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A huge change occurred in the 1920's, just after the "War to End all Wars" drew to

a conclusion.It was a change that hardly anyone, outside of a few crotchety old
folks, bothered to notice.It was the biggest change in culture that the US, and by
extension, the now- US dominated European powers, had ever witnessed. This change
in cultural mores, long in the making, was, in the 1920's, for the first time, out
in the open: a change in clothing, behavior, music, the arts and the humanities.
It was the beginning of a new age of crassness, cynicism, decadence and nihilism.
Many trace the beginnings of this new nihilism to the opium dens and bordellos of
Paris and Berlin, but the origins were firmly in the world's new cultural capital:
New York City.America had been a pioneer land, a land of farmers and
manufacturers. America's cultural output had long sought to emulate European
models, cultural models firmly rooted in Europe's Christian heritage. This would
all change. Along with the change in culture, came a change in values; no longer
were the good of society and the upholding of integrity and honor of highest
benefit; instead, the new era celebrated the individual, and the self-
aggrandization of the self as the supreme good. The bootlegger, mobster, robber
baron and burlesque queen were the new reigning cultural heroes. How one gained
success, whether through ingenuity or graft, was now beside the point. William
Butler Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming", written in the aftermath of WWI, clearly
explicates this new moral illness that has taken its grip upon the West. As
prophesied by Yeats: Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy
is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the
worst Are full of passionate intensity.That this change was accompanied by
Prohibition, a puritanical movement akin in spirit to Oliver Cromwell's ill-fated
takeover of British society in the 1600's, is all the more ironic. Cultural
descents into nihilism and decay are almost inevitably linked to counter-movements
which seek to enforce morality through law. In such times, as man loses the moral
fibre and will to control the beast within, he turns desperately to outward
authority, hoping to quell the rising tide of inner chaos. Although Prohibition
sought to fight the outward symptoms, the inner decay and rot had firmly set in,
and we began, to paraphrase Robert Bork, "slouching toward Gomorrah". As this
change in attitudes occurred, the fruits began to show- changes in modesty,
morality, ethics, music and politics. America began to follow the path that
brought down ancient Rome. As in latter day Rome, moralists who decried these
developments were scoffed at as being "old fashioned". Seneca had decried the
changes that he saw in ancient Rome. Tacitus, in his famed "Annals", had stated
that Rome's moral degeneracy was the root cause of its decline; similarly, a
decline in the American Empire is taking place, one that began in the years after
the first World War.The first obvious change was in standards of modesty.
Suddenly, for the first time since the Christianization of Europe, we began to see
women dressing immodestly. For thousands of years, fashions had changed, and
hemlines had gone up and down, always settling somewhere between knee length and
floor length. Women in ancient Phoenicia and Egypt, as in many pre-Christian
civilizations, had freely exposed their thighs and breasts; in Christian
countries, this was unheard of. After the 1920's, however, it became soon hard to
tell the difference between a prostitute and a housewife, as more and more women
began to emulate the behaviors and fashions of prostitutes. As in latter-day Rome,
women's clothing became more and more skimpy. What began then, with the slight
raising of hemlines, ends in today's society, in which 10 year old girls prance
about in skin-tight clothes, hotpants and bare midriffs, and pedophiles and
perverts snatch them off the streets to do as they like with them. Women of all
walks of life are referred to as "hos" in today's popular music, and those who
take offense are seen as "uptight". This is the shadow side to our much-vaunted
"sexual liberation".Another change would occur in music. Gone were "romantic"
sentiments, now replaced by crass admonitions to "give a kiss", or "make love".
Of course, by modern eyes, these popular tunes are slightly risqu�, but nothing
new. However, what we now, in out corrupt era, see as kitschy and quaint, was at
the time shocking. This change in sexual mores was predictably coupled with a rise
in divorce and abortion. We have now progressed to the point that premarital sex
is taken for granted, and parents can expect to accompany their children to the
drugstore to buy their first condoms. But is this "progress" or the sign of a
culture and society collapsing? The values that existed for centuries have been
thrown aside, with nothing to replace them but negation, or facile exhortations to
"do what seems right". Before the 20's, a woman could expect that her first kiss
might be on her wedding night, or at least on the day of her engagement. After the
20's, however, the norms had changed, and women were encouraged to kiss as many
men as possible. Soon, by the 50's, the standard was "heavy petting". By the
60's, free sex was the standard. We now are seeing an era in which many teens
are considered "uncool" and "uptight" unless they participate in orgies. Not only
do we espouse these new "virtues", we export them worldwide, in the form of
"entertainment", all the while holding a hypocritical stance, by pretending to be
"shocked". We have become the new Babylon, a nation that seduces the world with
hedonism. Is it any wonder that many countries call America the "great Satan"?In
the 1920's, a commonly held belief was that the new mania for jazz, with its
syncopated rhythms and "African" influences, could be held to blame for the sudden
sea change in cultural values. This glib response can be seen to be overly
simplistic. It would be putting the cart before the horse. The new ideals were as
equally expressed by Stravinsky's paganistic "Rite of Spring" as by boogie woogie
piano playing. As opposed the what Nietzsche called the "Apollonian" side of
culture, that which seeks balance and structure, we were now moving into the realm
of the "Dionysian"- the irrational, the delusional, the fanatical side of human
nature. As a matter of fact, jazz progressed very rapidly from being simply a new
syncopated dance form to being a full-fledged art music; in just a couple decades,
it threw off the shackles of populism, and with its introspective passages and an
intellectual language of its own, began to strive towards being an art music.
Concurrently, as jazz became more artistic, however, it was seen as more and more
culturally irrelevant- as well as less financially lucrative- by the music
business. African American music reached a peak in the 1950's and 1960's, and was
instrumental in giving African Americans a new, more positive image. Motown,
Gospel R and B and jazz became popular all over the world; at this point, the
music was a positive force.Gradually, this, too, began to change and devolve; the
"black music" that is been promoted today is more the doing of white businessmen
who promote the stereotype of the black prostitute and criminal, as a means to
have their cake and eat it too- to promote debauchery, all the while using "black
culture" as a convenient front.Thus the racist naysayers of the early 20th century
were proved wrong by their earlier prophesy that jazz, as "black music" would be
the undoing of America. What has, in reality, been the undoing of America, and its
musical culture, is the unfettered capitalism of the music "industry". Music,
always at the behest of patronage, became a "product" in a coolly objective
machine of advertising, payola and graft, and as a result, became objectified and
debased. In Classical music, as well, the intelligentsia has replaced tradition
with "deconstructed" music. Nowadays, the more chaotic and lifeless the music is,
the more popular it is with music critics.The content of popular music and
entertainment has also changed dramatically over the past century. Once, most
popular songs dealt with home, hearth, family and love, as well as heart-felt
religious sentiment. Films, once light-hearted dramas and comedies featuring the
triumph of good over evil, happy-ending romances and musicals, have become
bloodbaths with foul-mouthed criminal "anti-heroes". Good is seldom portrayed;
godliness is unheard of, and the word "irreverent" now is taken to be the highest
praise for any form of entertainment. Scoffing at "old fashioned" values is now so
blas� that nudity in the theater or film is merely yawned at. "Oh! Calcutta", the
seventies- era musical that was billed as the longest-running musical of all time,
was performed entirely in the nude. At the time, this was a sensation, meant to
provoke shock or excitement. Today, most films and many theater pieces feature
nudity, many also depicting incest or rape. The future dystopia was, ironically,
predicted in Fritz Lang's 1927 film "Metropolis", which depicted the dehumanized
workers, and the inevitable ascent of machine over man that we now see. Similarly,
Charlie Chaplin's 1934 film "Modern Times" deftly portrayed a man caught
helplessly in the grinding gyres of industrialism, driven mad by the harsh
dictates of the machine. Go to any dance club nowadays, and you will see young
people, like marionettes, furiously dancing to the mechanized, lifeless unhuman
beat of a machine, sometimes accompanied by chanted lyrics. This so-called "music"
is without melody, harmony or spirit; its
breath is the frigid sound of the abyss. As depicted by Lang's "Maschinenmensch",
the machine who broke free from her master to create destruction, our machines
have truly become our masters, because we have refused to serve God and one
another.Along with this new obsessive fixation on nudity and sexuality, came the
sexualization of children. Pandora's Box of "sexual liberation", once opened,
couldn't so readily be closed again. America now exports tons of hard-core
pornography, featuring torture, abuse, defecating and urinating on others,
bestiality and child porn. The producers of such smut are paraded on TV talk shows
as "businessmen", just like any other- after all, who can argue with success?
California, once a land of promise to weary immigrants, is now the center of the
porn racket, ensnaring millions of women, men and children, many coerced into
becoming so-called "sex workers". At the beginning of the 20th century, American
Gospel music, both the "white" country gospel, and the "Negro spiritual"
tradition, was characterized mainly by its rhythmic and harmonic simplicity, its
heartfelt, humble lyrics, and contemplative character. Indeed, the plaintive
sounds of black American singing often had such a profound effect on its listeners
that it could be credited, in part, with helping to end slavery and promoting the
cause of civil rights. At this point, black gospel and spiritual music was noted
for its innate dignity and nobility of character. As Gospel music became more and
more a commodity and a form of entertainment, it, too, started to become
"Dionysian"- emphasizing emotion over substance, becoming less and less
introspective or meditative. Soon, what mattered was flashy arrangements, florid
vocal displays, dramatic vocal leaps and hypnotic repeated choruses. This has, in
our time, become so much the norm that we hardly question it.In a "Christian"
society, secular music tends to imitate the church's standard. In previous
centuries, singers and musicians, schooled by the church, could "branch off" and
turn to making "light" popular music, if they wished. The highest art was always
that commissioned by the churches. In a fallen society, however, the church seeks
to imitate the world. Hypnotic, paganistic music is now the norm in most churches.
Contemplation and introspection are considered suspect, because that would mean
that one would have to think for himself. Better to appeal to the rawest emotions-
pride, vainglory, envy and malice. And all the better without that pesky
conscience. It's a peculiarly Nietzschean form of Christianity, one that
emphasizes the self above all, and declares each and every one of us a mini-god in
the making. As the church goes, so goes the society. And as church music goes, so
goes popular music. Today's singers, coached in the histrionic excesses of America
Gospel, eschew deeper, spiritual singing, and strive towards expressing pure ego.
The heart of these changes was in the rejection of God as moral authority.
Although much about the nature of God and religion could be argued, in previous
centuries, people had always agreed on the existence of a higher moral and
spiritual authority. It was taken for granted that God was a God of order, that
the universe followed logical laws and that music was an expression of order and
logic, not chaos. The urge towards chaos, towards what Nietzsche described as the
"Dionysian" side of the Arts- that which is irrational, emotional, and chaotic-
came to the arts after it had thoroughly permeated the humanities- from Darwin,
Freud, Marx and others. This new era proclaimed great ideals which contradicted
each other; Darwin proclaimed that we, mere mammals without souls or spirits, are
descended from apes. Nietzsche told us that we will rise to become godlike
"Supermen", through our own efforts. No higher power or higher authority would be
needed. Social Darwinism has been used as the basis for both Mussolini's fascism
and modern neo-liberal "free trade" capitalism; at its root is a fundamental
denial of the sanctity of human life, reducing man to the status of animal. With
any of these modern philosophies, man could freely find justification to oppress
his fellow man.Moreover, without the intrusion of a guilty conscience, man could
become the "noble savage" so fondly depicted by Rousseau in the 18th century. What
Rousseau couldn't foresee, however, is that man without God is perhaps savage, but
seldom noble. The senseless bloodbath of WWI, with technology being put to use to
kill men in ever-more efficient ways, should have been a wake- up call to
humanity, to put an end to the worship of the self, and turn to God.
Unfortunately, man's pride will seldom give quarter to God's mercy. What we have
seen in this past century is that man, refusing to submit to God, claims his
"freedom", and in turn becomes a slave. Science, meant to serve man and humanity,
becomes a servant of death and destruction, and the master of mankind. So the mis-
use of aviation and chemistry in WWI begat the mis-use of physics in WWII, which
will beget the mis-use of computer science, biology and genetics in WWIII. We
cannot expect to survive WWIII.We are now at a point in which America's music and
entertainment industries have reached a zenith of cultural babylonism. No nation
escapes Babylon's spell- all submit to her writhing melodies, hypnotic drumming,
cunning, profane, seducing lyrics and visions of semi-nude dancing girls. Mammon,
the god to whom all things are sacrificed, stands at the apex of cultural Babylon.
As with ancient Babylon, children are the preferred sacrificial victims. Unlike
the God of love and Prince of Peace of Jesus' teachings, the new god is a god who
demands blood- and hence, the nonstop hedonistic bloodbath of America's popular
culture, in which death and murder are forms of entertainment. The spell of
Babylon is completed by its "magic": technology which can bewitch young minds, and
compel them to evil, murder and torture. We see ever-greater numbers of children
succumbing to suicide, depression and violence- all sacrificed to the god of
Mammon.Sir Isaac Newton's third law states: "For every action, there is an equal
and opposite reaction." The moral descent is, inevitably, coupled with cries for
law and order. Moral anarchy is quickly followed by tyranny, for as Jeremy Bentham
states, "Tyranny and anarchy are never far apart." As the moral anarchy rose in
the aftermath of WWI, so did the people's demands for a restoration of order.
Fascism soon spread in Europe and abroad- Mussolini, Hitler and the rise of
fascistic communism in the east. Robert Paxton describes fascism as encompassing
"a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions" as well as
"a need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the
superiority of his instincts". In place of a spiritual force informing the human
conscience, a man is placed in the position of god. In the moral vacuum of a world
without God, this leader removes the need for self-inspection and moral
responsibility. In the inevitable bloodbath that follows, "We were only following
orders" becomes the new mantra of the self-hypnotized masses. Is it too late to
turn the tide? So-called conservatives want to usher in a new era of Cromwellism-
by enforcing morality, imposing prayer in the schools, banning "sinful" acts, and
expanding America's gulag system (which currently holds 2 million prisoners).
Their calls for morality by force of law are accompanied by record levels of
corruption in government, law and religion. Scandals involving pedophilia among
priests, evangelist "church leaders" visiting prostitutes and "conservative"
politicians soliciting sex in toilets or whorehouses are endemic of a culture that
has rotted. Merely changing laws will not undo the decay that has set in. Allowing
people to choose to follow their conscience, and keeping the separation between
church and state is now more necessary than ever. America has never lived up to
its promise of liberty and justice for all, but there has always been a force for
good that had no need to be impelled by political force.Cromwell and his Puritans
proved themselves to just as intolerant of non-puritans as the oppressors they
sought to replace. Repression and violence are the fruits of "moral" pseudo-
Christianity, not the peace and love of Jesus' teachings. England soon tired of
the dictates of Puritanism, and threw off the shackles of forced morality.
Similarly, a fascist police state such as Mussolini's will not preserve, but
rather, will destroy whatever vestiges of morality and Christianity America might
have. These are the very shackles of pseudo-Christianity that the right-wingers
implore us to put on. Morality, however, comes from within, and forcing non-
Christians to live as Christians will merely produce a generation of hypocrites.
Thus, the conservatives' cry that "liberalism" is the cause of all ills is rooted
in the liberal/conservative dichotomy, a Hegelian dialectic which has been set up
to divide and conquer. The twin sides of modern political evil- big government
socialism and scavenger capitalism- have both served to sever man from his own
humanity. Socialism renders the individual into a mere number, and capitalism
turns him into a commodity. What we need is a new, humanistic libertarianism, a
"middle way" that would avoid either extreme.If America can be saved, it will be
by rejecting a simplistic hedonistic philosophy of materialism, and seeking values
that, while adapted to a modern age, have, at their heart, reverence for life,
humanity and planet earth. A kinder, gentler America can exist, if we agree to
change our hearts and minds, for the actions spring from within the will. This, of
course, would mean being willing to change our way of life- it
would mean a simpler lifestyle, with less luxury, but more meaning. It would mean
embracing love and forgiveness, instead of hatred and negativity. It would mean
living in harmony with nature, instead of fighting it, and it would mean placing
technology below us, as our servant, instead of letting it be our master. It would
mean dismantling the military-industrial complex, and renouncing any advantages we
have received from it, and replacing military supremacy with moral supremacy. The
question remains: are we big enough people to do it? I pray that we are.