The International Writers Magazine: Cultural Values
A New Decadence
The politerati in the West have lost their way and are increasingly divorced from their subjects. Everywhere in the western world we see the rising phenomenon of unconventional politicians and political parties, with either Left or Right labels.
Trump in America has astounded the political establishment as the ‘clown’ threatens to become the ringmaster to wide acclaim. His appeal is to American national identity, just as Le Pen’s is to the French identity and Farage’s to the British. All over Europe we see a growing sense of national identity, a phenomenon decried by the conventional politerati. How has this come about?
Professional career politicians everywhere have become absorbed in an elitist establishment far removed from the majority of ordinary electors. Consequently, the philosophical gap continues to widen in a post-national and post-democratic age. The metropolitan elites of western countries have embraced a twofold philosophy of unfettered individualism and universalism in which there is no place for the concept of community, or national identity, except when the latter is used cynically to advance the elite’s agenda.
Individual ‘rights’ have been promoted to precedence over community values to the point where self-indulgence and self-importance have reached unprecedented levels. As the citizens of ancient Rome were distracted by circuses from monitoring their leaders’ behaviour, our society is distracted by the mirror, or a camera on a selfie stick. In our narcissistic age fat little girls look in mirrors and see Venus, while their corpulent male escorts see Adonis in their own image. Such self-delusion would be laughable were it not so destructive of social cohesion.
Those who would disabuse Narcissus are silenced by fear of breaching the tightening constraints on freedom of expression. Our fat little girl and corpulent male would be offended if disabused, and giving personal offence, even by indirect allusion, is forbidden in the new moral climate. Indeed, suggesting that the little girl’s escort would necessarily be male causes offence to some, just as the use of ‘woman’ or ‘man’ without the prefix ‘trans’ can earn one a reprimand.
The primacy of individualism not only erodes the sense of community, but has also altered the definition of the family. It used to be the case that the term ‘family’ was confined to a man and a woman living together with their children. Today it is also applied to a woman with her children, even when those children are the offspring of different fathers. The nature and implications of the two types of ‘family’ are not identical, certainly as far as the raising of children is concerned and the relationship with their father. In France the term ‘la famille’ has been displaced by ‘les familles’.
The notion of community is under attack from the primacy of individualism, but also from the consciously promoted erosion of national identity. The elite use this concept only to serve their own ends, notably for political and economic advantage, but deride it otherwise. We see political parties with a nationalist agenda commonly referred to as fascist or neo-fascist in an effort to discredit them. Members of the metropolitan elite mix almost exclusively with their equivalent from other nations, and have consequently come to believe that their values are universal. They believe in a global world that lacks cultural, intellectual and philosophical barriers. For them, nationalism is largely an embarrassment.
Ironically, those barriers whose existence on a global scale they deny, are evident between the elite and the rest in all countries. The presumption that the ‘lower classes’ are inferior culturally, intellectually and philosophically is universal, and it shows. Indeed, it is the visibility of that presumption that leads to the gap in understanding between the leaders and the led. In sharp contrast to the universalisation of the elites, their subjects cling to a national identity, and for many the old concepts of community and family remain important.
An even greater irony perhaps lies in the elite’s demand that incomers integrate into a society that is under threat of disintegration, thanks to the elite’s attachment to the concept of universal values. Attachment to that concept is made possible only by the presumption that the national culture is not really very different from that of the incomers. It is their culture that is seen as valid, while the attachment of natives to their own culture and the rejection of radical difference is seen as irrational.
I used to live in a culture that I would have fought on the battlefield to preserve. Perhaps the elite should ponder on the question of what remains that would be worth dying for. In the war with ISIS, which offers a powerfully cohesive identity, what alternative does our culture offer as a competing attraction? Loose membership perhaps of a class for which the elite barely conceals its contempt.
The concept of universal values and the global village which has been guiding our leaders for several decades does not impress those ‘lower orders’ who come face to face with the reality of alien cultures on their streets. To many people who are not members of a self-deluding elite the events in European cities following the influx of unattached young men from non-European cultures was highly predictable, and was indeed predicted.
Our leaders are highly educated, but their stupidity is at times frightening. It appears not to occur to them that if the clown can become ringmaster in America it might happen in Britain too. Pundits see the Conservatives as safely in government until 2025 because of the lack of an effective opposition. Yet arrogance is an untrustworthy companion as it leads us to believe ourselves infallible. It appears inconceivable to some that by 2020 the Tories could be unelectable and Britain ends up with a left leaning coalition.
© Tom Kilcourse February 2016
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