Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Party at the End of Civilization - Introduction

The intention is that this will be a series of posts related to this theme. "Orgy" might have been better in the title, but the problem is that these days, this would suggest that I am only talking about sex, which I'm not. "Party" isn't really a strong enough word - the sense that I am trying to get across is of a culture that is unconsciously set on destroying itself through all sorts of excess - "entertaining itself to death" - in the widest sense of "entertaining", and with a real sense that the disintegration is already happening.

I started trying to write a poem, to try and capture some of how I felt, but I was conscious that it looked pretty derivative, and in any case, I discovered yesterday that the soundtrack to the party had already been written, and it's the album "Zooropa", by U2. The title track dismantles the excesses of commercialism; "Babyface" talks about pornography, which has only become a more universal part of the culture since the early 90's; "Daddy's gonna pay for your crashed car" is a sardonic commentary on irresponsibility; and "The Wanderer" even speaks about the compromised state of Christianity within the culture. The "ZooTV: Live from Sydney" DVD still looks bitingly relevant to where our civilization has got to - except perhaps that "reality" TV has taken the place of soap operas.

For more formal commentary, there are a couple of excellent books which analyse the disintegrating culture. One is "Amusing ourselves to Death", by Neil Postman (1987). Another, written from a Christian perspective, is "Fit Bodies, Fat Minds", by Os Guinness (1994). Neither is in print, so it's necessary to fish around a bit for copies of them. Both are very well written - not dry, but possibly even playful. I thought "The Closing of the American Mind" would do something similar, but in my opinion, Allan Bloom just sounded like a grumpy old git in it. (I should have loved it, then - hah! Got there first!)

But what I want to try and do in these posts is bring some of the themes they talked about up to date.... well, we'll see how it goes.

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