On Decadence (What It Is)
Valor is still value. The first duty for a man is still that of subduing Fear. We must get rid of Fear; we cannot act at all till then. A man's acts are slavish, not true but specious; his very thoughts are false, he thinks too as a slave and coward, till he have got Fear under his feet. Odin's creed, if we disentangle the real kernel of it, is true to this hour. A man shall and must be valiant; he must march forward, and quit himself like a man,— trusting imperturbably in the appointment and choice of the upper Powers; and, on the whole, not fear at all. Now and always, the completeness of his victory over Fear will determine how much of a man he is. —Thomas Carlyle, from On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History
If one examines history and the standard examples displayed of decadence undermining a culture (with ancient Rome being one of the best known in the West), one sees that the decadence in question involves the undermining of traditional masculine virtues and ideals throughout the mainstream. This may be the result of wealth, consumerism, and luxury, which produces soft, pampered men, and that is apparently a major influence in the modern West; although it is fairly obvious that recent trends in what is called Progressivism have accelerated the process of decline into social effeteness drastically and radically, largely by denouncing and demonizing the strong and glorifying the weak.
By “masculine virtues and ideals” I do not mean simply aggression and dominance. These are not necessarily virtuous, or ideal, at all. And masculinity is not only at a premium during times of war or other states of emergency. Masculine virtue—“the divine masculine”—includes such qualities as fearlessness, love of freedom (even sometimes at the expense of security), willingness to take risks if they seem worthy, love of a good challenge, dispassionate objectivity, unflinching determination, austerity, audacity, strength, and a deep sense of honor. These should not be the only virtues of a culture, and more traditionally feminine virtues such as compassion, gentleness, and unselfishness also are invaluable; but there must be a wholesome balance in order to maintain a healthy equilibrium. Both genders do well to contribute their own respective strengths and to moderate the other’s weaknesses—excess of fearlessness, for example, may be self-destructive, but then again it is certain that excess of fear also is not conducive to prosperity, or possibly even to existence.
Decadence, as discussed by historians and social thinkers up until recently, can easily be related to two contributing factors, and maybe a third not quite so obviously. First, not only is masculinity rejected with contempt or resentment, but traditional and natural gender roles break down, resulting in a kind of castrated society; second, as mentioned just above, luxury and unrestrained sensual indulgence become the norm, resulting in moral flabbiness and spinelessness; and hypothetically third, as feminine thought becomes more influential in traditionally male cultural fields, like science and politics, dispassionate objectivity gives way to emotional subjectivity—or in other words, feelings become more important than empirical facts—resulting in unrealistic policies which ultimately fail. I’ll briefly discuss each of these, in order.
The rise of feminism has given rise to a drastic increase in denigration of masculinity in mainstream culture, and a desire to suppress it. We now find ourselves in the midst of a war against balls. (Not all feminists are lesbianic man-haters of course, but many of the really high-profile, influential ones certainly have been. Also, many women have chronic insecurity issues and wish to weaken strong, potentially dangerous people, in this case men, in order to feel safe. They prefer to turn to a protective socialized government than to rely on a man for security.) Regardless of actual motives, boys in western societies nowadays, especially in Western Europe, are taught that gender is merely a social construct, and that being feminine is good. Boys are punished for acting like boys, and I’ve heard that as many as one in seven are drugged at elementary schools to reduce their rambunctious boy-ness. The educational system has been modified to favor girls, and as they get older, boys are taught to walk on eggshells lest they offend or even inadvertently “rape” a female. They are taught to reject their own masculinity as “toxic,” and that to speak like a man is offensive “mansplaining.” Furthermore, behaving like boys have always behaved is becoming downright illegal in some places; for example in some American cities it is against the law for children to walk even one block to a city park without an adult accompanying them. I read recently of a woman who had the police called on her because her children were playing unsupervised in their own, fenced, back yard. Thus weakness, timidity, and general effeminacy are practically enforced upon young boys and men these days, which, to a pre-postmodern historian at least, is obviously, blatantly, flagrantly decadent.
Consumerism appears to be what finally knocked the old American puritan ethic in the head and allowed people to indulge in sensuality without moral compunction. The sixties and the Sexual Revolution took it farther, so that lately we have the spectacle of people in the entertainment industry, who stereotypically have the morals of alleycats (Madonna comes to mind for some reason) actually claiming the moral high ground over, say, predominantly Christian conservatives. But unrestrained indulgence in sensuality does weaken the spirit and soften the backbone of a person, which is one very big reason why most religions encourage restraint in sensuality. Always doing what is easiest—in this case giving way to one’s nonaggressive animal urges—leads to weakness, whereas rigorous self-discipline is conducive to strength, as any athletic trainer can tell you. For various no doubt complicated reasons, feminism and the New Left in general have redefined morality or ethics so that it has almost nothing to do with sex and other forms of indulgence, like heroin use or overeating to the point of obesity. Morality has mutated into little more than naturally behaving like a woman and not offending members of so-called victim groups. So again, this lack of sensual discipline, as was the case in ancient Rome a time or two, helps to result in a weak, flabby people lacking in moral fiber, and a civilization that can begin to collapse if given a moderate shock. (Sensual indulgence can be employed as a vehicle for spiritual progress, but those who try it usually get caught in it and fail. It is theoretically possible, though, and some people have done it, although most hedonists have little use for spirituality in the first place.)
The third contributing factor, after feminization of men and general hedonism, which is maybe not quite so obvious as these, is the introduction of stereotypically feminine thinking into formerly male-dominated fields such as economics and science. Speaking very generally, women are somewhat more subjective than men are; and consequently, for them, feelings tend to take precedence over facts. An obvious example of this is the new, feminized PC definition of gender. In the old patriarchal days of cool scientific objectivity, maleness and femaleness were determined by the empirical criteria of DNA and sexual organs; whereas now, gender is determined by how one feels. This sort of rejection or downplaying of empirical reality for the sake of feelings, sometimes of flat-out hysteria, when it infiltrates the functioning of a complicated technological society, especially if it is allowed to run rampant by being in fashion, is bound to result in the weakening and eventual derailing of that society. Emotional, subjective, stereotypically feminine thinking certainly has its place and its very real contribution to human civilization, in fact one can say that it is necessary to any good society, but vitiating science and economic theory, for example, with emotional wishful thinking (and political correctness hysteria) is, quite simply, not its place.
The obvious answer to all this is just to accept natural gender differences that have existed for a million years. Men should be encouraged to be as fearless, strong, and protective of the defenseless as they can manage, and women should be reminded that trying to imitate men may be their option, but it certainly is not feminine. Then again, there are some who assert that feminization of a relatively advanced civilization is inevitable, a necessary advanced stage in the cycle of birth and death, rise and fall. But more on this some other time.
|from a modern American hero to a postmodern one|