The professors of decline are again picking up their pens. Here is a sneak preview of one of the finest of the genreby Frederic Raphael / October 20, 1998 / Leave a comment
Among my autumn reading, I am looking forward to a brilliant new book entitled Going West. If promises are kept, it will offer a trenchant analysis, garnished with specific and spicy examples, of what its exultantly pessimistic author regards as “the end of morals”:
“When adultery becomes sincerity and sharp practice secures promotion, when fraud is enterprise and plagiarism authorship, when nobility is gained at the gang-bang and titles by bragging, when the truth is a lie with the right spin on it and when God is a prude with an out-of-date agenda, what morality has more leverage than a matchstick, except with those who, by their irrelevant credulities, announce resignation from all prospect of office, preferment or syndicated admiration? Vices are never deadly in today’s world; only virtues engender morbidly uncomely symptoms such as scruples, honour and keeping one’s word. Venality is today’s certificate of merit: a man who is not for sale is simply not pulling his weight.”
In offering jeering, Veblenesque acknowledgement to Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, Going West is bound to argue, if argument is needed, that “the west” has won both the cold war and-by creating and, crucially, servicing the world market-the economic-cultural hegemony of the globe. “Who owns the oil-press is never short of olives,” as the Corsicans are quoted as saying. By commanding the banking machinery, the west became immeasurably richer while Opec was said to be bleeding it white. Now, of course, the drug cartels, in their turn, pay their dues direct to the world’s bankers, who:
“…hardly know what to do with the filthy richness they launder for the demonised special customers who corrupt their children. The New Class, in which organised crime and multinational cartels combine on extra-territorial terms, ‘taxes’ the punters by levying revenue from pleasures and vices which governments dare not advocate but from whose fiscal benefits they cannot afford to be excluded. In the name of modernisation, and competitivity, our betters dismantle all the institutions (especially the universities) which once created the genuine illusion of ‘a world elsewhere.’ What seems to be nobody’s fault-the steady destruction of standards, in life and in art-contributes, as if by chance, to the maximisation of the mug’s market, where prices for crap are slashed until they are exorbitantly cheap.
“As official taxes appear to be lowered, the credulous are milked of their spare cash by offers they cannot…