Thursday, 20 August 2009

On Failing to Observe the Rules of Decadence

For the last hundred years or so, but particularly for the last forty, many of the bourgeoisie have spent much of their time in the weird attempt to shock or unsettle one another by unseemliness against old rules. Naturally, after so long, one cannot expect that the class as a whole would be anything but inured to the basest improprieties. Even so, most are still easy to shock. One cannot do so by producing ever more revolting or decadent works, or by striking against tradition, good manners or civility; for their instincts are for decline and destruction which they misapprehend by some perversion of the moral sense as progress and liberty. It is only that which strikes against those instincts which shocks them. Everything else is a thrill wherein to indulge. It is the highest things which fill them with loathing. They are pious observers of new rules.
“A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He’ll beat you all at piety.” [1]
All one need do is say quite innocently something truly right-wing or reactionary. All one need do is say something sane, something which almost every man and woman in every age but our own would have held as sensible and good, something which promotes order, authority, hierarchy, stricture, or familial, racial or cultural preservation — anything, in short, which does not tolerate, or celebrate as a moral imperative, the destruction of these things. [2] Soon enough, one will find that one is no longer welcome at dinner-parties. Still, every struggle, no matter how bitter, has its sweet consolations.

[1] Samuel Johnson, as quoted by James Boswell, 10th June 1784, Life of Johnson, ed., R.W. Chapman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.1289.
[2] Actually this seems to be the case only amongst most of the white bourgeoisie. Even the plight of the red squirrel may exercise their considerations, whilst the dwindling of their own people, and the destruction of their own ancestral homelands, concerns them not at all.

4 comments:

James Higham said...

One cannot do so by producing ever more revolting or decadent works, or by striking against tradition, good manners or civility

Aretino did.

Anonymous said...

"Actually this seems to be the case only amongst most of the white bourgeoisie."

That belonged in the body of the post, and not just in a footnote.

bgc said...

@ Footnote [2]

Another unfolding tragedy - bravely highlighted by that master of SWPL self-loathing: Feargal Keane - is the tragic plight of the Sea Bass.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/sea-bass-the-latest-fashion-in-ecological-genocide-709715.html

Deogolwulf said...

Mr Higham, Aretino who died in 1410?

Anon., perhaps.

Dr Charlton, "ecological genocide"! Drawing inspiration from the journalistic war on language and thought, I should like to be the first to coin the phrases "zoological regicide" and "entomological homicide".