Decadence: or Modern Life
August 21, 2015 14 Comments
When I was young, all around me I could hear adults saying, “You can’t buy happiness.” often with a humorous dependent clause, to elicit a rueful chuckle. But in the main, we knew and believed it.
But it seems to me, many do believe it now. I knew when I was 5 and drooling over the Sears Christmas catalog, that nothing in there, on its own, was going to keep me happy long. The same is true now, as I drool over the Snap-on catalog or the Aston-Martin brochure. Some things would, did, and do fire my imagination, for me it was electric trains, and Tonka trucks, they let me imitate the world of men (sorry ladies, you didn’t have much role in my 5-year-old imagination). But, perhaps strangely, I never liked equipment with figures on it: the operators seat was where my imagination sat. That may be unique to me, but I doubt it.
But I grew up in a pretty traditional family, and in a rural area to boot. It was entirely conceivable to tell me, after breakfast, to go play, I’ll call you for lunch, and it was done, often. That left me open to learning things, by experiment, by reasoning through things, to use my imagination, unfettered. I have no clue how many times I single-handedly won World War II in Indiana, but it was certainly in triple digits. The same with roads and power lines built, and crops brought in.
So we are going to have a series, I don’t know how long, or whether it will be continuous, or not. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to investigate how we came to believe that so very novel idea, that we can buy happiness. In many ways, the last two posts here have been a sort of prologue, documenting how our (mostly) young people have gotten themselves into trouble, today we’ll start looking at the causes. I don’t agree with all the specifics here, but he touches on many truths that we need to heed. So listen up, and we’ll start on our mission because we can’t fix it till we define the problem.
Kipling reminds us:
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!