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Thread: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

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    Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    "Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence."

    -- Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf
    This seems to me to be the golden key in understanding the culture war. It has been going on for a long time -- far longer than the fifty years it has been obvious to the gen pop. The Civil War was perhaps the first real inkling of it in America. As for the rest of the West, it overtook it in different places at different times, some earlier, some later. The East has its own path and this may not even apply.

    We have been in a long transitional period between two ages and will continue that way for a long time to come. The people who belong to each age are incapable of understanding one another. I guess it's "better" for we who belong to the subsequent age because history is moving with us, but then again those who belong to the prior age have the heady excitement and self-absorption of the rebel and the romance of the Doomed Tragic Figure. And of course the transition to the new age will most likely leave those of us who think we belong there (a) long since dead, and (b) hopelessly damaged and compromised by the transitional period to be much use in it anyway. God bless limited lifespan.

    In any case, the change is happening way above the pay grade of all the people involved. We can't hurry it and they can't stop it. What we can both do is try to avoid bloodshed as one age overtakes the other. Palliative care at a civilizational level. I am worried about a decent into a violence / vengeance cycle because that has accompanied most other transitions in human history.

    There seems to be Ozone in the air. It’s not exciting, at least not to me, it’s dreadful in the full sense of the term.

    Does anyone else feel like we are coming up to the lip of a canyon we might not be able to easily get out of?

    Anyway, this is a thread for the social and cultural stuff that doesn't fit easily into headlines or politics or religion or the courts. There's plenty of it out there.
    Last edited by Kepler; 12-06-2017 at 11:51 AM.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    The problem I see in this country is that we don't have two cultures, we have thousands. There are popular stereotypes out there, but oftentimes in my experience they aren't particularly accurate. People all across the globe need to understand and respect that everyone is different and that as long as people aren't harming others they should be free to do and believe whatever they want to. I'm interested to see how this thread develops.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew S. View Post
    The problem I see in this country is that we don't have two cultures, we have thousands. There are popular stereotypes out there, but oftentimes in my experience they aren't particularly accurate. People all across the globe need to understand and respect that everyone is different and that as long as people aren't harming others they should be free to do and believe whatever they want to. I'm interested to see how this thread develops.
    I know what you are saying but I don't consider those to be cultures. Cultures are typically very, very broad. For instance, Western Europe is basically one culture, despite all the nationalities and ethnicities and politics. That culture includes capitalism, socialism and even radical offshoots like Stalinism and Naziism. Those people might all want different things, but they are looking at the same world. They may be white and black on the chess board, but they are all playing chess.

    Toynbee talked about cultures as closely tied to religion. I think it's the other way around: religion conforms to the dominant culture in an area. So for example 19th century Christianity is much closer to Karl Marx than to 3rd century Christianity.

    America has two different cultures: West Modernity, born roughly in the Enlightenment, is one of them. The other is a different breed of cat -- maybe the closest there is to it is the plantation culture of the ante-bellem south and the sugar islands, but it's a lot more than that. It's like Mycenaean Homeric culture is to Periclean Greece. It's a Heroic Age, fitting in with the ancient roots of Christianity in the Levant in the Jewish Age of Kings. It's very, for lack of a better word, Asiatic: it revolves around the warlord, the priest, and The Law in a comprehensive Old Testament sense.

    The way I'd distinguish the two cultures is that Modernity considers reality to be human-created and changeable where authority is negotiated, while Heroism considers reality to be dictated by some type of godhead with a self-evident authority.

    I'm trying to distinguish the cultures with non-normative language: good and bad either don't apply or they miss the point, the whole idea is they are so non-overlapping that you can't even establish grounds on which to compare them. All standards are two dimensional and the cultural essence lives in a third dimension that at most cuts through that plane.
    Last edited by Kepler; 12-06-2017 at 01:08 PM.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Kepler View Post
    The way I'd distinguish the two cultures is that Modernity considers reality to be human-created and changeable where authority is negotiated, while Heroism considers reality to be dictated by some type of godhead with a self-evident authority.
    Based on this definition in isolation, it is today's left that is "Heroism" ("we know what is right because we are so enlightened"), especially as people like Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama are treated as if everything they say is Revealed Wisdom. "I have a pen and a phone" = I will unilaterally do whatever I think is right solely on my own authority. No negotiation allowed. Great example of "self-evident authority."

    Meanwhile, today's right is suspicious of centralized government ("authority is negotiated"), believes in limited constitutional government not government by decree; that government still should be based upon the consent of the governed (more "negotiated authority"), and not some unaccountable administrative agency that has its own agenda to enforce, no matter whether they exceed statutory authority or not.

    If there is a problem with the Constitution, "Modernity" would require that we actually amend it; we would not merely ignore it because "we know better" or solely because "we live in a different age." "We live in a different age" is the best reason to amend it, so that we keep "negotiated authority" up to date. Only "a godhead with self-evident authority" would dare to have the hubris to act unilaterally under your definition.
    Last edited by FreshFish; 12-06-2017 at 01:55 PM.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by FreshFish View Post
    Based on this definition in isolation, it is today's left that is "Heroism" ("we know what is right because we are so enlightened"), especially as people like Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama are treated as if everything they say is Revealed Wisdom. "I have a pen and a phone" = I will unilaterally do whatever I think is right solely on my own authority. No negotiation allowed.

    Meanwhile, today's right is suspicious of centralized authority ("authority is negotiated"), believes in limited constitutional government not government by decree; that government still should be based upon the consent of the governed, and not some unaccountable administrative agency that has its own agenda to enforce, no matter whether they exceed statutory authority or not.

    If there is a problem with the Constitution, "Modernity" would require that we actually amend it; we would not merely ignore it because "we know better" or solely because "we live in a different age." "We live in a different age" is the best reason to amend it, so that we keep "negotiated authority" up to date. Only "a godhead with self-evident authority" would dare to have the hubris to act unilaterally under your definition.
    All of these conceptions are well within the local maxima of politics within our ordinary political system. These are conflicts within, not between culture.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    America is the "melting pot," yet we are told constantly to be who we are and represent our heritages/cultures/etc and don't let others take that away. It's kind of a catch-22 at times. Assimilate but don't assimilate. Very conflicting.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    I read Steppenwolf in college, but I can't remember much of it. I have the feeling Kep is referring to much broader cultural fault line than we are discussing here. Perhaps the effects of a post industrial world? The topic is a rich one, though, and rereading Steppenwolf might be worth the effort.

    Maybe I'll just start by youtubing The Pusherman and see if that opens some doors of understanding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kepler View Post
    I know what you are saying but I don't consider those to be cultures. Cultures are typically very, very broad. For instance, Western Europe is basically one culture, despite all the nationalities and ethnicities and politics. That culture includes capitalism, socialism and even radical offshoots like Stalinism and Naziism. Those people might all want different things, but they are looking at the same world. They may be white and black on the chess board, but they are all playing chess.

    Toynbee talked about cultures as closely tied to religion. I think it's the other way around: religion conforms to the dominant culture in an area. So for example 19th century Christianity is much closer to Karl Marx than to 3rd century Christianity.

    America has two different cultures: West Modernity, born roughly in the Enlightenment, is one of them. The other is a different breed of cat -- maybe the closest there is to it is the plantation culture of the ante-bellem south and the sugar islands, but it's a lot more than that. It's like Mycenaean Homeric culture is to Periclean Greece. It's a Heroic Age, fitting in with the ancient roots of Christianity in the Levant in the Jewish Age of Kings. It's very, for lack of a better word, Asiatic: it revolves around the warlord, the priest, and The Law in a comprehensive Old Testament sense.

    The way I'd distinguish the two cultures is that Modernity considers reality to be human-created and changeable where authority is negotiated, while Heroism considers reality to be dictated by some type of godhead with a self-evident authority.

    I'm trying to distinguish the cultures with non-normative language: good and bad either don't apply or they miss the point, the whole idea is they are so non-overlapping that you can't even establish grounds on which to compare them. All standards are two dimensional and the cultural essence lives in a third dimension that at most cuts through that plane.
    You lost me when you so casually lump all European cultures over the last 100 years as being different shades of gray, then turn around and say that the US has two distinct colors. You'll have a hard time convincing me that there is more cultural variety here at this one point in time than there has been in Europe over 100 years. It makes no sense.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by burd View Post
    I have the feeling Kep is referring to much broader cultural fault line than we are discussing here. Perhaps the effects of a post industrial world? The topic is a rich one
    One way to look at it within the USA is that we had a culture in which shame was a powerful societal force, and self-restraint, self-discipline, and hard work were a natural part of adulthood. The fundamental principle was that one sublimated one's own desires toward the health of the family and the welfare of the community.

    We had a cultural revolution in which those values were denigrated, and self-expression and self-fulfillment became the core principles. No more of that old-fashioned fuddy-duddy stuff for us! Sex, drugs, rock & roll; "turn on, tune in, drop out."

    That might have been fine for adolescents as a transitional phase into adulthood....however, much of our society now, viewed from the former perspective, remains stuck in a permanent state of adolescence. Self-fulfillment has degenerated into self-indulgence.

    The Kardashians are perhaps the best example of the latter culture, though no doubt other examples abound as well.



    One could persuasively argue that current revelations of two or three decades of sexual harassment by powerful men is not an unexpected consequence of the latter culture. What self-respecting adult man in the former culture would ever think it was okay to grope someone, and what self-respecting woman in the former culture would not have responded by slapping him across the face right then and there?
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by FreshFish View Post

    Meanwhile, today's right is suspicious of centralized government ("authority is negotiated"), believes in limited constitutional government not government by decree; that government still should be based upon the consent of the governed (more "negotiated authority"), and not some unaccountable administrative agency that has its own agenda to enforce, no matter whether they exceed statutory authority or not.
    Uh...maybe in the 1960s but there is no way you can say the current version of The Right fears centralized power. They stopped hating Big Government when Reagan took power and have done nothing but make Washington more powerful any time they took office.

    The only thing the Right fears is the Left in power.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Handyman View Post
    Uh...maybe in the 1960s but there is no way you can say the current version of The Right fears centralized power. They stopped hating Big Government when Reagan took power and have done nothing but make Washington more powerful any time they took office.

    The only thing the Right fears is the Left in power.
    Correct. 100% correct. They love centralized power as long as it agrees with their ideology.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by FreshFish View Post
    One way to look at it within the USA is ...
    This is a right wing cartoon characterization of the social clash in the US in the 1960s, which the left grew out of but the right never did.

    In any case, this is not a cultural difference. You are talking about virtue. Every culture has virtue ethics within it, and then a swirl of differing attitudes among the people of that culture.

    These are simplistic platitudes in a political battle. That's the Chick tract reduction of any topic to a political hobbyhorse.

    Culture is way, way way below "liberal vs conservative" -- it's bred in the bone. Liberalism and conservatism exist in each of America's two cultures. Those political belief systems are operating at a far different level, they are built on the cultural assumptions that are shared in the culture.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Could we agree that as a country we value money and fame(regardless of how they are obtained) much more than hard work and intelligence? I would argue that is one of the biggest changes in the last 50 years or whatever.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew S. View Post
    Could we agree that as a country we value money and fame(regardless of how they are obtained) much more than hard work and intelligence? I would argue that is one of the biggest changes in the last 50 years or whatever.
    American culture has always been known for over-valuing money (not so much fame, really). In the pantheon of international stereotypes the American ones are: materialistic, violent, and loud.

    This was true back into the 19th century at least. It would be interesting to know when it replaced our Jeffersonian "noble agrarian savage" mystique.
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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Kepler View Post
    American culture has always been known for over-valuing money (not so much fame, really). In the pantheon of international stereotypes the American ones are: materialistic, violent, and loud.

    This was true back into the 19th century at least. It would be interesting to know when it replaced our Jeffersonian "noble agrarian savage" mystique.
    Uh, when Jefferson was talking about "noble agrarian savage", he was really talking about slave owning plantation culture. Especially when being worried about "taxing" subsistence farmers- since they have nothing to tax (at the time).

    And that interest in money/power goes back farther than this country- it's rooted in the whole lord-serf model of Europe prior to that. Which is what we are returning to by concentrating money and power so far up.

    Money, money, money. That is our culture.

    Where there is harsh separation are the handful that are starting to not like being part of that system.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Handyman View Post
    Uh...maybe in the 1960s but there is no way you can say the current version of The Right fears centralized power. They stopped hating Big Government when Reagan took power and have done nothing but make Washington more powerful any time they took office.

    The only thing the Right fears is the Left in power.
    + infinity.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Brenthoven View Post
    America is the "melting pot," yet we are told constantly to be who we are and represent our heritages/cultures/etc and don't let others take that away. It's kind of a catch-22 at times. Assimilate but don't assimilate. Very conflicting.
    It's only a catch 22 when you need to be part of a different tribe to survive. If your tribe was large enough in a community, the need to "assimilate" is/was far less.

    Really, it's only conflicting when people force others to be like them just to accept them. And that's why the color of your skin will never end a conflict, because you can make yourself LOOK like the tribe you have to live in if you are different.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew S. View Post
    The problem I see in this country is that we don't have two cultures, we have thousands. There are popular stereotypes out there, but oftentimes in my experience they aren't particularly accurate. People all across the globe need to understand and respect that everyone is different and that as long as people aren't harming others they should be free to do and believe whatever they want to. I'm interested to see how this thread develops.
    Some would call that an advantage instead of a problem.

    If people accepted diverse thought, you can get solutions were 1+1=3, vs. calling it a problem where 1+1= 1 because someone is ignored.

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    Re: Culture War 1: Between Two Ages

    Quote Originally Posted by Kepler View Post
    American culture has always been known for over-valuing money (not so much fame, really). In the pantheon of international stereotypes the American ones are: materialistic, violent, and loud.

    This was true back into the 19th century at least. It would be interesting to know when it replaced our Jeffersonian "noble agrarian savage" mystique.
    Even Jefferson never believed that...
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