Everything was better. In a nutshell, this seems to be one of the prevailing winds in American sentiment today. Luckily we have given it a name: declinism.
Judis identifies three strains of American thinking that help to define the Tea Party movement:This world-view is in vogue for unhappy citizens of lots of countries, but I think especially pronounced here as we seek to reconstruct a past that probably didn't really exist. In fact, there is an entire 1984-ish cottage industry set up to manufacture a past to fit these desires.
The first is an obsession with decline. This idea, which traces back to the outlook of New England Puritans during the seventeenth century, consists of a belief that a golden age occurred some time ago; that we are now in a period of severe social, economic, or moral decay; that evil forces and individuals are the cause of this situation; that the goal of politics is to restore the earlier period; and that the key to doing so is heeding a special text that can serve as a guidebook for the journey backward.I’ve offered a dissent from the common libertarian perception that we have declined from a golden age of liberty, but declinism is certainly a strong theme in conservative thought. (Not to mention in Club of Rome environmentalist thought.) Judis suggests that declinism often takes conspiratorial form and wonders “how could a movement that cultivates such crazy, conspiratorial views be regarded favorably by as much as 40 percent of the electorate?” [More*][Note the shameless end-around to gated (subscription) material I am using here]
It even affects our thoughts about food, as Steve Cornett wanders again where only the the brave or foolish go.
Steaks don’t taste as good as they used to.My first reaction is starting from a perspective of decline can be a debilitating handicap in the pursuit of satisfaction. I am not immune, I must admit, but my looking backward takes a more bizarre countenance: I like paintings by
That’s what Mark Schatzker thinks, and it’s what I think, too.
And, yes, I’m aware that there is more Choice and Prime beef today than there was a few years ago. But we’re agreed that USDA quality grade is not a precisely precise indicator of eating quality.
But we have our differences. I think USDA grades are the best measure we have in a commodity-graded industry. I wish we had something better, but I’m not sure we ever will.
He seems to blame corn feeding.
I am compelled to revisit Mark’s book, Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef, because I did a short blog last week that seems to have been misunderstood. To the point that one responder accused me of not having tastebuds. [More worth reading if you eat beef]
No kidding. I can stand for long periods looking at depictions of places that never were, but should have been. In fact, tomorrow, Jan and I are escaping to Chicago and I will go the the Art Institute to view my favorite work.
Okay, given my other strange predilections, why am I mesmerized by very large oil paintings of non-existent ruins?
Man, I have asked myself that a million times. So far, I have come up with these possibilities:
First, I had a pretty happy, clueless childhood. I think romanticizing the past comes easily to those of us who don't have many sad chapters to recall. Hence, the idea of a better, more-everything yesterday is at hand to embrace.
Second, melancholic nostalgia must be a common human trait. I say that because it sells like crazy. It must evoke some emotional rewards that cannot be duplicated by other stimuli. From collectors to re-enactors, people love to rebuild a past to their own specs.
Third and most powerful perhaps, our memory is the worst possible source of data about the past, so much of the time we are misremembering a past that did not really happen.
Given the restless dissatifaction of many today, escaping to a "past", or deciding we should reverse course is understandable. Even if it is infeasible or chimerical.
Like the way steaks used to taste.
But the growing belief our culture and lives are going downhill is far from harmless. Mostly because the folks deciding which way is "downhill" seem to be convinced they alone know the slope.
* Link fixed - sorry.