In the fullness of time, the robot historians sifting through the remains of this age will point to the 1970’s as the time when the American empire took a fateful turn. The 1960’s get all the blame for the cultural collapse of America and the West, but that’s not really fair nor is it accurate. Lots of terrible ideas were born in the 60’s, but terrible ideas like the Civil Rights movement started in the 50’s. Women’s rights started in the 20’s. It was the 1970’s when all of these terrible ideas came together to wash away the West.
Look at the disco era, as portrayed by the movie Saturday Night Fever. You have all the things that define this era. There is the reckless personal behavior, the pointlessness of the character’s lives and the denigration of bourgeois values. The main character is basically a bum who works in a hardware store so he can make enough money to party with other degenerates. He treats his girlfriend so poorly, she eventually becomes a whore that his buddies pass around, so she can stay in the group.
Everything about the movie, like the lifestyle it portrayed, was degenerate. The disco era was basically just an effort to take the underground homosexual scene in New York City and vomit it onto Middle America. It largely worked too. While the 1960’s saw bourgeois America stagger, it was the 1970’s when the cultural revolution hit the working and lower classes. All the rules that gave structure to the lower ranks were obliterated. The result was the birth of the white underclass and a drug culture that is still with us.
Again, the terrible ideas that found there way into the lower class in the 70’s were not products of the time. Just as the hippy culture was a result of the beatnik phenomenon, which was an outgrowth of the jazz age, the 70’s were a consequence. The difference though is that the cultural changes that rocketed through the middle and upper classes could be absorbed to a great degree. Money and class provide for a greater margin of error. Rich people can afford sex, drugs and rock and roll.
That’s the real crime of the post-war cultural revolution. The people at the top actually benefited from it, as they were no longer morally responsible for setting a good example and looking after society. They were suddenly free to be indifferent. The upper middle-class could inoculate itself from most of the damage, mostly by moving into enclaves where their kids would not be exposed to the consequences. The proliferation of private schools for the upper middle-classes started in the 1970’s for a reason.
It is the middle and lower classes that have paid the price for what happened in the post war years. To a great degree, middle class America has always been an extension of the working class. The smart and resourceful kids of the working class could make it into office jobs, rather than working in blue collar fields. At the same time, if the children of middle-class people slipped up and fell into the working class, the climb back up was not that far and only required a little help. The gap between middle and the rest was small.
The cultural revolution decimated the working classes, creating a white underclass. The gap between there and the middle-class is now enormous. If the child of school teachers makes mistakes and falls out of the middle class, it’s as if he has fallen down a well. The climb back out of the underclass is enormous. One unmentioned reason for the shrinking white middle-class is the floor underneath them has collapsed. This not only makes them vulnerable, it has made them powerless as a political force.
Another consequence of the cultural revolution was the segregation of the classes, both physically and cognitively. The ruling elites, freed from any moral duty to look out for their inferiors were now entirely divorced from them. The upper-middle, which always looks up for its aesthetic and cultural cues, has now cultivated a hatred of the lower ranks, as part of what defines their class. Those rules, enforced by the upper classes, that provided structure to the lower classes, also provided a connection between the classes.
The physical ugliness of the 1970’s, as presented in the movie Saturday Night Fever, was a glimpse of the spiritual degeneracy to come. The pointless self-indulgence of the characters, their reckless disregard for one another, their families and communities, all of it was waiting for the country as a whole. The physical ugliness of the age has been cleansed by the sterile aesthetic of Silicon Valley, but the spiritual ugliness of the cultural revolution remains. Glass and stainless steel cannot mask it.
That ugliness is what is fueling the populist movements. In Europe and America, the natives, physically and culturally divorced from their rulers, are now looking for alternative sources of authority. The people are recoiling at the ugly world created for them by their rulers, so the slow search for new rulers has begun. No one thinks about it quite like that yet, but in time, that corner will be turned. We’ll move from reform to the idea of starting fresh and leaving the ugliness of left-wing radicalism behind.