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Decadence

Updated: Jun 19



“We must take urgent action to resolve Britain’s chastity crisis,” says nobody, ever. To speak about a “chastity crisis” makes about as much sense, as a concept, as “decadence”; if you mentioned it to someone in ordinary conversation today the term would be effectively meaningless and would have to be explained—and once explained nobody would understand why that could possibly matter. As with “treason”, “chastity” and “decadence” are non-concepts in a democracy: to be chaste, loyal, and vital constitutes anti-democratic elitism—for the democracy, these concepts do not exist.


Hence if you speak about “traitors” or “chastity” you sound like some peculiar man in a bow-tie called Edgar Chadwick III who hails from Capdickputt Port, Connecticut—has done since his people came over with William Penn—and aims for self-conscious anachronism; and perhaps refers to “the horror of that plumber who refused to use the tradesman’s entrance”. There is one exception for “decadence”—it can be used in adverts for artisanal chocolate mousse, the type aimed at harried legal professionals married to computer programmers. When they finally rendezvous from their overwork at their respective jobs they can sit down, at about 10 pm, to “decadent” chocolate mousse—courtesy M&S or Waitrose. Yet the “decadent chocolate mousse” is clearly ironic in its usage—there is no such thing as “decadence” really, just like there is no such thing as God; we can have a little hardy-ha at our chocolate mousse, our “naughtiness”—perhaps in extreme cases described as “sinful” and “devilish”, again in a strictly ironic sense.


I tend to not use “decadent” as an insult, mainly because I went through an excruciating period around seventeen when I called people, in full teen-Marxist outrage, “bourgeois decadents” (no, nobody knew what I meant then either)—in standard projection mode I was the decadent one in this case, hence I tend to be cautious about throwing the term around now. To take the concept at an angle: it used to be the case that the left spoke of “decadence”. Capitalism was decadent: the image projected was of fey in-bred aristocrats, corpulent factory owners, and enervated priests who needed to be swept away, preferable by a young muscle-bound worker—an end to “bourgeois decadence”, an end to the withered aristocrats and their discredited superstitious religion.


For a change, I will not delve into the etymology: decadence is pretty obvious when you think about it—obvious in the above image, the young worker versus the old establishment. Decadence: the decline and the decay—old-age, rot, corruption. The old wood needs to be cleared away as the seasons revolve: hence, the revolution—the turn of the wheel so the young can have their turn, away with the selfish oldsters who cling to life at the expense of the young.


You can imagine tea in an Edwardian drawing-room with, say, HG Wells sat with his legs astride a chair; and you can imagine the earnest sci-fi writer as he says: “This system is finished, not fit for purpose. Aristocrats! Church of England! Wigs everywhere! This is the modern age. What we want is a scientific government; we want young men, drawn from all classes as mediated by Galton’s theory of intelligence, to use the latest scientific discoveries to move us forward. This is the age of the telegraph, the electric light, and the aviator—we need scientific management of the economy, not the primitive anarchy of capitalism. We need socialism, we need eugenics—no superstitious Christian sentimentalism, no mystical nonsense: we need to end the decadence, this is not Victoria’s time anymore—we need socialism.”


In a notorious passage, the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky said that “if you abolished homosexuality, fascism would disappear”—the Marxist read was that fascism was the last gasp of the decadent capitalist system; and, as all good Victorians and Richard Nixon would tell you, homosexuality was what led to Rome’s downfall; ergo, Hitler’s bumboy, Ernst Röhm, with his pretty lads, epitomised capitalist decadence. The sentiment remained common on the left until at least the 1950s. The Labour historian AJP Taylor cheerfully reported in a best-selling general history of Britain published in the 1950s that once Labour abolished the public schools, the elite boarding schools, homosexuality would disappear—since this was where decadent bourgeois and aristocratic youths learned this most unproletarian vice. At the same time, Adorno, the “sinister cultural Marxist”, was disconcerted to see beefy rugger-buggers paired with effeminate girly-boys at Oxford; he saw in them the seeds for a new SA—in Adorno’s mind homosexuality, fascism, and decadence all converged.


I bring this up because, of course, what a contrast to the contemporary left. The contemporary left has almost abandoned “decadence”—and if you said to a contemporary progressive that LGBT was required to “tackle decadence under late capitalism” they would just look at you blankly: “I don’t have a problem, I’m chill.” However, the idea is not totally absent from the contemporary left; remember that May ’68, the event that still provides the general sensibility for the contemporary left, was all about the youth—and all my life (born in the mid-1980s) I have heard, in one form or another, about the need to canvass the yoof and address “youth issues”.


Youthfulness was, understandably, very important to the numerous Baby Boomers; they really saw off the last Victorians, the Victorian age lasted until 1963—if you look at pictures of the time there is a divide before which people wore suits and were buttoned-up and after which everyone dresses as they do today (i.e. in jeans and t-shirts). The Victorians had been under attack for decades, the shocktroops, men like Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, had made a dent—yet the era only truly ended around the mid-1960s. Philip Larkin: “Sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me)—between the end of the "Chatterley" ban and the Beatles' first LP.” Similarly, “the ‘60s” will only end in about 2063 when the last Boomers and their children die off, just as the last Victorians died off in their day—then there will be a night-and-day change into whatever current is now in gestation. A man in 2060 will more closely resemble a man in 1968 than he will resemble a man in 2068—in both dress and thought-mode.


So although the left never uses the term “decadence” today (too many syllables) they do celebrate the youth—and they do talk about “old white men”; they have given a particular racial complexion to their ideas about decadence, and the fact they use this rhetoric means that they understand demographics and the ageing of the West—although they cannot consciously admit to this, since as soon as you admit to demographics as a conscious factor you become right-wing by default; to think about demographics means to think biologically and cyclically—to think in a right-wing way.


How many white nationalists, the genuine self-conscious ones, have been created because they sat—slightly sick to the stomach—and flicked through Wikipedia statistics on racial breakdowns in Western cities or white birthrate charts from the Office of National Statistics? A great many. The left, since it lives by lies, knows these facts really—hence the rhetoric about “old white men who need to retire” versus “funky, vibrant, and fresh” minorities—but must keep them unconscious in order to operate; to admit the facts in the open turns you to the right by default—so the left must always look askance at demography and sneer, “Neo-Malthusian, social Darwinism—discredited pseudo-science.”


The left does still think that it represents the youth wave of the future against a decadent system. However, it has dropped the formal concept “decadence”, effectively redefined it to mean “the West itself”—and its commitment to egalitarianism means that even “decadence” is too elitist and old-fashioned; they also had to amputate it because the high Victorian notion of decadence, adumbrated by Richard Nixon, that decadence is about sexual licence in Ancient Rome proved to be too “judgemental” post-1968. The left thinks it represents the youth in the non-Western world who will soon arrive in the West to provide the new young generation. It is also, post-68, “libertarian” in the broad sense: freedom no longer means a vigorous factory hand who builds his future—“freedom” means “let it all hang out”; as my pet Boomers used to say to me, “Just chill out.” Relax, let yourself go—and yet if you think about it when you look at a forty-five-year-old and say “he really let himself go”, you have called him “decadent”.


There is a paradox here, since the West is not an old civilisation—she is the most youthful civilisation; the Jews and the Chinese (especially the bloody Chinese) will never stop telling you that they belong to 5,000-year-old civilisations. By contrast, the West is the baby civilisation—the young civilisation stuck in an old body. If we discount biology for a moment, we have to remember there is such a thing as an old soul in a young body and vice versa; hence CG Jung was literally “young” (Jung) and he retained this youthfulness into old age—he invoked Nietzsche’s idea that one should recover “the seriousness of a child at play”, the idea that youthfulness has a spiritual dimension that needs to be recovered later in life; and not in the sense that you become gullible, but in the sense that you abandon middle-age cynicism and build in a serious way—as a child on the beach is absorbed in his sandcastles.


The West still produces all the novelty in the world, even if it is the most biologically decrepit civilisation; the Jews and the Chinese parasite on Western innovation, and if their people innovate it is only because they depend on a Western context, a context that facilities individualism, to do so; although there are biological explanations for why this is the case, these are also ancient civilisations—clapped out, without new ideas.


So you could say the left has a hold on the crudest idea as regards virility: one based on age—on a youth cult. The problem for the right is somewhat different: at the civilisational level the West is young and with potential—yet due to various factors to do with its current developmental level, it has undermined its biological substratum. To me the answer lies in a return to what the West is: Greece—and Greece was about youth, beauty, and athleticism; and what is required is to reintroduce this forgotten primal outlook combined with the spiritual youthfulness exemplified in the “young old age” found in Nietzsche and Jung—and perhaps a young man in an old body will see the possibility to begin again in the West with a renewed biological substratum.











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