The world we live in hasn’t always judged the wealth of a particular culture or country as the be-all and end-all of its health and worth. Sparta was judged by the strength of its warrior class. Athens by the knowledge of its philosophers. Italy by its artists. Wealth has always been something people noticed, but normally only a few possessed it. Often, common people eschewed wealth after they saw what it did to those “elites” who held it. What did that wealth do to elites exactly?
The wealth of the elite was commonly accompanied by various forms of excess. Many can point to examples of great opulence, such as gold statues or homes that rivaled cathedrals, but that was just the aesthetic pleasures. The common folk were fooled by the aesthetics for long periods of time, but the personal decadence that inevitably accompanied great wealth could not be fully hidden. Just as when people began to emulate the elites by building smaller, affordable versions of the aesthetic opulence, when the knowledge of the personal deviancy of the leaders became public, the people’s curiosity eventually got the best of them. Then it was only a matter of time until degeneracy was rampant throughout the culture.
It is often mentioned that the United States fared best in the aftermath of WW2 because our homeland and industry were exempt from the bombing campaigns the war’s other participants suffered. The US, of course, prospered and leapt ahead of the great powers that were decimated by the war. But what did this great wealth purchase? Is the culture of the United States better or worse than it was in the pre-WW2 era? I could type thousands upon thousands of words here, describing in great detail the degeneracy that Americans have bought. No matter who we want to blame for introducing the culture-distorting rot into our society, those responsible could not have been successful without a willing and viable market. Americans were more than willing to part with their newfound wealth so they could enjoy the decadence that historically comes with it.
Some may argue that the disease and decay that is now streamed free and directly to our phones is partly to blame. But that has not always been the case. In the not-too-distant past, you would have had to leave your home and actively pursue these excesses. And people did, making the peddlers of all sorts of vices millionaires and billionaires. While there’s a chance this rot would still be available at your fingertips even if past generations had shunned those vices, there’s also the likelihood that our culture would reject the current stream of rot and decay, just as others around the world who have not put up with certain vices over the years are doing.
I used to be someone who believed that “good” economics was the goal of making a more ordered society. The richer a society was, the better it would be. I now realize that the flaw in that argument is that I was looking upon the life of a well-off individual and projecting whatever was most positive in their lives onto society as a whole. If society, as a whole, could be as rich as that individual, or at least have the potential to be, we could make a better world. Can that argument be made when you examine the culture in which we currently live?
What I was missing all along is that it’s what’s inside us that matters. I’ve visited poor sections of the world where people were multitudes more satisfied with their lives than I was at the time. Why were they happy? I believe it’s because they realize their priorities in life are who they are and where they’re from, as well as being part of a community. If those people were suddenly handed wealth, would they abandon these core principles? Maybe. I believe the more important question is: are they self-aware enough to examine themselves and determine how material change as such would affect them and if the price would be worth it?
Whether it be who we are as Americans at our core or who has taught us, we have determined that having great wealth is more important than having a superior culture. It is clear that a large number of Americans have chosen wealth and individualism while eschewing whatever culture we had in the past that was worth preserving. It has been sacrificed on the altar of degeneracy and rot. I know there are many areas of the country that still hold to those old values… for now. However, when we look at the numbers, especially those of unsecured debt, we see that many have chosen the marketplace of materialism and sumptuousness rather than that of the good, the true, and the beautiful. The time has come for the common folk who looked upon the homes of the wealthy with envy and abandoned their values in order to gain their own McCastle in the suburbs to accept their part of the blame. Your compliance was one thing; going the whole hog was another.
Categories: Culture Wars/Current Controversies