Almost Random Thoughts on an Age of Decay

No one intuits the basic moral tenor of an age more clearly than those with a vested professional interest in accommodating themselves to that tenor for personal gain, such as advertisers and other pitchmen. If you want to understand the moral condition and collective priorities of your social environment, spend a day analyzing the advertising techniques and campaigns most pervasive in the mass media.

The findings of such an analysis of the advertising methods and styles of today: Unrestrained prepubescent sexuality, an obsession with material security and comfort, convenience and efficiency valued over purpose and quality, and mass-marketed attitude and social posing (“individuality”) substituted for personal dignity and self-respect. In short: infantilism, immoderation, childish fear, mindless conformity.

A moment’s reflection on these findings would disabuse all but the most na├»ve optimists of any fantasies they might have harbored regarding the possibility of a general resistance or revolutionary spirit springing from the hearts of late modern humanity.

Not so paradoxical. — There is no one more frightened of dying than a man whose existence has been a long, calculated avoidance of living. No one clings more desperately to life than one whose mode of existence has been a prolonged condition of quasi-death. “One more day!” is not the characteristic plea of the man who lives fully, but the anxious sentimentality of he who systematically hides from the painful risks and uncertainties inherent in genuine life.

No one is more despised by the coward than the resolute man, by the rationalizer than the principled man, by the parasite than the independent man, by the activist than the man of philosophic resignation. The good man loves what he lacks; hence his inclination to seek heroes and long for ideals. The bad man hates what he lacks; hence his inclination to demand equality and crush the noncompliant.

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