Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ennui and dread in modernist America

The Wall Street Journal ran a good column by Peggy Noonan today on the decadence of modern America. I wrote the following letter in response:

Peggy Noonan’s column on “The Adam Lambert Problem” was poignant and reminiscent of scores of similar conversations I’ve had with friends for the last 20 years concerning the trailer-trashing of America – in which the vapid, the unctuously ignorant, the Narcissist, the moral relativist are given “reality shows,” front stage at awards ceremonies and a chair in the Oval Office.

Within 50 years, we’ve gone from uptight Puritanism to filthy, angry decadence. In between, we passed up high-spirited, benevolent, enlightened fun and thoughtful circumspection that would be devoid of the faults at each end of the spectrum.
Instead of “you’re welcome" or “you bet,” we now hear “no problem,” with the implication that your presence *is* a problem that has allegedly be risen above.

Vampires are the new Cary Grants and Harrison Fords. Mature (sophisticated thoughts and emotions) movies are relegated to arts theaters and surely never gain titanic revenues. Teleprompters supplant eloquence. Music is about anger, gutter sexuality and ennui (where have you gone, Shirelles?). Happy is un-vogue and schmaltzy. Happy endings are “simplistic” and “trite” and not “Oscar-worthy.” Body mutilation and slovenly apparel adorn lackluster expression. Earning great wealth no longer signifies merit and success, but instead moral turpitude.

It would be facile to point a finger solely at what’s called “public education” and its dummying-down of kids. Something came first, and that *something* is progressivism and its concomitant: skepticism of human efficacy, happiness and self-responsibility. That skepticism largely began with Plato (believing this world and ourselves unreal), runs through religions, passed through Emmanuel Kant and infiltrated modern universities.

The antidote is a diminutive Russian √©migr√©, who first stood upon the shores of America in her 20s during America’s Roaring Twenties. Her name was Ayn Rand, and her philosophy, Objectivism, honored personal achievement, efficacy, self-determination and happiness. We’ll not see the end of the Kanye Wests and the Adam Lamberts in modern America until Ms. Rand’s ideas permeate our culture – and TV executives then understand that filth is not the American (or human) way.

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