Tuesday, February 16, 2021

What's Wrong with Decadence

The inimitable Julie Burchill has taken to explaining the dangers that accompany decadence. I am sure that you were all looking for a good reason to toss aside your adolescent decadence. If you weren’t, Burchill will surely persuade you to do so. 

She begins by explaining that decadence has its time and its place-- in adolescence. If you fail to put away childish things, as the apostle called them, you will end up being boring. I am sure that you do not want to be boring. What can be more boring than being boring.

Still, if you know when to get off, there’s nothing wrong with youthful day-trips to Decadence. It’s one of those things, like love bites and Maoism, which you can indulge in when young and pretty, but look rather sad trying to sustain into middle age. Worst of all, it can make you profoundly boring. Its 19th-century adherents went on to embrace everything from Catholicism to anarchy. I started volunteering in a charity shop.

When you start out on the road to decadence you will feel rebellious, or some such. But then, if you cling to your decadence, you will become a lab rat, the kind that is used to study addictions. This happens after the pleasure ceases to be pleasurable.

Is that really so surprising, though? Not when you consider that the same waywardness which leads lost souls to decadence will eventually lead them out again — unless pleasure has destroyed them before they get the chance to break free. Because while pleasure, whether induced by pornography or cocaine, appears at first to open up a new world, hold it a beat too long and it ends up shrinking that new realm until you become not a Decadent but a lab rat, scurrying about in your own personal sewer searching for the next lever to pull.

And then, Burchill explains, people who have too much decadence lie about their behavior, casting themselves as cultural revolutionaries. They are lying down in a stupor-- almost as though they were lying on an analyst's couch-- claiming that they are embracing their wickedness, or some such. It’s better than being too weak to overcome an addiction. 

A good point, I would say:

When this happens, people begin to ceaselessly lie to themselves about their behaviour in order to continue it. And perhaps there’s a psychological reason for this: being wicked is always going to seem a lot more attractive than being weak. In every branch of the arts, for example, wicked people are glamourised, whereas the weak are portrayed as deserving nothing but contempt. This often leads to self-deception, as the Decadent insists that the source of their chosen indulgence — be it drugs or porn — is magically free of the misery and broken lives which litter its production.

She means to say that decadent pursuits have a price, in broken lives and in human misery. 

As always, Burchill’s musings are well worth our attention.


Sam L. said...

Orrrrr, NO LINK? Which is what I see. But then, I am waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past my adolescence.

Anonymous said...

Stuart is going to be the first man to live past 150.