Furthest Right

The center cannot hold

When people talk fondly about getting back to basics, they almost always mean the basics of the individual. The searching for wants, desires and sensations.

As we watch the UK and USA come apart in this week’s latest round of hybridized theft and protest, we should get back to basics and ask ourselves: what is the center that holds us together as civilizations?

The UK is a civilization; so is the USA (in fact, it is two: a rural-suburban axis and an urban fringe). Each civilization has some notion that holds it together.

These notions are either organic or administrative. Organic means they arise from the character of the population itself; birds of a feather flock together. If that is not present, the administrative state creates a political culture and imposes it on the population.

The last four decades of preaching liberals have tried to convince us that organic culture is oppression. As we see now, the lack of organic culture is oppressive. Without an identity, society falls into commerce, individual selfishness, and the lowest common denominator.

If preventing further looting is our aim, then as well as addressing the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, I’d take a long hard look at MTV Cribs and similar TV shows that routinely confuse human achievement with the mindless acquisition of gaudy bling bullshit. The media heaves with propaganda promoting sensation and consumption above all else.

Back in the 80s the pioneering aspirational soap opera Dallas dangled an unattainable billionaire lifestyle in front of millions, but at least had the nous to make the Ewing family miserable and consumed with self-loathing. At the same time, shows aimed at kids were full of presenters cheerfully making puppets out of old yoghurt pots, while shows aimed at teens largely depicted cheeky urchins copping off with each other in the dole queue. Today, whenever my world-weary eyes alight on a “youth show” it merely resembles a glossily edited advert for celebrity lifestyles, co-starring a jet-ski and a tower of gold. And regardless of the time slot, every other commercial shrieks that I deserve the best of everything. I and I alone. I’d gladly introduce a law requiring broadcasters to show five minutes of footage of a rich man dying alone for every 10 minutes of fevered avarice. – The Guardian

Without culture, what do we have to look toward — besides ourselves, I mean. Nothing: we are islands unto ourselves, in a sea of meaningless and anonymous people with whom we have nothing in common. With some we might be friends, but those are relationships of convenience. We are alone.

At that point, culture becomes a corporate product — and corporations serve the broadest audience, which means the lowest common denominator, because in the absence of culture, profit motive is all that corporations can have. They can’t defer to community norms or contemporary standards.

Like our societies themselves, culture reflects our outlook. If we have nothing in common but money, we grow at an absurd rate and displace things that perhaps we need. The result is that lowest common denominator becoming a permanent condition.

Cameron Sinclair, who runs the non-profit design firm Architecture for Humanity, goes further. “A slum is a resilient urban animal. You cannot pry it away,” he tells me. “It’s like a good parasite. There are some parasites that attack the body and you have to get rid of them but, within the city, the informal settlement is a parasite that acts in harmony with the city, keeps it in check.”

Sinclair, whose organisation has upgraded slums in Brazil, Kenya and South Africa, believes that modern city design should not only tolerate slums but learn from them – and even emulate them. “To be honest, what we lack in a place like London is that the lower classes can’t live in central London and have to commute for two and a half hours to do the jobs that keep people going.”

What has driven the new thinking is ugly economic facts. After the 1970s, there was a sharp slowdown in the provision of social housing. The free-market revolution in the cities has led to the retreat of state provision, the rise of the informal economy and the rapid impoverishment of the rural poor. As a result, we are having to ask ourselves a question that would have made the 19th-century fathers of city planning shudder: do we have to learn to live with slums for ever? – New Statesman

What we are seeing with the rise of slums is analogous to what we see in the UK and USA with the rise of slum culture: a permanent underclass that identifies not with rising above its condition, but finding an identity in its condition. Without the identity provided by culture, a weird mix of consumerism and victimhood takes over.

This pseudo-culture — seen in America through gangsta rap, in the UK through chavs and laddism, in mainland Europe through Muslim defiance — represents the aggregate of a failure of culture. With multiculturalism, there is no dominant culture, therefore culture must be faked.

The result favors commerce and novelty, but little else, and traps kids without role models or any concept of future besides what they own, what personal drama they’re engaging in, and what entertainment they are consuming — commerce has literally replaced their value systems.

I spent the spring this year talking with 120 young Londoners for our study Youth in Transition. We followed these 16-24 year olds shopping, chatting, out with their friends and online.

The study revealed two opposing forces which create a potent cocktail of pressures. On the one hand, youth horizons are raised through an increasingly pervasive social media. On the other, their real-life opportunities are reducing.

Our young participants felt a relentless pressure to have and spend money. They aspire to affluence and believe everyone can be – should be – successful.

Talent TV shows and rags-to-riches stories have fuelled this cultural idea over years. But social media has recently changed the game. Young people now have two-way relationships with the affluent and famous. Instead of watching exotic celebrities from afar, they can speak personally with their idols on Twitter and hear about every detail of their daily lives. Publicists tweet on behalf of their famous clients, plugging albums, shows and luxury brands. The result is to normalise fame and fortune. Young people compare themselves with the most successful, thinking if everyone is rich and famous, why am I still poor and unknown? – The Independent

Social factors — including social media, entertainment, peers and commerce — replace what culture once regulated.

Where culture, which is inherently conservative, points people toward a goal, social factors point people only toward personal drama, desires, emotions, feelings and sensations.

As a result, they become an intersection of narcissism and narrow self-interest that makes them oblivious to the existence of others or consequences of their own actions.

That, in addition to prolonged ethnic tensions brought about by the ongoing failure of Western liberal multiculturalism, creates the perfect storm for riots.

This is why we see riots, flash mobs, mass thefts and other racially-tinged misbehavior on both continents: a lack of culture, leaving only the selfish individual and his or her resentment of the majority.

In Europe, the harbinger of the new century came a half-decade ago when North African youths in the Paris banlieues went on a days-long rampage of firebombing cars and attacking police and firemen, many of whom drove off and let the fires burn out.

This week, it was London’s turn. And when the fires burn out, we shall hear anew the old liberal litany about poverty, despair, inequality and unemployment, the excuses that long ago ceased to persuade.

For poverty existed in far greater measure in the Depression. Yet our parents and grandparents did not form mobs to burn, beat and loot.

The West is in decline because the character of its people is in decline. In Europe, Christianity is dead. The moral code it gave men to live righteously is regarded with mockery. The London riots were the work of moral barbarians with no loyalty to the people in whose midst they live and no love for the society to which they give nothing, only take. – VDARE

Let us not make the mistake of assuming that all rioters were minorities; they were not. Ethnic tension kicked open the door, and culturelessness did the rest.

Pat Buchanan’s comment above points out the obvious that few want to see. Our culture is being held hostage by moral barbarians, but we manufactured these moral barbarians by ignoring the need for culture, and for attention paid to the consequences of individual actions.

The only path is one of increased resentment, amplified by a lack of cultural context in which to place our relative positions in life. When we are all “equal,” all that matters is how much we have.

With this decade’s spread of the Internet, cell phones, and social media, people everywhere have come to know about the lifestyles of the richest of the rich, both domestic and international, and to compare themselves to them. What Marshall McLuhan famously termed the “global village” has come to pass. Carol Graham, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Stefano Pettinato from United Nations Development Program, have shown that it is not only the global poor who increasingly feel left behind, but also what she termed “the frustrated achievers” — those who have done well in real terms but feel deprived because others have done even better. According to Graham, the more the frustrated achievers knew about those who did better, the worse they felt about themselves.

China is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon today. While China’s overall living standards have improved massively in recent decades, World Values Survey data show an equally large decline in life satisfaction. Researchers credit this unhappiness to ballooning income differences, especially as ostentatious consumption has became more visible.

The current process of globalization is not much different from what happened in the 1700s and 1800s, when nation-states in Europe were born of disparate villages and townships that had previously been ignorant of the lifestyles of their neighbors. Political consolidation, improved transportation, and greater contact made the differences between people much more obvious. It was often unhappiness resulting from the knowledge of these differences that forced governments to try to reduce the gaps between classes and regions — that is why French aristocrats lost all their feudal rights during the revolution, and Giuseppe Mazzini’s Italy tried to “Italianize” the Mezzogiorno. – Foreign Affairs

In the 1700s, the proles united to form the first liberal movements in the West, and embarked on a reign of murder, rape, torture and theft in France which saw no equal until the Russian revolution a century later.

Wherever leftists go, the criminality goes, because leftism is the insane mentality of these rioters and flash mobbers. Dispossessed of culture, of hereditary role, and thus of purpose in life, they have nothing except a void within themselves that they must stuff with shiny gadgets, sensations and “activities.”

Those “activities” include rioting, raping, thieving and vandalizing, whenever they can.

Police departments in several cities around the country are investigating what appear to be incidents of “flash mob”-generated violence, in which packs of dozens or even hundreds of youths appear seemingly out of nowhere to commit assaults, robberies and other crimes against innocent bystanders.

The motive and circumstances surrounding the attacks that have resulted in numerous arrests around the country are being investigated — and law enforcement officials in at least one city are looking into a possible racial component to the crimes. – Fox News

The West is at a turning point. We cannot keep pandering to the dispossessed mentality and the victimhood it preaches. We must take a stand: do we wish to rise above? — then we need a social standard and values system in common, and thus we must do away with pluralism, relativism and multiculturalism.

Or do we wish to keep mucking about in the same failing mess? — if so, by all means continue the liberalism.

As the polluted flood (it is not a tide; it will not go back down again) of spite, greed and violence washes on to their very doorsteps, well-off and influential Left-wingers at last meet the filthy thing they have created, and which they ignored when it did not affect them personally.

No doubt they will find ways to save themselves. But they will not save the country. Because even now they will not admit that all their ideas are wrong, and that the policies of the past 50 years – the policies they love – have been a terrible mistake. I have heard them in the past few days clinging to their old excuses of non-existent ‘poverty’ and ‘exclusion’.

Take our Prime Minister, who is once again defrauding far too many people. He uses his expensive voice, his expensive clothes, his well-learned tone of public-school command, to give the impression of being an effective and decisive person. But it is all false. He has no real idea of what to do. He thinks the actual solutions to the problem are ‘fascist’. Deep down, he still wants to ‘understand’ the hoodies.

Say to him that naughty children should be smacked at home and caned in school, that the police (and responsible adults) should be free to wallop louts and vandals caught in the act, that the police should return to preventive foot patrols, that prisons should be austere places of hard work, plain food and discipline without TV sets or semi-licit drugs, and that wrongdoers should be sent to them when they first take to crime, not when they are already habitual crooks, and he will throw up his well-tailored arms in horror at your barbarity. – “Police water cannon and plastic bullets? After 50 years of the most lavish welfare state on earth? What an abject failure,” by Peter Hitchens

The center cannot hold because what we have for a “center” now is not a center at all, but a series of roles designed to keep radically different people cooperating (barely) with one another. That idea is the cornerstone of liberalism, and in these continuing riots, we are seeing its failure.

As the politicians scramble to invent new lies to cover their failings, we need to ask ourselves: what kind of future do we want? A cultureless void in which we have absolute freedom and equality, at the price of having an unstable society where most people are aimless, or a purposeful society where we trade some freedom for a sense of meaning?

Liberalism has worked tirelessly since 1789 to destroy the center. It wants to adulterate it with immigrate, discredit it with deconstruction, replace it with ersatz (and simplified) replicas, criminalize it with political correctness, and destroy it through equality and the notion of absolute individual “freedom.”

The result is that our society has gone from being a forward-thinking, reality-driven and constructive place, to being an inward-looking and horrible place that chooses what is popular over what is real.

If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.

It is no secret, especially here in America, that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors, and perhaps even in society generally, to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy. While we continue to make giant technological advances, we may be the first generation to have turned back the epochal clock — to have gone backward intellectually from advanced modes of thinking into old modes of belief.- NYT

The New York Times almost gets it right: we have not gone “back to” older modes of belief, but we have substituted new versions. New, cheaper, simpler, less functional versions.

Instead of complex theologies, we have New Age palaver. Instead of political thinking, we have pandering. Instead of innovation, we have better product design. We are going nowhere.

All of this originates in a single decision — our desire to remove the most basic of all requirements, a center and shared values to our civilization. If the new fake center is not holding, it is only to be expected.

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