Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Why Our Culture Is Declining

As a culture, we've moved from admiring a poem by Shakespeare, John Donne, or George Herbert to admiring (if that's the right word for it) scantily clad young women shaking their body parts while singing quasi-melodious songs with lyrics that push the definition of superficial banality to new depths. Why, you ask, is this so? What has caused this? Several factors are at work in a perfect storm.

First, there is the human desire for constant novelty, exacerbated by the supply of constant novelty. Lots of leisure time has turned us (especially the young who seem to have lots of leisure time) into a culture of entertainment. In the entertainment economy, there is a constant flow of entertainment, that, however derivative, needs to continue to demand attention. In the attention economy, ever more surprising, shocking, amazing things must be included in the entertainment package so that people will pay attention to the next new thing instead of the competition's next new thing. Thus does the stunt ratchet get constantly cranked up. One movie blows up a car. The next movie blows up three cars. The next movie blows up a building. The next movie blows up a town. And so on.

That's how we got from a young woman singer holding a microphone twenty years ago to a naked young woman singer swinging on a wrecking ball today.  What was surprising yesterday is soporific today. What was shocking yesterday is cliche today. So, in order to maintain a shock value to get attention, ever more exaggerated, low brow events must be staged. We're already passing by vile and detestable into regions that have no words for them.