Siegel (2013) presented what might be described as a history of the recent decline of Western culture, spanning more than the past 50 years. Siegel’s focus was the way what was once considered vulgar, and inappropriate for discussion in so-called polite company, is increasingly normative. It is not simply language that is changing, but the topics and tone of what is appropriate for public discussion seems increasingly unbounded.
I recall less about the 1960s than I probably should, but a summer camp missive to a group of junior high boys by our leader, Cliff, remains etched in my memory. Like Siegel (2013), Cliff used the words of two songs by the Rolling Stones to illustrate the point that our cultural values were changing; the year was 1966 or 1967. Siegel noted that the differences in lyrics then compared to now were tame.
I also recall less about a year of high school honors physics, three lower-division college physics courses and three upper-division college physical chemistry courses. I do recall entropy, the principle that all things in the universe are irreversibly moving to a state of increased disorder or chaos. Entropy seems to suggest that rules and frameworks will have less influence in all systems. Could increasingly normative vulgarity be a reflection of entropy?
Many, perhaps most, of the world’s major religions promote a system of disciplines, of disciplined living based on a set of rules, precepts, guidelines, or standards for living. The Ten Commandments and various addenda apply to Judaism and Christianity. Islam has a set of rules for appropriate living, which are distinct from the systems of laws. Buddists and Hindus have rules. Taoists also have rules or precepts. Some who reject the religions of the world seem to object to negative feelings associated with rules (Sullivan, 2009).
Trends away from rules may be pervasive in Western culture. Legal systems and school districts seem to be migrating toward more accountability. Is this a natural response to entropy or a futile attempt to maintain or save Western culture? Libertarianism and various movements to reduce efforts to legislate morality may sound appealing, but may lead to continued decline in Western culture and provide an argument outside the Western world to reject elements of that culture.
Siegel, L. (2013, December 7). America the Vulgar. Whatever happened to the subtle thrill of real transgression? Wall Street Journal, 262(135), C1.
Sullivan, P. J. (2009). Women’s stories of rejecting organized religion and discovering a personal spiritual framework. (Order No. 3423879, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 167. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/761137464?accountid=35812