The Degeneration of Reality
September 09, 2020
Reality in the natural world has in some sense a fixity; even though it is subject to a constant flux of change. The fixity is within the rules, those ‘laws’ by which, as far as we people understand it, the phenomena of the natural world are continued in being and acting upon one another. Our conception of science and of scientific endeavour depends upon this assumption.
There exists superadded to the natural reality what might be called a social reality; wherein operate mores and manners, worldviews and customs and such;but which do not absolutely govern our behaviours; but as the pundits say go towards ‘conditioning’ our consciousnesses, so that we are more likely to will to do this and more likely to believe that; than twe are to will to do that and to believe this.
Starkly put – when you are hit by a bus, there’s little left to chance or choice – natural reality kicks in – however when you choose a car or a school for your kids, you may well choose differently to the mainstream choices, but necessarily you will be in a minority – there is leeway in social actions, in ideas held, and in choices; and this leeway is commonly acknowledged and generally able to be instanced.
These two fairly distinct arenas of action, and being – i.e. of reality – do piggyback on one another very often; they are not mutually exclusive in their actions nor in their areas of impact.
A person hit by a bus, if s/he is lucky might just pull through, because these days our standards of medicine in The West are so much more advanced than say how they were 50 years ago, or than they are in less wealthy areas of the world, so much so that much more effort to save someone can be effectively applied these days.
Vice versa a person may act amiss in society; going against the recognised salutary actions and attitudes, say by fly-tipping on a piece of ground designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, or by doing what has actually happened here near where I live, riding quad bikes in the rough over ancient burial barrows and wrecking those barrows. The environment in both cases is disfigured and destroyed.
So – I hammer home the point here – when a person tells you that what they choose for their actions, attitudes, beliefs, in their life, is their own business and is nothing to do with anyone else, you now have an example or two by which you might measure the validity and appropriateness of such an opinion.
Further, just as an extreme and atomised conception of oneself and one’s individuality is liable to lose sight of common goods and of acceptable social behaviours, that person whose outlook is such is no exception to the damage that s/he does when his/her choices are constrained by his/her outlook...say, by doing the actions I have exampled above.
This harm to the self is in one instance a share in the common community harm that these acts have caused; the depletion of the good environment etc- however in another instance this harm is directly personal to the welfare of the actor of the unsocial deeds, and may culminate in inflicting severe harm on such a person.
The upshot for instance of an atomised sense of self, and of a strong and isolated sense of individuality, often can show as a growing loss of touch with friends, family, and with how the majority of people are thinking and doing things; or else it is likely to show in increasingly erratic behaviours and in difficulty handling social situations and/or personal relations. The person of this kind ends up isolated not merely in their thinking, but as a living creature; and as Aristotle defined humans: ‘men are creatures who live in a polis (in a city state or a society)’.
Whilst on the topic of Ancient Athenian philosophers the even greater Socrates held passionately a belief that ‘No-one did wrong knowingly’. He explains this belief by adding a surmise that were any rational wrongdoer to understand fully, have expounded to him or her, the full consequences of their proposed wrongdoing, they would refuse to do it and recant on wanting to do it.
Such an understanding ties in quite neatly with Dr Samuel Johnson’s observation that ‘men do not so much need lessons of correction, as they need reminding of what they should do and not do’.
The onus of both outlooks agrees that people are at heart, once made aware, generally of good character. Hence the great value of education; of the liberal arts in education; of self-questioning and examination with an eye to bettering one’s outlook and behaviour. Again, and in this regard, Socrates’ biographer and his best and most loyal pupil, Plato, famously wrote: “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
So what can be said about my theme in our days on The Degeneration of Reality?
My rock solid belief, because it comes from The Lord Christ himself, is that by His agency a changing of people’s hearts, importantly on an individual, person by person basis, is the definitive answer to many, maybe most, of the problems in our societies, including those which redound on the environment, the welfare of animals, plants, other people, the quality of life, and the whole thing we experience as life; and to a degree which demands use of that much overused and little understood word, exponentially.
Exponentially because goodwill in a few persons, and demonstrated in them to others and indubitably so, creates a surge of sea change – such as has been seen from time to time in religious revivals, and in the consequences of the Protestant martyrdoms of The Reformation -so that like an atomic fission or like a virulent virus spreading the world, soon a great cloud of witness beholds in its hearts clearly for the first time perhaps the irresistible beauty and glory and truth of God. This kind of event imagined, if anything might be, is perhaps as close to the Coming of the Kingdom that any mere person can get to grips with in their minds?
Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
Such goodwill demonstrated indubitably is able to enter a person’s heart only via the directing agency of The Lord Jesus; which is not to say that any person so changed has no choice of freewill in the matter. This is a mystery – I leave it at that.
Contrariwise, if my words so far are acceptable to you as truth, or as likely to be truth, it follows without vacillation that the reverse is also true, or likely to be true; that a reciprocal and inverse relationship exists between dissemination of goodwill and dissemination of ill-will.
See, and recall to mind how centuries of prejudice and animosity in The Balkans, in Ireland; in The Occupied Territories of what was once known as The Kingdoms of Judea and Israel; in Chechnya; in Myanmar; and on and on – think how cultural histories of inbred embedded antagonisms have been passed down the generations, taken in with mother’s milk, and thereby has divided peoples tribes races creeds simply ‘without a fair trial’.
See how so many of these occasions have almost – sometimes a few times almost – gone so deep as to have precipitated another World War in our times. See how exponentially this kind of embedded illwill is capable of engulfing everyone in a great furore – in our times possibly in a global and maybe definitive conflagration?
These instances to a tee are all grievous instances of the bearing down of social realities onto the consciousness and behaviour of we people. One may ask with St Paul in similar great distress and earnest: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?**”
It’s no secret, and I’ve broached the fact many times before now, that many, a critical mass, who consider themselves The Pilots of Society – the academics, the media, the scientific institutions and governments and such – are and have been for a generation or more now happy to have encouraged, and happy to have had some success in, the removal of religious consciousness, of its institutions, of its culture and of its observance from British society. I am no conspiracist but it has been a bandwagon and in part a concerted joint effort. Shame particularly on academia whose claim I heard today for its existence is to be the bastion and guardian of our heritage.
I have also broached many times what we have now in its place, in mainstream Britain and in the common mind here.
A confusion at best. A free for all for the up-for-grabs hearts and minds of ‘the lost sheep’ who read only adult comic strips as news and views. (The Daily Mail had on Monday this headline: “’No Brexit deal’ is the best outcome – says Prime Minister”. Do you recall the advertisement on TV for ‘Anaddin’ headache tablets? _ “Nothing acts faster than Ananddin” - *to which the wits amongst us replied “Then take nothing instead!”*
Everywhere, and because of this concerted gear shift to leave our heritage in Christ in the dust behind us, levels, capacities, for clear and accurate thought amongst us have been dilapidated. Education has become more akin to what was called training. Students,pupils learn skills and use information. The search for knowledge has a quaint old-time ring about it; because knowledge is no longer acknowledged excepting as determining material conditions and constituencies.
The realm of The Spiritual has passed one or maybe two or more generations of Britons utterly by – excepting for many of those Britons with an alternate ethnic background. Our heritage baby Jesus has gone with his bathwater. The idea formulated by Matthew Arnold of ‘disinterested interest’ is unknown and where known unacknowledged not acted upon and sometimes ridiculed. This idea of ‘objectivity’ is spoken of a lot on news programmes (I was interested to hear that BBC has presently a “Reality Check correspondent”!!). But in a very limited sense, if at all, is any attempt to establish objectivity in values and judgements, and it falls down, and it falls down because there is no hook available on which to hang the first necessary catch for objectifying a value or a judgement. Take away the foundation stone (The Lord Christ) and the building collapses. This is our doing now here today.
So how has this declension into a chaos of competing pressures from secular sects and cults, which, who, handle much of the government of our nation, and its policy today; how has this affected the common person’s social reality and consciousness?
I have stated before now how commercially driven needs are always about the next big item for sale. Be it fashion, iphones, chips, gadgets, toys, books, genres, games, sports, whatever – the pressure on the big providers, a pressure created by themselves, and by their fierce competition with others in their sectors, their Next Big Things is their lifeline to their survival and prosperity. Cutthroat they call it. Drug companies know the same syndrome and its harsh and very solid pressures.
This pressure in media and entertainment pans out in its contents into several deleterious ways for their consumer viewers listeners readers etc to deal with. In the first place, whatever the media product, hype has to create excitement, anticipation, and curiosity in the consumers in that product’s neck of the woods, and this is best done shortly beforehand to an item’s release or publication or broadcast.
Sometimes when a lot of cash investment is at stake for the backers of media items, a barrage of advertising blankets our minds – or the minds of those who are casually exposed to it – so that the item can become ‘the talk of the twon’ well brefore it has been aired in any way. Trailers, interviews with stars, directors, authors, and such abound; all this effort aimed not on the point of ‘a good product sells itself’ but on the point that ‘raise expectation and thereby make more money”, …..returns for outlay.
Hence one has now even the staid Auntie BBC calling loudly with pitches such as ‘Listen to BBC and get your news as it happens. Hear from the experts – we cover every angle and give you the whole picture – everything you need to know...blah,blah, blah...”
Add to this pitch ‘flashing images’ of a few seconds each, showing ‘various parts of the world where, in each, a reporter in a flak jacket and with a microphone is doing a mime to music which builds to a steady tempo crescendo until at last Big Ben goes off DONG! Even Bob the Builder was better than this!
In the actual product hyped itself the ‘game’ within the product is also raised. One has commonly nowadays on TV corpses dissected before one’s eyes; child molesters and serial killers and rapists, as studies for villains in regular TV shows. The iphone is now ’coming out’ in a newer version annually; companies like Vodafoine are offering right now deals on the latest model on Classic FM radio. Much bait is dangled and this is followed by a hasty and low voiced gallon or two of ‘small print’ which seals the knot of ‘beware!’ for the cautious listener.
I did notice recently that many advertisements are recorded in ‘snapshots’ - that is, vocally, a sentence or phrase at a time. If one listens carefully you can quite distinctly ‘see the joins”. The effect is to give what actors call ‘attack’ in greater force, to every important sales pitch in the advert. Sneaky eh?
This driving up the scale of offerings has a negative effect on value for money and on quality of product. For one, this causes that the investment in research and development becomes far huger than would be the case in a less hectic mobile phone sector in fierce competition, or for a less stressful bid to gain an audience for a ‘sensational more ghastly fiction’. These forward outlays have to be recouped – (in spades hopefully)
Let’s now look at the course over the years of fiction on TV. In the 1950s there was on Radio The Archers and Mrs Dale’s Diary – two soaps – one billed as “The everyday story of country folk”. Then came Coronation Street on TV, followed by Crossroads, Enmmerdale, Neighbours, EastEnders and more.. some (like Neighbours and Peyton Place) imported from other parts of the globe.
Imperceptibly these soaps came more and more to take up ‘social roles and functions’ - at least the people responsible for them claimed so, and they still do. Thse soaps’ reason for being grew to become ‘to air and discuss social trends and relationship conflicts etc etc” just like Mrs Dr Who has a tag at the end of her show these days with a welfare phone number on it to call ‘if you personally have been affected by issues like those that have been discussed in this show”.
Academics began analyses of soaps; taking them seriously – sometimes as drama, sometimes as social phenomena, or both; but tas a result soaps have come to have a sort of status as ‘institutions’ in British life. What began as a piece of gentle escapism for a weary 50s housewife is now a staple of social interaction and consciousness – a medium and vehicle to hack through ‘social issues’.
This argument seems to me a little like the argument for wearing masks during the coronavirus concern. The experts say the masks are good (only) for helping prevent the mask-wearer from spreading the infection to other persons. Yet most mask wearers still hold to the opinion and hope that by their wearing them they are protecting themselves from infection.
The academics have raised soaps to an artform and, or else, to an important sociological phenomenon and vehicle for welfare; whereas the ordinary person who watches a soap watches for the shock value and the vicarious delights received in seeing dreadful disputes and attacks made by friends upon friends or by family members upon one another. Ross Kemp etc etc.
This elevation of soaps to serious consideration comes along with the acknowledgment of ephemeral art-foms as being of classic enduring status; this line of thought coming from places people and institutions which hitherto had held connoisseur attitudes to art and to what should be preserved. The ranks of high art are now swollen with huge amounts of ‘also ran’ items. Today everyone is frightened to tell a hawk from a handsaw.
The fine art world is right now a mass market commercial global enterprise – as are all sports in the public eye - premier league, tennis, Olympics, - everything sport is now ‘professional’ and deliriously commercially-driven.
Even advertising as art is recognised by some as being worthy of study and of keeping as artwork heritage. “All we like sheep have gone astray”
This levelling up by dumbing down is recognised as an advance in social relations – even so the uneducated are left to ‘bread and circuses’ while the toffs on the backbenches (and frontbenches) regale at the opera and the BBC pundits go to West End theatre every night (were times ‘normal’). The whole affair smacks of a con on the common people to me. I have talked formerly on how people higher up some decades ago had ‘converted’ those lower down into calling them by their short name Christian names (called these days ‘forenames’) and how this conversion I believe was a conscious dupe, and perpetrated so as to make those of the lower orders with some amount of common decency (many of them maybe?) less able in conscience to oppose, or disobey, or deride, those whom they call by buddy names?
Likewise this classic status to soaps and to music and to fine art is another dupe, which helps the commercial world to sell under a guise of the consumer buying something of lasting ineffable value – but - as with Liam Neeson – it’s just business.
This pushing the boundaries ever further back and allowing entry to anything which has popular commercial appeal into the Pantheon – soaps, pop, britart, the whole shebang, has been seen to be occuring in tandem with the pushing back of the boundaries of acceptable subject matter for listening and viewing. Serial child killers,paedophiles, misanthropies on gruesome scales and intensities – the whole shebang.
Both are phenomena caused by rabid wild cutthroat commercial competition and by wayward out of control Capitalist prejudices as our values for living. Competition, stealing a march, upping the ante, predatory law actions as delaying tactics, the big business guy crushing the small guy, it’s all there, like the sewers are filled with ordure.
So how about reality and its degeneration?
Our lust has been for upping the ante has taken us from appalling coarse grim fictions into the next level of ‘Reality’ shows; and simply because ‘Reality’,is really happening, and is hopefully ‘live’, - with those awful things that go on, with their consequent real life suicides and ostracisms and victimisations (seen in and made by the press). Our soaps are sensationalist egregious fodder for tired lost hapless crass low and plain nasty viewers who relish the ugly fray. Why are there so many of them?
Because our eduction system our society our rulers our academics our businessmen all; have all of them let us all down so badly for the sake of their tarnished daily mess of pottage as seen in their balance sheets examined.
Recall what I wrote earlier about social reality and the fly tipper and the quad bikers – how the public good was harmed and the environment trashed. The scale of the harm and trashing as being carried on presently, by our ‘great and good’, by the money grubbers, the artists, academics etc etc and so on, is colossal - and over the course of my own lifetime we have lost so very much of inestimable value from our day to day lives.
The best thing I can say is that we have lost it; but it is not lost; but we are. It is present. As I write it is present here, there where you are, everywhere – even now in our dreadful Slough of Despond we have made for ourselves, The Love of The Lord keeps each of us, and us as a totality, tenderly safe and in health, and in being.
Our social reality is impinging so very dreadfully on the natural reality; I fear and doubt that even programmes like David Attemborough’s, whom I admire for his efforts but from whom I diverge in his outlook, have anything but a dolorous effect on raising levels of care for the planet. Television watching is next to idling. Sat sofa bound as an adsorbent substance, being asked nothing but to casually, cursorily view – it encourages, almost necessitates, inaction, passivity, idleness of critique.
TV is part and parcel of our ready-packaged lives, in a sterile atmosphere, irradiated for sanitary reasons, and processed ready for the microwave: instant value-range fare, and largely tasteless.