Unfocused ruminations on cultural exhaustion
Upon entering this ridiculous country, I was required to quarantine for two weeks, which civic obligation I proceeded to shirk more or less from day one because fuck you, that’s why. As if to punctuate the absurdity of the exercise, less than a weak after quarantine ended, I came down with a vicious case of the dread rona ... which virus I cannot possibly have brought across the international frontier, but must have acquired locally. Ironically, the last time I caught the doomcoof was also the last time I visited Canada. I’m starting to notice a pattern here. Also ironically, if I’d just waited a month before returning, I could have avoided the whole ArriveCAN/quarantine requirement entirely ... and could have maintained my perfect record of never having been tested for the coronavirus. Odds are I also wouldn’t have gotten coronavirus.
The symptoms hit me like a truck. They first announced themselves via highly entertaining fever dreams, during which I was given a tour of a haunted mansion at the eye of a temporal storm, whose inhabitants were the only ones to remember the previous timeline when the timestream slipped. Following that I got the full treatment of body-wide muscle aches, presumably a sign of my immune system going into cytokine overdrive, which felt like nothing so much as getting worked over with a ball-peen hammer by some friendly Italian gents after falling behind on my ‘insurance’ payments. Days two and three treated me to a nasty headache that felt like my brain was being compacted in an industrial press. Charmingly, the headache was cheerfully non-responsive to medication, apparently a common feature of coronavirus headaches. My best guess is that this is related somehow to the virus invading my central nervous system and causing my thought-meat to swell up in reaction, although in my case I didn’t lose my sense of smell, which is one of the other signs that the CNS has been breached. Small mercies.
The last few days the only symptom I’ve had to deal with is a soul-deep exhaustion, a total absence of motivating energy that seems to have settled into my very bone marrow. It doesn’t hurt any more, so there’s that, but even the thought of doing something that isn’t watching movies wearies me. Which is about all I’ve been doing for the last week ... mostly re-watching old 80s movies, popcorn flicks like Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, Terminator, that sort of thing.
80s flicks are a kind of spiritual comfort food for me. Part of that is probably sheer nostalgia, since the 80s were after all my childhood. Part of it is that they don’t require a whole lot – they don’t demand deep thought, they aren’t pretentious, they aren’t trying to be anything other than what they are, and they certainly aren’t ‘challenging assumptions’ or ‘transgressing boundaries’ or whatever. They aren’t trying to beat me over the head with The Message, and so they don’t put me into a defensive cringe where I’m reflexively rolling my eyes at blackwashed characters, grrlboss Mary Sues tossing linebackers around like bowling pins, or mandatory gay erotica. There’s no pozz so I can just relax and enjoy the ride.
A really large part of it, though, is just that 80s movies are fresh. Almost four decades on, and they still possess verve, energy, a spark of creative originality that has become utterly foreign to the microwaved leftovers served up by Bad Reboot era Hellmouth. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that the iconic movies of the 80s weren’t actually all that original. Most of them were just silver screen adaptations of pulp stories from the 20s and 30s. Indiana Jones, for instance, was a two-fisted antihero that could have been lifted straight from the pages of a 30s boy’s adventure magazine. Star Wars was basically Buck Rogers. And so on.
Still, while the great intellectual properties of the 80s were inspired by what came before, they were at least original creations. Since then, it’s like our culture has been stuck in a time loop, an endless Sisyphean cycle in which every narrative bends back onto itself, spawning only itself. We never seem to find out what happens next. The end of a narrative simply leads back to where it began, triggering only the continuation of the exact same narrative. We’re on, what, the third Spiderman now? The fourth? How many times have we seen Batman’s origin story?
When we don’t get a reboot – the same as before, only this time black! And gay! And female! – we seem to get an endless series of prequels. The Star Trek franchise is an excellent example of this, all the more poignant because Star Trek has for decades been our principle cultural lens through which to visualize a positive future. In the two decades since Voyager and Deep Space Nine wrapped up, we’ve been treated to Enterprise (a prequel taking place a century before the original series), the awful J. J. Abrams movies (an alternate universe reboot of the original series), Discovery (a reboot prequel taking place in an alternate universe), and the Discovery spin-off Strange New Worlds (which also counts as a prequel). I suppose there’s Picard, which technically moves the Star Trek universe forward, but nothing about that exercise in feminist humiliation aside from its name is recognizable as Star Trek so I’m gonna grant myself a No True Scotsman on that one.
You see the problem. Even when trying to think about the future, we’re endlessly stuck in the past. Star Trek has been stuck in a time loop for twenty years now.
This cultural stagnation is everywhere. Pop music hasn’t produced any new, universally recognized anthems for decades. The fashion of the 20s isn’t identifiably different from the fashion of the 00s, aside from that everyone looks a bit sloppier and shabbier now. There are no new subcultures, or even really any subcultures – certainly nothing like what we had in the 80s and 90s. Where once we had goths, skaters, wiggers, stoners, jocks, metalheads, punks, rave kids, and so on, if you look at the kids now you basically have two types: normal, and tranny. I suppose you might claim the pudgy genderqueer pronoun girls to be the heirs of the punks, if only because of their penchant for washed-out bile-coloured highlights, but their social function is much closer to hall monitor than it is to troublemaker.
There are a number of explanations that have been offered to explain the dull swamp of stale sameness that our culture has degenerated into. Some say that the immediacy of the Internet has collapsed everything into an eternal moment, whilst simultaneously fragmenting the culture such that everyone is a subculture of one. Others say that the studios have become exceptionally conservative: why risk hundreds of millions on an unproven new IP, when there’s an existing IP with built-in name recognition that the production budget can be lavished on? Then of course there’s the humourless egregore of the Great Awokening looming over everything like the cursed spawn of a Puritan church wife seduced by Joseph Stalin’s idiot stepson.
There’s something to those explanations, but I also think they seem like cope. I can’t help but wonder if much of it is simply a result of demographics. Our population structure has become top-heavy with senior citizens, and like old people at any other time in history their interest is not in the next new thing, it is in what came before. Elders live on a diet of memberberries.
You see this everywhere. Congress has become a gerontocracy. Wealth is heavily concentrated in the swollen bank accounts and appreciated assets of boomers. Our tiresome political discourse is largely a relitigation of the great struggles of the 20th century – civil rights, WWII, the Cold War. The top movie stars are the same guys that were heart-throbs back in the 80s. Even the medical tyranny of the last two years can be seen as the boomer ascendancy flexing its wrinkly demographic arm wattles on the world. The great cultural enemy of fun during the 80s and 90s was the Nanny State slapping parental advisories on album covers, demanding a national 21 drinking age, and sternly advising the kids to Just Say No to Drugs. Say what you will, at least the moral majority of Christian family values had some sort of focus on the next generation: it was concerned with reining in youthful excess, to make sure the kids didn’t go off the rails. The standard bearer of 21st century safteyism is the Granny State, nervously wringing its hands about slight increases in risk from a mild respiratory virus and more than happy to sacrifice the sanity, health, and lives of children if it will mean delaying by a few months the inevitable meeting with the maker and the awkward questions that are likely to ensue.
We’re living in a civilizational retirement home, which is every bit as exciting as it sounds. Great for boomers, I guess – for the rest of us, it’s claustrophobic and smothering.
I don’t see any timely resolution to this. Barring a black swan civilizational collapse scenario, the boomers are going to maintain their white-knuckled death grip on our decaying civilization for a decade or two to come – the youngest of them aren’t even 60 yet. The concentration of wealth in their appreciating assets will warp the economy like a supermassive black hole distorting space-time, bending everything to their generational imperatives. The only growth industry will be health care, and what genius remains in our rapidly enstupidating societywill be directed towards life extension technology so that biotech companies can separate seniors from their wealth and thereby ensure that it doesn’t get passed on to whatever children they might have had ... a truly horrifying thought as it implies that we may be saddled with this curse for decades longer than might otherwise be the case.
The worst of it is that when they finally shuffle off, the racial demographics of the Post-West will abruptly lurch into majority-minority territory. Our elders didn’t bother having kids, then they did everything in their power to prevent their kids from having kids, and they made up the resulting demographic deficit by importing other people’s kids. For now, it’s possible to look at the raw numbers and conclude that the racial makeup of our countries is still majority white, so what are you Nazis all worked up about with your fascist conspiracy theories about the Great Replacement that’s totally not happening?
I was hoping to find some sort of point in this rambling post, or at least a theme, which I guess is something along the lines of unfocused ruminations on cultural exhaustion brought about by the post-COVID brain fog I’ve been meandering through the last week. I feel like I took a deep draught of Lethe waters and have been wandering around amongst the grey shades of the dead mumbling incoherently to no one in particular, which feels like as good a note to end this on as any other.
I have no idea why you’d want to subscribe after this awful post, but if you’re that much of a masochist, be my guest.
Although when venturing out, I left my phone at home, just in case the Canadian government was using the ArriveCAN app to track me.
Also black. And gay. And female.
National IQ is plummeting all over the Western world, thanks to a combination of third-world immigration and dysgenic breeding patterns unleashed by the sexual revolution. At least that’s my hypothesis. I’m sure TikTok is doing its part.
Also, isn’t it great that it’s happening?