I think part of the problem with “culture” and understand “culture” is that we cram a bunch of stuff under that poor word.
Like when people say we need to “take back the culture” they mean arts, entertainment, news, the stories, however told and by whatever means, that tell a people what they are; inform each individual what they’re part of, and what role they’re expected to play in society. (Different for everyone, but narrative should play a part in telling us where we can find a role. Roles are important because the human mind compasses millennia, but human life is brief. Part of what is destroying us is that the left has taken away everything humans could with honor consider themselves part of and leave for the future.)
The left meanwhile thinks that culture is food, clothing, language and what kind of music you like to listen to, and quaint holiday celebrations. They then proclaim all cultures the same and all subsumed to the great socialist project, (Workers of the world amalgamate! If you like your quaint sheep eyeballs dish you can keep your quaint sheep eyeballs dish.) or you’re a racist, yo. In that last accusation there’s also the accusation that culture is genetic and cannot be changed. They are in a way right while being so wrong they’re not even wrong. Oh, and at the same time they claim trying to change what they conceive of as culture as being “racist” they try to change deep inlaid culture with governmental, top down regulations and incentives, in their deranged and destructive pursuit of creating the new socialist man. Because consistency happens to other people. Oh, and as people in the EU have found out, no, you can’t keep your quaint sheep eyeballs dish. Okay, I made up the sheep eyeballs, but the socialists of the EU have been almost as crazy in Portugal to the point that you’re now only allowed to celebrate the RELIGIOUS aspects of the Saints “festas” (which happen every weekend somewhere not far off, no matter where you are, from Spring to Fall and which used to be one of the binding points of any community.) and that only until the Covidiocy, of course. The little fairs that used to be held at the same time — since…. well, since written memory. I suspect it was going on before Christianity, for that matter. The fairs sold regional goods, there were booths serving local specialties, and there were toys sold at these fairs that I swear had been made by the same families since the middle ages. I’m willing to grant that roller coasters, little airplane rides, bumper cars and also cotton candy were of much more recent vintage, but I’d also bet you there were fun equivalents before then. And look you, I’m the first person to admit that much of what is traditional in Portugal could benefit from being rubbed down with (boiling) lysol, or at least that’s my kids’ opinion of it. But making the place characterless and bland is not in anyone’s best interest, and in my opinion is the cause of “people forgot how to make babies.” (More on that later.)
The problem of cultures is that though we know they change and adapt, we have no idea how to do that to them intentionally. The left THINKS they know how to do that, but they also think humans are infinitely plastic, so you now, they are, what is that word? Oh, yeah, idiots.
The other problem of cultures is that to study them you need accurate recordings done at least week to week, moment to moment being better, and you need to be able to catalogue all the influences on a given culture, and what caused it to go this way or that.
If we had a time machine, or at least a time scope, and also AIs with infinite time and patience, then sociology could become an actual science.
As is, we can study certain aspects of culture with relative clarity from a certain point on. Like, say, from the 1700s. Most of what we can study with no prejudice are physical and economic conditions. And even those, you have to cut through the modern interpretations, mostly Marxist and crazy and go back to the raw numbers. For instance, Dickens — and Marx — howled about the dark satanic mills, and people talk about how WWI destroyed the working class in Europe. But if you actually read contemporary records, or look at similar processes in the world now, you find that the industrial revolution lifted people out of the direst poverty and expanded their horizons, and that — you don’t have to go very far, read Agatha Christie — the complaints of the upper class about the lower classes post WWI is that those dang peasants were no longer willing to go into domestic service for a crust of bread and a corner of the kitchen to sleep in, but were scarpering to the city for factory and shop jobs. Which btw, is a complaint of the upper classes going back to the industrial revolution.
There’s other and more inescapable records: like the fact that people grew more, fatter babies to adulthood. And famines slowly vanished from the west unless brought on and caused by gross governmental malfeasance.
I mean, in historical terms, everyone has been fat, lazy and decadent since America’s settling, at least.
Look, part of why I object to that “good times makes soft men” is because…. How do you tell? No, seriously. Yeah, no. Military enlistment is not a good measure, because we can’t tell why people aren’t joining the army. Sure, it could be because they’re soft pansy-asses. And you’ll find documents saying exactly that.
But here’s the problem: we don’t know why people stop enlisting. I can give you some clues, though. For instance, I’d bet you right now enlistment numbers and quality are falling. Like as of RIGHT this year.
Is it because the amount of soy in our food increased drastically? Or because we’re all so fat and calm and happy?
Well, no. It’s because no one would trust Joe Biden not to send their sons and daughters to fight on the side of the enemies of civilization. And that’s without counting intolerable impositions on the beliefs of the troops, and all sorts of violations of people’s ability to simply be and serve. Which anyone sane can see are starting and already on the menu. In fact, I’ve heard more than one person who’s served with honor and is close to retirement saying that they don’t advise anyone to enlist right now.
But let the left win (They won’t. Please, stop posting walls of text in the comments saying that sure, commies can totes feed themselves and build a thousand years of communism, because it’s bullshit. At best they can take civilization down to the neolithic, and I suspect that’s only in local areas. They don’t understand either human psychology or economics, and economics is a stone cold bitch) and history books in a hundred years will talk about how the decadence and soft living of capitalism took America down, and look, their own sons weren’t willing to defend her.
We can’t know. History is mostly written by twits, and mostly by upper class twits, and often by twits with an ax to grind.
Yes, we all laugh at the complaints from the Romans yelling about how people were decadent because life was too soft. We should. Only the uppermost crust had a soft life. Trust me on this, because I lived in what amounted to Roman culture with a few 19th century refinements, and life is only soft if you think that having to go outside to the bathroom night or day, or live with excrement in a pot under the bed is “soft”; that having to wash your clothes by hand on stone, winter or summer is “soft” and that growing most of what you eat is soft.
Now, thanks to the magic of antibiotics, I didn’t lose as many classmates as mom did, and I guess compared to grandma, who grew up in much tougher times, or even dad, who describes days of “vegetable soup” as the only food, we had it “decadently easy.”
But I think we’re conflating things that have nothing to do with one another. Starving and lacking the werewithal to live; surviving on crusts of bread and having to hoard rags so you don’t freeze, etc. etc. don’t make people strong. Physically they make them small and measurably dumber. And emotionally, it seems to mostly breed serfs.
Yeah, I know “the frontier.” Yes, people at the frontier underwent all those hardships, and it did breed a strong generation or two. But you have to look at that as most of them CHOSE to undergo those hardships. As we saw with the expansion west, in almost living memory, that makes a big difference.
Someone who has more time and has the ability to spend years on the project should sift between colonies created by force — like when they swept London of whores, beggars, travelers and criminals and shipped them to West Virginia, of all places — and those that came willingly and paid to come, and compare the outcomes, both in intangibles (“How are their descendants doing today?”) and in sheer numbers. How many died? How many survived? How productive were those who survived. Even in a country as modern and documented as America, this might be almost impossible to figure out though. Why? Mobility. And people lying. A lot of people lying.
So, while my opinion is just my opinion, and it might actually be impossible to verify — though you can probably “prove” it to the degree that anything of the sort can be proven, absent magic, or a way to see into the past or parallel words. I mean, I could probably have proven it, if I’d been chasing numbers and writing down exact facts for all the decades I’ve spent reading history books. Alas, I haven’t — I’d like to suggest that cultures have a life of their own, and that they react almost like living organisms.
While changing cultures is possible for individuals or small groups, it gets harder the larger the group is, because it’s then more of a self-actuated organism.
And I know I’m explaining this badly, okay. But I’ve undergone culture change, voluntarily, on purpose, on my own. For the individual acculturating feels like going insane, and being asked to do it twice in a life time would probably drive the most grounded of individuals nuts. Unless, of course, the incentive were massive. And even then, they might just pretend. Yes, I have seen (am related to) emigrants who returned and integrated (sort of) in the life of the “motherland.” But I don’t think they’d ever really acculturated besides trying some new foods, learning the language, and maybe wearing their clothes differently. Most of them emigrated as family groups and with intention of returning. (You can tell when people return “before the kids marry in the new country.”) Even then, I’ve been there for some odd and bizarre cultural stutters that they stumble upon without meaning to.
Anyway, you can do it alone. You can even do it as a family, if you decide you’re really going to do it. A lot of people who came here between and after the long war of the 20th century did just this: “We speak English” and “We’ll celebrate the holidays of the new country” and “We’ll fit in as well as we can, even if we really can’t.”
You can do it as a village. Sort of. I’m told that entire Italian (or Irish) villages emigrated en-masse and colonized blocks of New York City. But in that case the culture will change very slowly, and only to the extent young ones move away and marry outside the community. And even then it will take some generations. (And this is why there is no ethnographic difference between mass immigration and invasion, and why we still don’t know if there was actually an “invasion” of the Western Empire of Rome, or a fast trickle of barbarians moving in. Look, yes, I’ve seen the paintings, but I’ve also read the “overwhelmed by mass immigration” books. And, lacking a time machine, I can’t tell you what the truth was, but it could be either or both.)
Things will survive, still, in family culture. And hear me, I don’t mean cute clothing and great food. Only the left thinks anyone would mind that. I mean ways of speaking, and ways of emoting, and what you do when the worst/best happens. For instance, for some reason my husband had no idea he had any German blood. I knew he did, because one of his ancestresses was runaway Pennsylvania Dutch. (She had the same name I did before I changed mine, so MIL told me about her.) But in the …. ah strange constructions that MIL would inflict on English and passed on to my husband, you could still see the German influence. Also in diet and a dozen other habits. My host family was of Italian ancestry, and trust me, even though their parents tried to raise them with no trace of Italian culture, when they got to arguing you’d hear it. And see it. My kids don’t speak a word of Portuguese (okay, maybe a dozen words, mostly swearing. I have a foul mouth when I burn/cut myself in the kitchen) but if you see them arguing, they do not sound like normal Americans, much less like his dad’s Connecticut ancestry. In fact, I used to be afraid the neighbors would think a knife fight was about to break out and call the police. And as we tell older son every day and twice on Sunday “if you’re going to be that fatalistic, make your grandparents happy and learn to sing fados.” (To be fair, he’s very good at singing the blues.)
But those survivals are small and on the whole unimportant, because by all major measures (and it would take a whole other post or ten for me to explain this) we are still an “English” culture, possibly more English than England (which makes perfect sense, when you consider that colonies are always more conservative than the mother land. In fact, that’s how you determine which is a colony and which is the mother land if you find them as shards in the archeological record. And by “conservative” in this case you should read “faithful to the fundamentals of the culture.” For instance, the English tend to be king-killers. The French did it once and got a bad rep, but the English do it cyclically. And we seem to have inherited that.)
Of course, make the mass immigration mass enough and it’s an invasion.
And interesting things happen in invasion.
Look, it’s possible in the future we’ll discover that “culture” is just as much part of being human as the fauna and flora in our gut is part of us being human. This being the case, and culture being very difficult (though not impossible, particularly for individuals) to change, how did we come this far from the fertile crescent, or Gobleki Teppi, or whatever far, far location you choose?
Well, mostly there’s a cultural evolutionary process, known as war, conquest and survival of the fittest culture. (Not without survivals, just like you still have a photo-sensor under the bones of your skull. But that doesn’t affect you, and doesn’t wreck your chances of survival.) I mean, after Romans, Germans, Franks, Moors, Crusaders, Franks again the area of Portugal I come from still celebrates St. John with bonfires and merry making on the street, and in fact reading of the habits in certain areas of England/Ireland makes me giggle. Oh, and the fairy tales, the really old ones where the moral is murky? Are the same in Ireland and the North of Portugal. I’m not saying every contact leaves a trace. But I’m saying when cultures collide, the one that loses still passes a little bit to the future. Mostly through the women.
Look, most of those things we associate with “decadence” mostly because we compare it to the decadence of Rome have zero to do with how hard or soft life is. What they have to do with is the culture having lost confidence. Either because they’ve been “conquered” physically or intellectually.
If you think about it, the evolutionary process for the culture to be taken over by the one that proved itself superior by winning the war (more on how that’s been corrupted, later) is beautiful. Most of the men died in the war, of course. What comes after is that most women become sluts and men become drunkards (or gay. Or bi. Or whatever means they’re not fighting the invaders.) In a generation or two, all the kids are the kids of the invaders, and though the mothers might have taught them one or two words of the old culture, some fairytales, and maybe some songs (which sometimes survive in girl children longer) the culture has BECOME the winning culture.
Now in Rome, arguably, they’d been intellectually conquered by Greece oh, and Egypt and heaven knew what else. Or at least their elites were as oikophobic as ours. So their elites at least behaved like a conquered culture. Hence “decadence.”
On the ground? The people? Depends. I think in urban areas, with a high influx of mass immigration, the story the people told themselves about themselves became incoherent long before the “fall” and caused some of the same issues. In the far flung colonies? Well, let’s say there’s some debate on whether Rome fell. My dad, if you catch him unawares, still defines himself by the culture of the Roman Republic, at least as understood and transmitted over the centuries. (SO sanitized, btw. Going through the Pompei exhibit, it was like Portugal when I grew up, but sexually insane. I mean, who the heck has a painting of children being screwed by monkeys in the living room. Outside our wealthiest elites, that is? So, in case you wonder, yes Christianity does make a difference.)
We’re kind of experiencing that, because our “elites” that control the mass media have been conquered by socialism for 100 years. Which is why we’re bearing a lot of the markers of a conquered culture, but honestly? It’s not how well we live. It’s the fact we’re being told to deny everything we think/feel/the way we do things in favor of the conquering culture.
And yeah, socialism can survive for a while. Though it too, like the terminal form — communism — can’t really feed itself/create anything. Without an America to cannibalize, Europe would be a lot poorer/more f*cked up. But still, they are, par excellence, the “conquered culture” with all the syndrome. Oh. One thing I didn’t add: if the men aren’t all dead, birth rate (and marriage rate) plummets. It did so even before contraceptives, and no one knows why. It’s possible there was rampant infanticide. Or that it’s some psychological mechanism that turns off fertility.
Again, look, when cultures clash the normal thing is for one of them to become non-functional and become subsumed to the “winning” culture.
Which is why socialists/statists are playing with fire. Let’s face it, even here, for 100 years, people have tried to impose cultural attitudes/deep beliefs/ways of living from above, and change them arbitrarily. (And for the mentally handicapped, no I’m not talking of the civil war. I’m talking since the beginning of the twentieth century with the mentality that we could have “scientific” governance. People were yanked about on what to eat, when to sleep, what to do. And mass media facilitated massive distribution of these decrees from on high, that applied to the most minute parts of individual life.)
I think our back brains understand that as “We were invaded, it’s time to die.”
To the extent America has a fighting chance at all, it is because we’ve always been fairly contrary and because the blogsphere gave us the ability to know we’re not alone.
And the problem with letting the “top down” culture win, is that socialism is death, either fast or slow. It’s “being invaded” forever, and just causes people to give up and die.
That’s what we’re facing. That’s what we’re up against. They can’t win in the sense of “last” but they can win in the sense of destroying human civilization more utterly than the imagined apocalypse of nuclear war.
And this ladies and gentlemen is why the idea if we just endure hard times we’ll emerge stronger p*sses me off. I don’t think those two things are even on the same axis. Correlation is not causation.
I also don’t know if there is some relation to fast rate of change and “symptoms of decadence”. It’s possible we’re changing our environment too fast for even us. Note that what I said above about clash of cultures seems to be designed to minimize the time of instability and achieve a new normal. That might not be possible with constant innovation and change, even if good. And no, I don’t know what that does to the back brain or the culture.
Frontier societies are a whole other ball of wax, and self-select to a great extent. Do we need one? Probably. Heinlein thought we did, and who am I to argue. (Also biologically all organisms extend their range or die.)
However the decadence imposed by seeming arbitrary dictats from above, about which the individual can do nothing will get in the way of our next leap to the frontier, because that one needs civilization and scientific knowledge.
So, let’s concentrate on what needs to change, and what needs to stop. And if y’all want to make it to the stars, that is certainly not “comfort” or “ability to treat diseases” or “babies growing to adulthood” or “people being largely well fed.”
What needs to change is us being treated like a conquered people. And responding like one.
The so called elites are stupid. The system they want to impose doesn’t work and has never worked elsewhere. Their claim of being “scientific” should (if nothing else, and you weren’t paying attention before) in 2021 be laughed out of the public square.
Let’s tell them where to put it.