The New Dark-Age Mind

I seem to be coming across quite a few interesting people these days. Jordan Peterson was one. Another one who I only encountered yesterday was Victor Davis Hanson in a YouTube podcast:

It was only a short conversation – barely 15 minutes -, but he had a lot of interesting things to say. About how “tenured radicals” had taken over a lot of universities. How the “intellectual pathology” of the current era was all prefigured in Petronius’ Satyricon (and by Catullus): at a certain level of affluence and leisure human appetites warp and change, and you get transgenderism, deprecation of the military, elite over-indulgence. It happened to Rome, and it happened to Byzantium.

“The enemy is usually within: it’s not at the gates.”

And he said that these days a lot of people were dropping out of debate and discussion, dis-associating themselves from popular culture – “the Athenians called it quietism”. They don’t go to the movies any more, they don’t watch TV, and say they don’t want to be part of that culture. And “that’s kinda dangerous, because we’re really getting to 1850 where we have two countries which are absolutely incompatible.”

Hanson was talking about America, but he could just have been talking about a great many European cultures.

A lot of what he said rang a lot of bells for me. For I’ve kinda dropped out. I don’t watch movies, or TV, and I don’t want to be part of that culture. The difference is that I was ejected from that culture by the smoking ban, along with a lot of other people. It wasn’t a choice of mine.

And what he had to say about leisure chimed in with thoughts I’ve had in Idle Theory, basically that people who have a lot of leisure get to feel that they’re passed beyond an era in which people had to work hard to survive, and had entered a new world, and could indulge themselves. Such people looked at the world with new eyes, and often what they thought was a delusion. I called it the “Rosy Vision“, and it was a dangerous illusion. It wasn’t quite what Hanson was talking about, but it was near enough for me to be reminded of it.

He didn’t actually get to say much about the New Dark-Age Mind, but I’m sure he has something to say about it somewhere, and I’m going to go looking for more of his thinking.

Where are all these interesting people coming from? The internet, it seems. You don’t seem to see them on TV, or read about them in newspapers.

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20 Responses to The New Dark-Age Mind

  1. Carol42 says:

    I have long been a fan, he often writes in Townhall and his columns appear in Real Clear Politics which gives a good round up of all views. The American Thinker is also worth a read. I have been a keen follower of American Politics for years, that’s probably why I find a lot of great writers the MSM rarely publish.

  2. waltc says:

    Carol beat me to telling you about where to find more of him. Aside from, he often writes for the National Review, Try He’s always worth reading. Btw, a Californian, who often (either sadly or irately) describes the wreckage of that state

    • Carol42 says:

      I find his description of his lost California so sad, such a beautiful State I visited many years ago before it was ruined. I read the NR too and quite a few others, I find it strange that it’s Americans who seem bent on destroying everything I admired about the country. I am no fan of Trump but I think he was the only hope of reversing the damage and stopping further destruction. Many of my educated American friends voted him for that reason.

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  4. Hanson used to get quite a few newspaper columns 10-20 years ago. Gradually he fell out of favour with the MSM, for obvious reasons.

    >About how “tenured radicals” had taken over a lot of universities.

    If only someone would write a comic novel about that!

  5. Smoking Lamp says:

    Hanson is a solid historian. His military histories are well respected. His latest The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, Basic Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0465066988 is worth a read.

  6. jaxthefirst says:

    “The difference is that I was ejected from that culture by the smoking ban, along with a lot of other people.”

    As was I, and many, many others on here (and elsewhere). However, his comments chime perfectly with my experience of the vast majority of non-smokers I know, who seem to feel as disinclined to engage with society these days as I do. I find that quite hard to understand. I know why I don’t want to do stuff these days, but what’s their excuse? After all, the smoking ban shouldn’t have made a jot of difference to their enjoyment of social events, should it? But whenever I mention to people what an unsociable old crone I’ve become now, pretty much everyone else I know has said: “God, I’m so glad it isn’t just me! I just don’t want to go anywhere these days.” And all have regaled me with stories of private relief when an obligatory “social engagement” is cancelled or when a good enough excuse arises for they themselves to pull out. This isn’t an occasional conversation, either. I’ve had four almost-identical ones with non-smoking friends over just the last couple of weeks or so.

    It’s tempting, of course, to point out that once the smokers – widely accepted by pretty much everyone except the most dyed-in-the-wool anti-smokers as the best company in any social group – stopped going to places, then those places in and of themselves, largely populated as they then were by all the, shall we say, rather less-interesting people, became generally less enjoyable places for everyone – whether smokers or non-smokers – to visit. Even my never-smoking OH, has started to watch the football and rugby at home now, rather than stay at the pub to watch it because, as he puts it: “When a game’s on, the pubs get full of the most awful people, and the atmosphere watching a game in the pub just isn’t the same as it used to be.” And for a chap whose spiritual home has always been his local, that’s a big change.

    No doubt the smoking ban played its part as far as places where social interaction is high such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, but it can’t be all of it. The lack of the presence of smokers at cinemas and theatres and concerts, etc, would, one would think, be much less noticeable to non-smokers – but they don’t even seem to want to go to those, either, now.

    • Carol42 says:

      Very true my never smoking son and best friend hardly ever go to pubs now, they say there is no atmosphere any more. I have always found that most smokers are gregarious and that created the ambiance. In the pre ban days our local pub hosted everyone from a Cambridge professor to the local bin man and we had great conversations. That pub is closed now and being converted to flats. Sad.

      • Peter Carter says:

        Are you in Cambridge by any chance? If so, which pub is that? I might have known it.

        • Carol42 says:

          At the tme we lived in Huntingdon as did the Cambridge professor. I knew Cambridge quite well as we went to the theatre there a lot and my husband worked in Cambridge. After he died in 2007 I moved to Kent. I hope the many pubs in Cambridge are flourishing, more than I can say for Huntingdon now.

    • Barry Homan says:

      Do I dare mention again the subject of the rise in smoking bans matching, nearly step for step, the increased use of mobile phones?

      I just returned from a trip. In the airports, I never saw people sitting and talking in the lobbies. Everyone was fully occupied with their phones – except for one sad-looking fellow with an animal on his lap.

    • Maybe (and hopefully), by piling on the exclusion, they’re just unwittingly making the ‘strange’, whether smokers or non-, even stronger? Here’s the 1st 30% of Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Strongest Of The Strange”:

      you won’t see them often
      for wherever the crowd is
      are not.
      those odd ones, not
      but from them
      the few
      good paintings
      the few
      good symphonies
      the few
      good books
      and other
      and from the
      best of the
      strange ones
      they are
      their own
      their own
      their own
      their own

      • Lepercolonist says:

        I have enjoyed Charles Bukowski for his down-to-earth, humorous view of life. As a heavy drinker and smoker, Bukowski is turning in his grave with these ridiculous smoking bans.

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  8. waltc says:

    I think the decline of engagement for anyone over twenty-something has to do with the overall change in the culture. Do I want to see an adolescent Superhero movie or a Liberal sermon in a five story parking garage that’s recently been converted into a “multiplex” theater? Do I want to go to a bar filled with horny singles yowling at each other over blaring music? Do I want to go to legitimate Broadway theater? Maybe. But not at the going rate of $150 or more for a seat and with no place to go to afterwards to smoke, drink, and talk about it with friends. American culture and my once cosmopolitan eclectic city are both drowning in PC and even most house parties are filled with its alien, alienating babble. To whatever extent smoke-bans figure into the mix, they too are generational–ours, the generation where smoking was a normal, incidental non-factor, and it went along with everything else that’s now passe and that we liked about the culture

  9. Peter Carter says:

    Does anyone here listen to the Delingpole podcast? Someone interesting each week, interviewed for an hour, from luminaries such as Roger Scruton and Jacob Rees Mogg to a lad called Sebastian Shemirani who is a first year student and, as Delingpole says, gives you hope for the future.
    The cut of Delingpole’s Jib would appeal to this blog’s readership I would have thought.

    I know absolutely what this Hanson chap is talking about when he says that people are disengaging from the mainstream culture. It drains your self-esteem being told day after day that you are a bad person for being male or white, etc.

    • Rose says:

      I used to read James Delingpole on the Telegraph, his reports on Global Warming were very informative.

      Climategate: We’re winning!

      “But only in a Crecy (1346) way rather than an Agincourt (1415) way – which is to say we’ve got an awful long way to go before this war’s over.
      Still, I do think we evil Climate Change Deniers can take heart from this characteristically incisive piece by Brian Micklethwait at the libertarian/classical liberal website Samizdata. (Hat tip: Richard North).

      Micklethwait draws parallels between “climate change” and the Cold War.

      Meanwhile, the AGW debate has arrived at the same position that the Cold War argument had arrived at in or around about 1970 to 1980. An informed minority of pro-economic-progress critics had won the academic argument against the pro-economic-derangement academics, and word of this victory was spreading. And a particular thing that happened then is starting to happen now, which is that even intelligent layman critics of the John Redwood (and Brian Micklethwait) variety are starting to understand the details of the argument better than even the very smartest of the pro-derangement scientists, of the sort who are still advising governments, or who are still receiving and still trying still to believe this advice.”

  10. LibertarianCat says:

    My mother said she wore “Rose-Colored glasses.” I aimed to not be like her, though! 😉

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