Ross Douthat shines, dimly

Decadence is a comfortable disease …

What fascinates and terrifies us about the Roman Empire is not that it finally went smash,” wrote W.H. Auden of that endless autumn, but rather that it managed to last for four centuries without creativity, warmth, or hope.”

[I]t’s possible that Western society is leaning back in an easy chair, hooked up to a drip of something soothing, playing and replaying an ideological greatest-hits tape from its wild and crazy youth.

Which is, to be clear, hardly the worst fate imaginable. Complaining about decadence is a luxury good — a feature of societies where the mail is delivered, the crime rate is relatively low, and there is plenty of entertainment at your fingertips. Human beings can still live vigorously amid a general stagnation, be fruitful amid sterility, be creative amid repetition. And the decadent society, unlike the full dystopia, allows those signs of contradictions to exist, which means that it’s always possible to imagine and work toward renewal and renaissance.

Ross Douthat in an unusually long (and worthwhile) column. It’s rather grim, so you might just want to increase the drip rate and go back to sleep.

February 8, 2020

Previous:The price of preening
Next:And then the other shoe dropped …