Monday, April 26, 2010

Words I Hate: Decadence

I had read this column by Douthat originally thinking I'd have something positive to say about it, I too hate how cowardly so many act when a madman decides to say something stupid. Until I got to the end of it, and found the word decadence. I had wondered about why he had spent so much time lingering over all the ways in which South Park didn't respect other boundaries, the word decadence explained it all.

So why does the word decadence annoy me? For a few reasons, first of all it assumes implicitly that we've in some way declined, always from some sort of idealization of the author's. I have no sympathy for this view at all, in almost all cases where a society has been called decadent the real story is in how others have changed (and not to become more like the pre-decadent society) and to the extent the decadent society is at fault, it is generally so for being too static. Also, decadence does nothing to explain history, societies don't decline as they become decadent and you can't call which society will survive and which won't by relative levels of decadence, it is simply non-sense as history. Basically, decadence is always an obvious flag that an author has no real argument to back up his agenda and is relying on a pseudo-historical narrative to lend weight to an argument that otherwise lacks it.

Not that I disagree with the notion that we shouldn't be ignoring nonsense like that over the South Park episode or earlier with the Danish cartoons. But this isn't generalizable to our society as a whole, some anecdotes about individuals backing down can be found, and few countries have made fools themselves but this can't be generalized easily. The creators of South Park sought to comment on this issue, just because the Fox network doesn't have any balls doesn't mean that our society or artists as a whole don't.

Don't worry, American brashness is as alive and well as it ever has been. We have a mix of cowards, scoundrels, and brave souls who will continue to act as they have always acted and trash our culture as well as that of everyone else in pursuit of a very American tradition of being loud and obnoxious solely for the sake of being so. Some will be too cowardly to insult an ignorant, violent fool but others will not be and I doubt it was ever any different.

1 comment:

  1. You're right. Your generation is thoroughly corrupt, but not to the degree mine is and we can both look in awe at the baby boomer generation for disreputability.

    But thank you, Tz, for not abbreviating "you." That's all I ask.