Is it really that bad? Are we experiencing "a culture in ruins"?
The radically egalitarian ethos demands always the descent to the lowest common denominators of taste. A world without requisites is the fairest. To capture the most attention of the masses requires a Cyrus, Gaga, or West. Once classical canons of artistic, literary, or musical expression were torn down, and once those classically trained rebels who ripped them apart have passed on, we are left with the ruins of trying to shock what is perhaps beyond being shocked. What more could Miley Cyrus do — wear two foam fingers? Could Mr. West mount his girlfriend, sing and dance while riding backwards?
In other words, once you have rebelled against hexameters, quarter notes, or realistic representation, and after you have rebelled against that rebellion with crucifixes in urine, obscenity-laced rap, and peek-a-boo nudity on stage, what are you left with? The 20th-century rebels who knew what they did not like have been replaced by the anti-rebels who don’t know that there was ever something against which to rebel. Again, we are left with the 21st-century of Lady Gaga giving birth to a blue sphere, Miley Cyrus probing body orifices with a foam oversized finger, or Kanye West humping on a motorcycle while reciting obscene nursery-rhyme ditties.
In a society where endorsing fairness and equality equates with success, no supposedly arbitrary canons can exclude much of anything. Who are you to say that song A is bad, or movie B is good, given your own class, race, and gender privileges that result in excluding someone or something? The less dialogue and the more explosions and nudity earn supposedly more ticket-buyers, at least until a new generation wishes to build something from the ashes.
There can be no truth in our culture, given that it discriminates and proves hurtful to too many. The greatest sin in America is not to lie, but to embrace a hierarchy of any sort at all.
Every generation, I know, has its cultural rebels whose only intent is to shock common sensibilities. That results in every generation having critics who say popular culture has hit a new low in vulgarness and keepers of the avant-garde flame who will defend the unorthodox simly because it is unorthodox. But we have always known what the orthodox was, simply by observing the unorthodox.
What Hanson is saying here is that there are no standards anymore. There is no heirarchy that even let us know what orthodox and unorthodox are. So how can there be any rebels if nothing is really held up as that which to rebel against?
It's tempting to think this is all cyclical, that the arbiters of culture will go too far and we will, as we always have, return to something a little more sober. I'm not so sure though.
He closes with this:
Why would a culture that canonizes a Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, or Lady Gaga have the discrimination to determine whether their chief executive tells the truth or lies?