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The Return of Narcissus - A Clarification
Posted: 15 August 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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It seems as though I wasn't as clear as I could have been with my dichotomy between faith and decadence, so here is another stab at it:

First off, when I used the word 'faith' I was using it as a euphemism for a more complex social strain. It's kind of like an 'umbrella term' where under it is spread a 'faithful mindset' which creates a moralistic paradigm. I did not clarfiy myself on that account…..my bad. In regards to 'decadence', I was also using it as a euphemism for another social strain I see as this 'faithful mindset's' antithesis (homunculus used the term 'moral uprightness' instead of 'faith' which works). While it is true that the faithful can be decadent and the decadent can be faithful I was using decadence (or, 'the decadent') and faith (or, 'the faithful') as an example of two social strains which run in the American current. You can substitute any two opposing words (which work in this context) besides 'decadence' and 'faith' as you see fit, but I hope the following clarification will help. Please note that I am including the first two paragraphs of my original post and then will try and clarify further after that.


The Return of Narcissus

In case you don't remember your Greek myths, Narcissus, was a young man who's beauty was so extraordinary that the God's made a special pact with his mother, promising he would have a long life providing he never gazed upon his own features. When the lovely nymph Echo fell in love with him he spurned her advances and instead sat at the edge of a reflecting pool where he promptly looked down, and fell in love…with himself. In fact, he fell so head-over-heels in love with his own reflection that he killed himself via, 'pining away'.

There is a dangerous flip-side to puritism, fundamentalism and conservatism (all of which stifle societies), and that is decadence. Before empires are conquered from without, they rot from within. The United States has many social strains running through it, but there are two which are opposing, and dangerous, forces. One is a Christian, conservative, self-righteous strain, and the other is a decadent, narcissistic, self-centered strain; one is divisive, the other is conceited, and both are corrosive.

In the U.S. the counter-culture movement of the 60's was a reaction to the perceived injustices and conservatism of the 50's and it's WWII generation. However, within about 10 years people were lining up outside 'Studio 54' for a chance to do a line of coke off some hookers ass on the dance floor. HIV ran rampant through the gay community, not because of some moralistic, wrathful, vengeful God, but because many gay men were screwing each other at every turn without any sense of what that kind of behaviour might lead to. Religious fundamentalism is a real and divisive threat, however moral decline is also a corrosive and lethal societal pathogen. They are flip-sides of the same civilization-killing coin.

If we only pay attention to one of these strains we may not come to grips with the other. Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Hirsi Ali are right to sound the siren-call of religious fundamentalism and alert the masses to blind faith, but let us not forget our blid-spot in the process. While the Ralph Reid's, Jerry Falwell's and Ted Haggart's of America are corrosive, so are the MTV's, Record Companies, Celebrities, and the media conglomerates which give them voice. Sam Harris makes a great point when he say's, "No nation was ever too reasonable." The 'faithful' (and their upright morality) may be the 'heads' to the 'decadent's' 'tails', but it's still one coin which threatens to corrode the metal of democracy.

FFF


I hope this helps to clarify things a bit. It may be a pretty obvious observation but it's a real problem in this country and the west in general, and I think it's worth stating. Decadence may not kill as many people as the divisive nature of religion, but one would be on pretty firm ground in postulating that decadence killed more than it's fair share of civilizations.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 04:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Another clarification: When I used the example of homosexuals having promiscuous sex I could have substituted heterosexual sex just as easily in moral decline terms. However, HIV first appeared and proliferated in the homosexual community not amongst heterosexuals. Hence my example.

I have no beef with what consenting adults do in their bedrooms.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”]Why on earth do you assume these are opposites?  Many self-righteous, conservative Christians are narcissistic, self-centered, and decadent.  A regular source of Schadenfreude is their being exposed.

FFF, no need to start a new thread for each entry. M is for Malapert has, in my opinion, answered your newly restated question, so I’m importing it to this thread.

Religious conservatives are very good at claiming moral uprightness. Many entries have been posted in this forum that clearly document the fact that atheistic societies are freer from violent acts and unwanted babies than theistic societies. Or is that not enough for you?

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Posted: 15 August 2007 06:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”][quote author=“M is for Malapert”]Why on earth do you assume these are opposites?  Many self-righteous, conservative Christians are narcissistic, self-centered, and decadent.  A regular source of Schadenfreude is their being exposed.

FFF, no need to start a new thread for each entry. M is for Malapert has, in my opinion, answered your newly restated question, so I’m importing it to this thread.

Religious conservatives are very good at claiming moral uprightness. Many entries have been posted in this forum that clearly document the fact that atheistic societies are freer from violent acts and unwanted babies than theistic societies. Or is that not enough for you?

Unfortunately I hit the ‘send’ button twice which is why there are two new threads when I only meant for there to be one. I hope you and the ‘thread police’ will be lenient in your sentencing.

‘M’ did not answer anything since my post was not a question. My new post is a rhetorical statement ment to elicit a reponse from the reader, not an answer. Also, I do not ‘assume’ them to be opposites, I am using these terms as devices to make a statement. You and ‘M’ are using the word ‘faith’ and ‘decadence’ in their literal meaning and I am not. I am using them as a literary device to construct a concept, I hope you understand this point. You may want to read the new post again so you have a better understanding of the point it raises.

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Posted: 15 August 2007 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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decadence |?dek?d?ns| noun: moral or cultural decline, esp. after a peak or culmination of achievement

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Posted: 15 August 2007 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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The Oxford says:

decadent

• adjective 1) characterized by moral or cultural decline. 2) luxuriously self-indulgent.


I have primarily been using the first definition of the word decadent in my post and it seems as though others have been misinterpreting me as meaning the second definition.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 01:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]I have primarily been using the first definition of the word decadent in my post and it seems as though others have been misinterpreting me as meaning the second definition.

Even with that clarification, your post still implies that fundamentalism has some exclusive title on morality.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 01:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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FFF, if you fear a collapse of Western society or some pocket of it (U.S.A. perhaps?), you’ve bought into a popular but false myth. I’ll instead suggest a valid cliche: History gets written by the victors. When a nation or culture is taken over by some other nation or culture, the latter naturally tends to see the former as having been either deranged, immoral or stupid. That’s the nature of human limitation, in the sense that it’s difficult for successful, strong people to look at others who find themselves in a less fortunate circumstance as being morally upright. It’s why in most of Western society, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are fine, while opium and coca leaf—two substances which, at least in their raw states, contain considerably less potential harm to users—are seen as destroyers of morality. Such thinking, or lack of thinking, hinges on racist reaction.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 03:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“FullFathomFive”]I have primarily been using the first definition of the word decadent in my post and it seems as though others have been misinterpreting me as meaning the second definition.

I thought it was clear that you meant the first one.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[quote author=“Carstonio”][quote author=“FullFathomFive”]I have primarily been using the first definition of the word decadent in my post and it seems as though others have been misinterpreting me as meaning the second definition.

Even with that clarification, your post still implies that fundamentalism has some exclusive title on morality.

I don’t believe my post does imply that fundamentalism has an exclusive claim to morality. The post simply postulates that BOTH fundamentalism AND a kind of societal decadence need to be watched closely as they are flip-sides of the same civiliztion-killing coin (think Mayans and Taliban, one decadent the other fundamentalist and both rotten to the core). I even say at the end of my post that religiosity kills people and creates division, I believe that implies moral decay. Thank you though for your reply, this is an idea I am kicking around and posting on Sam Harris’ site definitely makes me see that I need to continue to clarify my position. Cheers.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 03:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“F-cubed”]The post simply postulates that BOTH fundamentalism AND a kind of societal decadence need to be watched closely as they are flip-sides of the same civiliztion-killing coin…I need to continue to clarify my position. Cheers.

Yes. Do me a favor, and unpack that funny little word “need”, the way you have used it above.

Please elaborate on the virtue(s) of the maiden whose honor you are defending.

Ah, Lady Liberty. Purveyor of “Libertines” to the world. Or, at least, of Le Big Mac.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 04:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“homunculus”]FFF, if you fear a collapse of Western society or some pocket of it (U.S.A. perhaps?), you’ve bought into a popular but false myth. I’ll instead suggest a valid cliche: History gets written by the victors. When a nation or culture is taken over by some other nation or culture, the latter naturally tends to see the former as having been either deranged, immoral or stupid. That’s the nature of human limitation, in the sense that it’s difficult for successful, strong people to look at others who find themselves in a less fortunate circumstance as being morally upright. It’s why in most of Western society, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are fine, while opium and coca leaf—two substances which, at least in their raw states, contain considerably less potential harm to users—are seen as destroyers of morality. Such thinking, or lack of thinking, hinges on racist reaction.

“You’ve bought into a popular but false myth….Such thinking, or lack of thinking, hinges on racist reaction”.

Have you ever read any of Jared Diamonds books, like ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’? The Mayans were an incredibly decadent culture, they were also highly religious, I think that no matter how you measure their society the mutilation and sacrificing of human life is immoral, does this make me racist because the Spanish (a western society) then came and conquered Central America? I don’t think so. The sacrificing of human life seems to me to be pretty universal in it’s immorality. A rise in religiosity is usually always accompanied by a rise in moral decay or perceived moral decay, and vice versa. I do not believe gay marriage to be moral decay, however I do believe that rampant unprotected, promiscuous sex is a measure of moral decay. Pornography in and of itself is not a sign of moral decay, however when pornography becomes a multi-billion dollar industry which is increasingly becoming mainstream, that is a sign of moral decay. 

Here’s a story for you: Last winter I was staying at a Hotel in Sacramento California, at around 11pm about six young people checked-in to the room next to me. Within about half an hour I could hear that these six people were starting to get their groove on (if you know what I mean). I went out to the swimming pool area where my sliding glass door and theirs was located and tried to see what was going on. Guess what I saw? They were having an orgy with a strobe light turned on and one of them was video taping the whole thing. No shit!

Now, I have no problem with people having orgies (in fact if I were intertwined between some ‘lovelies’ I wouldn’t complain), however I do have a problem with people having orgies in public Hotels. What if there was a family in the room next to theirs? Or an old man with a heart condition? Once again sex is not the problem, the problem is that somewhere along the line these six people got it into their heads that having an orgy in a public hotel is perfectly acceptable. Where did they get this idea? Well, switch on MTV, get on the internet, open a magazine, it’s everywhere. Sam Harris say’s, “no society was ever too reasonable”, well I don’t think it reasonable for people to have orgies in (basically) public places. I think it’s reasonable for me to say, ‘have all the orgies you want just not in public hotel rooms.’ Does this make me Jerry Falwell? I dont think so, it makes me reasonable. I believe there is some moral decay happening in this country, does it happen in other countries and civilizations? Of course! The U.S., and West in general, doesn’t have a monopoly on moral decay and I don’t think the west and the U.S. is declining faster than certain other regions of the world. However, there are signs of moral decay both in terms of religiosity AND from a kind of decadence, where certain people have got it into their heads that having orgies -potentialy next to children- is OK.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“Anonymous”]Once again sex is not the problem, the problem is that somewhere along the line these six people got it into their heads that having an orgy in a public hotel is perfectly acceptable.

The point is not that it is perfectly acceptable, but that you have appointed yourself an arbiter of what is and is not perfectly acceptable.

And. A “god of the gaps” argument, if I ever saw one. Tell us, O, Wise One, where to draw the line. Surely we will have PDAs (not blackberries) that gradually increase in intensity until they have crossed the invisible line that you have drawn in the invisible sand. My advice to you, sir, is to quit drawing lines in it, and go pound some of it….

I think that no matter how you measure their society the mutilation and sacrificing of human life is immoral, does this make me racist because the Spanish (a western society) then came and conquered Central America?

Whew. For a second, I thought you were about to launch into an anti-abortion rant. By the way, what do you think of the Spanish conquest of the Americas? Is it at all reversible?

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Posted: 16 August 2007 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”][quote author=“Anonymous”]Once again sex is not the problem, the problem is that somewhere along the line these six people got it into their heads that having an orgy in a public hotel is perfectly acceptable.

The point is not that it is perfectly acceptable, but that you have appointed yourself an arbiter of what is and is not perfectly acceptable.

And. A “god of the gaps” argument, if I ever saw one. Tell us, O, Wise One, where to draw the line. Surely we will have PDAs (not blackberries) that gradually increase in intensity until they have crossed the invisible line that you have drawn in the invisible sand. My advice to you, sir, is to quit drawing lines in it, and go pound some of it….

I appoint myself an arbiter of what is and is not acceptable all the time…and so do you. It’s called morality. If I am short on cash flow I don’t hold-up a convenience store, I am an arbiter of my own morality. Also, I would never (if elected to public office) try and pass legislation which would prevent people from having orgies in hotel rooms. However, there are laws which make it illegal for people to have sex in public, are you saying we should recind these laws? It is illegal for grown men to troll for underage children on the internet, please tell me ‘O snide one’ where did they come up with a good cut-off age for children? Surely all 16 year-olds are of differing levels of maturity? An age limit is an ‘invisible line’, do you think we should allow adults sexual access to children?

Societies draw invisible lines all the time, they are called ‘laws’.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 04:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Whew. For a second, I thought you were about to launch into an anti-abortion rant. By the way, what do you think of the Spanish conquest of the Americas? Is it at all reversible?

I think the Spanish conquest of the Americas was immoral, but so were the Mayans themselves. Societies exploring other parts of the world is not immoral, but wiping-out entire populations while exploring is.

It seems you think I am some sort of conservative and I am not.

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Posted: 16 August 2007 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“Guest”]I don’t believe my post does imply that fundamentalism has an exclusive claim to morality. The post simply postulates that BOTH fundamentalism AND a kind of societal decadence need to be watched closely as they are flip-sides of the same civiliztion.

Thanks for the clarification.

[quote author=“Guest”]Sam Harris say’s, “no society was ever too reasonable”, well I don’t think it reasonable for people to have orgies in (basically) public places. I think it’s reasonable for me to say, ‘have all the orgies you want just not in public hotel rooms.’

I agree in principle. I just don’t know if your conclusions about moral decay are accurate, although I’m not an expert in human nature. We don’t know the mindsets of the young people you saw, we have only speculations. I was concerned for a minute that you were trying to blame such a decay on Darwinism and Engel v. Vitale, but that doesn’t seem to be your intentions.

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