a rock star which I suppose in retrospect was really about sex.

Daybreaker said...

George Goerlich: "So sex as salvation is the focus of modern life, but a wholly modern version of sex separated from any higher purpose (family, reproduction, love, spiritual union)."

So modern "salvation" is purely individual and temporary.

For the people targeted for this propaganda, there is neither a tribe / race / nation / special people to be the subject of a continuing salvation story, as in the Old Testament, nor an afterlife focus, as in the New Testament. There is fleeting pleasurable distraction, and then (painless) annihilation.

It is a tremendous hostile achievement to make people live like this.

Or more truly, die like this - collectively and totally, without meaning and dignity in death or the loyal memory of future generations.

Daybreaker said...

Bruce thinks the counter-force to that propaganda has to be religion.

He's got a point. The modern life we are being sold on is unappealing from two religious points of view.

The more common and successful Western religious viewpoint that must clash with modern life is that of orthodox / traditional Christianity. That is because traditional Christianity appeals to a hunger for individual salvation through an afterlife, and reasonably insists that salvation in an afterlife has to be well-founded, that is, founded in the saving power of Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead. "Modern" life has no convincing alternative way to rationalize an afterlife.

There is another form of hunger for salvation which has been a minority taste in the West, and that is the demand for collective, communal salvation. That asks not "how can I be saved?" but "how can we be saved?" (That is, as a continuing people.)

From that point of view (which again, will have less mass appeal than the individual salvation perspective, particularly when collective identities are being destroyed and scrambled), "modern" life is also appalling.

The only good side is if you are not of the people that "modern" life is directed to. If that happens to your enemies and not to you, good. And "modern" life may not be directed at you, because political correctness includes lots of favored identities that are acknowledged to have continuing spiritual validity and a right to a future. Why it would be racist to doubt it!

To be in the demographic targeted for spiritual and demographic annihilation, and to have that Old Testament type of hunger for communal salvation, and to see it being given to every group but yours, and to see your people buying this and dying out, and being corrupted and displaced and replaced by anyone-but-your-kind is despair piled in despair. It is not acceptable. It is not something one can come to peace with.

Daybreaker said...

I think "dating and career" propaganda is deadly in a physical as well as a communal and spiritual sense, because it's sold to young women (who are privileged by the PC educational system and workplace Affirmative Action) and is most workable and plausible for them during their most fertile years, the years where they ought to be married and having babies.

We're talking as though people will never work out how they've been lied to, and generally that's true, or (what comes to the same thing) they will never be able to face how they were led into a dead end, and will try to bluff their way through, somehow, even into death.

But some women will at least partly realize they were lied to, because biology will slap them in the face.

A women continuing "dating" at 40+ is in a different situation. Nature has made men more attracted to women in a fertile age range. The competition from the young is too good, and the "sexual marketplace value" of the woman "having it all" declines. At the same time, there is no more room for these women to kid themselves that they haven't given up on motherhood. They have; it's a done deal.

So many women will realize at least partly that they bought a lie and committed to a life that was a futile, meaningless dead end. There will follow several decades of life in which nothing can be done. The error was irreparable.

Daybreaker said...

I think what women ought to do with their remaining decades if they realized they have swallowed a lie and missed out on motherhood is to come as near to biologically natural motherhood as they can.

The ideal would be to help raise the children of an identical twin sister, but if that's not possible then any sister, or a brother, or a cousin, or children of one's own race.

Political correctness does everything it can to make that hard, by encouraging smaller families, breaking up kinship networks, and by demonizing "racism" for whites. (While selling "proud race" propaganda to non-whites, even in the churches.)

And of course, anti-Christian propaganda, disparaging the only reasonable rational for hope beyond the lonely grave, is also pervasive, cruel and relentless.

The politically correct do what they can to make the lonely, futile years as meaningless as possible.

I don't like it when people describe political correctness as being about compassion, even inept or misdirected compassion. It's not. It's about hate; just the hatred of intellectuals and mass media types who do their harm with theories and words, not with their own fists.

josh said...

Eureeka. What a great post.

asdf said...

The NYT had a fascinating article about weddings and marriage recently. They stated that getting married is no longer the beginning of a project, but a "capstone". Instead of building something together it comes after you've "won" at life (successful career, good apartment). Marriage becomes a way of saying, "I have achieved victory of dating, and will now date this person for the rest of my life."

I say date this person because that's exactly what it is. Prolonged dating. An attempt, as you point out, to "cling to joy". The woman wants to cling to a man that will stay with her when old and the man to a woman that will provide him with dating without all the work. Occasionally a kid neither sees much is thrown in there, but most can see this is just an extension of themselves/"death insurance".