TELL ME SWEET LITTLE LIES
Thanks to Fleetwood Mac:
Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies. Ah, the good old innocent days when the only sweet lies were guys telling gals what they wanted to hear so he could get into her pants ( and, really, can you blame them? The cows started giving away the milk for free and everything after that was unintended but obvious consequences ). Today, moving on to another famous icon quote, everybody lies ( that was Dr. House, by the way ). I was chatting with my down the hill neighbor ( the up the hill neighbors are the jerk offs, except one recent addition who actually works for a living instead of dealing crack [ I’m not sure what else it could be with the amount of traffic we were seeing ] and lording it over us peons by screaming down the road in expensive SUV’s and covering us with towering clouds of dust ). He was lamenting the good old days when a man was good for his word, regarding HIS neighbor screwing him over on a verbal deal. Now, I got to thinking about the obvious decline and fall of civilization and how everything goes to crap beforehand. But this sounded a bit simplistic even to me. Sure, social breakdown includes the elimination of cultural norms. And what is culture? Class? Class? Culture is nothing more than localized group survival techniques institutionalized. So if culture is being ignored, society is breaking down.
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Culture is formed for each location as a response to conditions. And if you compare your cultural norms to one different enough in geography you can’t make a damn bit of sense out of it. The one famously cited is the Muslim prohibition on pork being based on the lack of water for raising swine. The prohibition on usury ( charging interest on loans ) grew from the realization that without surplus energy growth was not possible and without growth a society can’t pay interest. Who paid whom for a marriage, who inherited the obligation to pay for war widows, everything in a culture filled a need. To ensure group survival and harmony. So obviously a society ignoring most cultural norms is courting their own demise. Oh, you could say that we have just changed our cultural practices to reflect our petroleum wealth. But that still doesn’t mean survival when oil runs out ( and I have my doubts as to the survival value of single parents- it doesn’t match historical trends ). No, I think our abandoning our culture has more to do with the slow collapse of the last fifty years or so. Because while culture ensures group survival, self centered behavior ensures individual survival. When a ten year drought decimates a society, group behavior becomes destructive. When each individual, or perhaps it would be better describes as each blood related family, ignores the need of the group and does what it itself needs to survive, then enough breeding pairs survive the disaster. At that point the group is an impediment. Selfish behavior becomes necessary.
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So, perhaps we can look at Americans behavior as a natural response to collapse. Serving the group had long ago become a no-win survival strategy and everyone has become self centered and selfish and ignores all cultural norms, from being honest to telling the truth to, yes, even ignoring the couples bond of exclusive sex that ensures family unity ( so, see, I don’t REALLY blame you bitches for being sluts ). Now obviously, even as the majority of individuals abandon cultural norms ( screw the extended family, ship Mom down to Florida and buy her a junker mobile home. Social Security will pay the lot rent and she can go senile on her own ), there is a countertrend of clannish groups becoming more extreme. The Amish, the Mormons ( Mormons have a whole passel of weird ways, but remember that all other cultures seem alien to you ). I’m sure you could even include gangs like the Bloods or old school bikers ( not the Yuppie Scum riders on their twenty grand vehicles they ride on weekends in between law practice of installing dentures ) or Skinheads. The need to tribalize is a response to the general destabilizing society as a whole. It might not be the winning survival strategy, but nature always has more losers than winners in adaptation to changing circumstances.
And here’s the thing we can’t forget. People are capable, with equal ease, of being either selfish lying asshats or perfectly functional members of a group. Both are survival traits. But no one generation was ever more honest or more upright or more moral than any other. A group enforces good behavior. We appear to have been better in years past only because we actively supported our group and there were consequences for being dishonest or cheating or whatever. It paid to be honest. Because the group both rewarded that behavior and punished those who failed to adhere. Once we no longer followed our cultural rules, who cared if they got caught cheating? There were no consequences ( as much as I loath lawyers to the point of praying to all the Gods for their immediate death followed by immense suffering-hell, I’d stick pins in voodoo dolls if I thought it would work- I must admit they are merely cashing in on the trend of an ever evolving attempt to have some kind of method of keeping contracts workable ) if you aren’t caught by the law ( it used to be the community enforced the culture ). So, everyone lies. Oaths are hollow ( a marriage vow, an oath to ones country, they used to be a verbal binding contract ). The defining phrase for this section of the collapse might as well be “what is the definition of is?” ( Slick Willie personified all that is our societies cultural wasteland ).
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