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Now-ism

I remember, in the 1970s, hearing about a well-known pop-singer – very big in the previous decade, and by now an “icon” – telling everyone that he was bored with his marriage, so he was going to end it, ditch his wife, and perhaps get a new one, since, he said, “That’s the way, these days, isn’t it? That’s what people do!” A major upheaval in his life, with profound, damaging, effects on other people, were all going to be determined, or excused, by fashion, by “what people do now”.

One of the most serious and devastating aspects of modern life is the idea – accepted by so many people, perhaps unthinkingly – that the only source of how they behave, what they think or value, or what beliefs they live by, can reasonably be based simply on what everybody else does, and this means, of course, that which the media and popular culture tells us is what people think and do.

This is just one of many unfortunate consequences of the demise of the idea of objective reality and truth which, outside of fashions, whims, and purely-human ideas, can determine a set of values that the majority, in the end, consider valid. Now, we simply decide for ourselves what we can do, and, like the 1960s pop singer, we appeal – if we feel the need to do it at all – to the current amoral, anything-goes, mores.

Important here, of course, is the mind-set of everyone telling themselves that they are completely “liberated”, while desperately ensuring that they are walking in step with everyone else, like the school children who have thrown off the “strictures” of uniforms, only to dress the same as all the other school children in every way.

It’s one thing when following the “now” relates mainly to human relationships, but something else again when there is a seeming-conspiracy on the part of “opinion makers” to persuade everyone that they actually accept a particular understanding of the nature of reality, and its source (and this means, of course, that they perpetually tell you that “we all definitely believe” x, when they are, of course, striving to get people to believe it).

Thus so many media-productions, particularly from the so-called educated, so-called intellectual, classes, often throw in, quite casually, the suggestion that this is how we see things today, don’t we? And the assumed (or rather propaganda) beliefs are always of a materialistic or amoral nature, their propagandists intent on persuading us that we are basically hedonistic materialists like themselves.
Notice the language of the smart people presenting all those television programmes based on “lifestyle”, in which it is assumed that food, drink and leisure have replaced such things as religious faith and worship. We are not so much invited to adore “celebrity chefs” and ghastly media/sport personalities, as there is an assumption, made on our behalf, that we are doing it already.

This, obviously, is how everybody lives now, and the possibility of anyone being different is not even considered. Once, all of this garbage would have come from just the fringes of society, but now such things percolate down from the highest, most official quarters. Above all, “the arts” and “culture” – once the mirrors of truth, and real values – are pressed into service, and we have art and music – re-packaged as the “spiritual” – giving us wonderful experiences which are the aesthetic equivalent of some over-priced restaurant’s travesty of human physical sustenance.

Not long ago I saw a programme about the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the presenter referred to the ideas of the Epicureans (eat, drink, be merry – become hedonists …): very modern ideas – we were told – “just what we believe now …” – so even history lessons may not be free of it. And do we believe it all? “Oh really, who says?” – is my constant reaction to the pathetic incantations of critics and pseudo-intellectuals, the “chattering classes” who seem set to determine every aspect of the world we live in.

In fact, I fancy most real people are not like the opinion-formers, and though they may buy too many copies of “celebrity” magazines for my own particular liking, they are generally far more level-headed than most broadcasters, pundits and the “intellectual” elite.