The discussion about popular culture, and how to reasonably and effectively protest it, has continued in the post Remaking Rome.
Here are comments from Clark Coleman and from me:
I touched on two different issues in my earlier reply: the level of protest that certain things would elicit in a previous generation compared to our own, and conservatives using their dollars to support the decline of our culture. You have to have a certain critical mass of protesters in order to succeed, and I agree that this is unlikely to be the case today. Controlling your own environment is the way to go, as Laura mentioned.
As for the morality of supporting the enemy with our money, my comments stand and I believe that conservatives need to spend a little time thinking about it. How can we complain about the depravity of our popular culture while supporting the depravity financially?
The fact that there is good among the dross, as both Diana and Clark mentioned, keeps conservatives coming back for more in the hope that they don’t have to take a more radical stand. It’s important to remember this: There will always be some good in popular culture. Unfortunately the overwhelming preponderance of the bad and immoral requires a rejection of the good that is there.
I’d like to restate my earlier First Law of Popular Culture, mentioned in the discussion of Kate and Jon Gosselin:
The more absorbed a person is in popular culture, the more removed he is from his own culture.
Many conservatives and thinking people justify staying abreast of TV and movies with the argument that they are obliged to stay attuned to the times and the world at large. This is wrong-headed. Popular culture removes people from their real cultural surroundings, deprives them of deep pleasures and furthers the decline of our civilization with breathless speed. There will never be a day when in order to reject it and improve it we won’t have to also toss out some decent movies, TV shows and music as well.
In the Rome post I was intrigued by this from Clark Coleman:
“I think there are many conservatives who don’t really know what kind of a society they want to conserve in the first place, and they are in some cases too young to remember a better, finer culture than the one we have now.”
and this from one of your replies:
“Popular culture removes people from their real cultural surroundings, deprives them of deep pleasures and furthers the decline of our civilization with breathless speed.”
Not knowing what sort of society one desires to conserve must be intimately tied to present conditions, i.e., the erosion of not only the finer points of our civilization but of the host foundation itself, the living culture and its traditions. Without something to build on remaining in sight, both literally and in our mental background, we are subject to the whirlwind of popular culture and it carries us away like a flood. Embracing the gleam of technology as an end in itself and abandoning transcendent truth require letting go of the pillars of the past.
The established symbols of Western heritage– classical music, the church, literature, etiquette, architecture, etc.– must seem to many as quaint artifacts whose persistence outside museums or study halls is miraculous. There may be no way to counter this directly, but the principles of conservatism as elaborated by Russell Kirk and others show little sign of wear and they can be employed to build anew from the current range of available elements.
The greatest hurdle today may be that few on the right could define more than a few of these principles. The Republican party seems to embody this sad stage of development. Little wonder then that we have only a faint idea of what kind of society we might pass along to succeeding generations.
I think it is fair to say that many actively seek removal, both in a psychological and physical sense, from their “real cultural surroundings”. This has to do with the inevitably destructive effects of multiculturalism and coping with a mixing of peoples that has brought more detriment than benefit to individuals or society. They see that they are powerless to stop this inexorable change and so they retreat into TV and movies, though most of this reflex is probably subconscious.
Well said. Popular culture, for all its trashiness, is founded on ideas. They are the ideas of a pagan society and they replace the shared truths and first principles that once governed Western society. The best resistance is not support for our museums and orchestras, but the recovery of these truths.