What is COVID doing to us. Is it firing us up or just speeding up the death of our Western society by boredom?
Lots of people seem to be pondering what COVID has done to us and what shape it will leave us in. I read something this week that got me thinking about it in a 'big picture' way.
Greg Sheridan wrote a piece in the Weekend Australian that was a summary of a new book. The book is written by a guy named Ross Douthat. It is called, The Decadent Society, How we became victims of our own success.
His opinion goes like this:The West, is caught in the slowly suffocating grip of a decadence we do not understand. We have been in this grip for 50 years.
By 'decadent' he doesn’t mean too much drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll. Decadence is sort of being at a dead end. It is “economic stagnation, institutional decay, and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development”.
That is us. We live in a very high level of material prosperity and technological development. Are we stagnated, decaying and exhausted? Maybe.
Douthat says that the huge changes in post WWII society, then the massive shifts in the 1960s have never been resolved. We have been left with a certain aimlessness even though we have never had it so good. In the 60's we got fired up about being on the moon, but that in the end has not amounted to much. Neither has all the advances in technology. Politics has declined into permanent gridlock.
Douthat quotes the French writer, Jacques Barzun, who says that this decadence: “Sees no clear lines of advance. Life seem exhausted; the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result. Boredom and fatigue are great historical forces … When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”
I do wonder whether we do indeed accept futility and the absurd as normal. News seems so trivial. Why do I listen to a story about someone in Poland who I will never know getting a pet cat out of the tree and then the number of people who died today from coronavirus in my country and just receive this so called 'news' as of the same weight, or even worse, of no particular meaning? Social media is worse when it comes to totally disconnected stories that makes everything trivlal - both the trivial things themselves but also the really important things.
What about all our technology. Has it really done much good? Douthat reckons the one great technological innovation of our age is the internet; the digital universe. The biggest effect of the digital world has been on our minds and personalities. It might not rule our lives as much as past inventions like the light bulb and the steam train and car have ruled, but in entertainment and addiction digital technology reigns supreme. It has had negative effects on the human personality.
For EG, Douthat is a critic and opponent of pornography. It is dehumanising in every way. This and other aspects of digital technology have ended up having a tranquillising effect on the human psyche.
EG. Sheridan says that this industrial-level porn has produced alienation and depression. Younger people are linking up and forming long term partnerships, whether marriages or stable de facto relationships, less than ever before. And they are having less sex. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the accompanying spread of porn, has apparently resulted in less sex and fewer marriages.
This is one of the factors contributing to very low birth rates. Suicides, social isolation, drug overdoses, alcoholism and obesity have been on the rise. Apparently, young people today are the most medicated generation in human history. And disproportionately they are alone and unhappy. In 2018 the highest p