Glenn Tucker | Is ‘c***t’ a well-worn fabric?
Dr Russell Kirk was an American political theorist, moralist, historian, and social and literary critic. In 1953, he completed and published The Conservative Mind. Brilliant in every respect, this book is arguably one of the greatest contributions to 20th-century American conservatism. Indeed, some claim that it launched the modern American conservative movement.
Ironically, that same year, in that same neighbourhood, another publication – which would also launch another major American movement – made its debut. Hugh Hefner’s highly controversial magazine was the first and primary vehicle for spreading the Playboy philosophy in America.
Not surprisingly, Dr Kirk was frequently asked to comment on this development. But he claimed not to be surprised by this juxtaposition and warned readers: “Our culture labours in an advanced state of decadence; that what many people mistake as the triumph of our culture actually consists in forces that are disintegrating our culture; that the vaunted democratic freedom of liberal society in reality is in servitude to appetites and illusions that attack religious belief, that destroy community through excessive centralisation.”
Three years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges was invited to speak at Pacifica Graduate Institute’s milestone 40th anniversary conference on Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas. In his capacity, he has witnessed the decline and disintegration of multiple societies. Hedges noted that as both individuals and civilisations, we encounter cycles of growth, maturation, decadence, and decay and death. He is convinced that at this time, contemporary society is facing its own morbidity.
Two weeks ago, I received a video of what seemed to be a graduation speech. The speaker closed by saying to his audience, “... big up unu b...c... self.” I dismissed it as one of these mendacious missives flooding social media. Later, however, I heard the matter mentioned in a group. They confirmed that it was not fake and named the institution where it happened.
I waited for the nation to rise up and, as if with one voice, condemn all associated with this man and his exhortation. It did not come. So I went back to the video thinking that I may have been mistaken. I wasn’t. And in addition, the exhortation was greeted with thunderous applause, even from women, obviously ignorant of the historical, homespun, if quilted, implications for their sex.
If anyone thinks that the applause at the graduation was the only affirmation, here are just a few of the comments on social media:
- “I love this too much.”
Most of the other comments seemed to be attempts to prove who knew more expletives.
Hedges insists, “We tend to cling to a belief system that essentially shuts us off, disconnects us from what’s actually happening around us. Those individuals that dare to name the reality often become outcasts of society ... . When you don’t confront the perils around you, when you build psychological mechanisms or walls – which we have done with the aid of technology and the aid of culture – then you’re almost guaranteed to commit suicide.”
Dr Kirk feels that the breakdown of faith and morals takes you down the main road to destruction. But there are many byroads – like politics, economics, and dysfunctional families. And while we move into these destructive paths easily, the return is far more challenging.
Dryden puts it this way:
“Smooth the descent and easy is the way,
(The Gates of Hell stand open night and day).
But to return and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labour lies.”
Is decadence an inevitable outgrowth of modernity? Will the decadence we are witnessing make the disintegration of the Jamaican society inevitable?
I am wondering if it would be asking too much to invite arguments – from all sides – that would help me as I ponder the manifestations of what looks like a cultural crisis.