Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Decadence | 2

Britain today is incredibly decadent. In the UK today we have a massive, and growing, gap between the richest and poorest in our society. We have a serious mental health problem among adults, and our children enjoy the worst emotional health of children in any ‘developed’ nation. We are marked by self-indulgence and despair. And the financial system that has funded this decadence is starting to give way beneath our feet, opening up a sinkhole that may yet suck the whole decadent society into it…

I’m not talking about ‘people out there.’ I’m talking about people like me. I’m talking about me: I am, by default, decadent. As an adult, I have now spent nine years in further education, very little of the cost of which I have incurred myself. I have travelled all over the world, not as a soldier or as a merchant, but as a tourist, as someone on journeys of discovery and self-discovery – something that, until very recently, only the aristocracy did. I believe I have the right to be entertained – by musicians, actors, by Saturday night TV (which is, incidentally, the direct descendant of the dance hall variety show, combining our desire for titillation with our disgust of our fellow man that causes us to withdraw to the privacy of our own living room) – to all of whom we act as collective patron. And the entertainment I use to distract me from life, and let’s be honest it is hardly satisfying entertainment, is increasingly self-referential: the move from rock stars and actors as celebrities to people who are famous simply for being famous; TV shows that show clips or outtakes from other shows; endless award ceremonies (nothing wrong with recognising talent, but do we have to show these occasions on TV?); ‘reality’ (instant fame) shows…

I’m not anti-education, anti-travel, anti-entertainment: all these things, and many more aspects of the decadent society, can be very good. I’m not a miserable Puritan. But I do believe we have got things way out of balance.

Decadence is not ‘out there’ – it is ‘in here.’ And the question is not, ‘am I decadent?’ but, ‘will I choose to be one of the counter-cultural few who steps out of decadence to model a different way of living together as community?’

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