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Archive for February 16th, 2018

When I was an undergrad, I came up with a model for how cultures develop over time.  It was divided into four stages:

Barbarism:  All substance, little form.  Barbaric cultures have youth, vigor, drive and often a lot of good ideas; they just haven’t learned to apply them to best effect yet.  Barbaric cultures often borrow or steal ideas from older cultures, as the young Romans borrowed Greek mythology and the young US borrowed from England and Rome.

Civilization:  Form and substance in balance.  Civilized cultures are mature, but still strong, and have developed institutions, systems and mores that reflect their values and ideas.  History often speaks of this period as the “Golden Age” of a culture, the period of its greatest accomplishments.

Decadence:  All form, waning substance.  Decadent cultures have outlived their youth and vigor, and are obsessed with their own past greatness.  They look down on other cultures and are often xenophobic, focusing on elaborate rituals and worship-words which no longer have any meaning.

Decay:  Corrupt form, no substance.  Decaying cultures are those which have completely lost their way; they mistake their institutions and procedures for the ideals they were created to further, which a decaying culture no longer remembers.  These cultures may collapse or be conquered, but sometimes go on decaying for many centuries before that happens.

At the time, I wasn’t sure if the US was at the very end of the second stage or somewhere in the third.  I hadn’t even thought about that for many years, until recent events made it very clear to me that it’s the latter.  Remember when I criticized the way US media were more concerned with the fact that Trump had said the word “pussy” than that he was admitting to sexual assault?

…someone at CNN actually seems to believe, and undoubtedly many people agree, that the most salient point of the controversy was Trump’s language, that he had uttered taboo words which would presumably ritually pollute the dainty hearing of anyone viewing the video.  The fact that he used these common words about women is presented as though that somehow makes it worse than if he had used similar words in talking about men, children, mixed groups of people or Shetland ponies; the assumption seems to be that women are delicate china dolls who are magically harmed when men emit certain sounds from their vocal apparatus, even if the woman in question did not even hear them.  If he had joked about violating the physical boundaries of women without using those words, perhaps saying “I attempted to get her in bed” and “grab their crotches” instead, would that have made it all better in the minds of this unknown CNN editor and others like her?  Because that’s certainly the implication…

Now this week, we’re faced with a one-two punch from the New York Times which leaves little doubt that we live in a culture obsessed with forms and uninterested in substance.  First, the Times lavishly praised and obsequiously fawned on the sister of a murderous dictator, a monstrously evil woman with an important role in her brother’s totalitarian regime, a person who has herself ordered and directed literal mass enslavement and actual “human trafficking”…because she gave a dirty look to a US politician Times editors don’t like.  So now we know the secret, ladies.  Do honest work making people feel good? The Times will say you’re a “victim” and a “slave”.  Literally enslave and “traffic” people?  The Times will admire you and call you a “diplomat”.  And how would the Times (not to mention actual human rights organization “officials”) react to another murderous dictator ordering that women be sexually maimed?  Why, by complaining that he didn’t give those orders in nicer language, naturally:

President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine strongman who has earned a reputation for dirty tactics and language, was criticized…for having boasted that he had ordered soldiers to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals…the president said in a speech…“We will not kill you. We will just shoot you in the vagina”…the criticism of his choice of words has been fierce.  It “is just the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women,” said Carlos H. Conde, the Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch…This is not the first time Mr. Duterte had been criticized for crude remarks about women…
Presumably, if Duterte had ordered rebels be maimed in a genteel way, and he gave some Republican a dirty look while doing so, the Times and all its allied talking heads (not to mention the legions of marching morons who take their cues from such pompous ninnies) would be perfectly OK with that.  A society more concerned with words and pictures, which talks about “porn as a health crisis” while its cops are actually shooting people down in the street and torturing them to death in cages, and worries more about politicians’ language and manners than the fact that they are murdering their own people by the thousands, is long overdue for collapse.

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