If social progress over the past many decades has done anything to aesthetic culture, it has eroded it from something romantic into something utilitarian, and not in the Millsian sense. It used to be that hedonism meant Lord Byron or what Meatloaf lamented in the song “Bless my soul” in The Rocky Horror Picture Show where he said “Whatever happened to Saturday night, where you dressed up sharp and you felt alright.” But poetry became the realm of English nerds and parties abandoned dancing, orderves, and small talk for hard liquor, rampant drug use, and seeking orgasms. Many people have said my life must be boring and plain since I abstain from alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco, and pornography but that assumes that the only ways to have fun are the stereotypical vices and nothing else.
I would counter that their lives are boring since they entail nothing creative and anything creative is seen as nerdy and square. Not being excessively into STEM, or having a geeky obsession with D&D or comic book universes, but just using one’s free time to pursue the arts or sciences in any way is nerdy and square. They are too impatient for a gentle serotonin high and are helplessly addicted to acute dopamine highs and anything that doesn’t squirt that precious neurochemical into their brains is seen as a distraction and through the magic of social psychology, anyone who is not pursuing that is in the outgroup. Again, Lord Byron was hardly an asocial wonk but since his life was sophisticated and intellectual, he would be a lame nerd, today.
A Renissance Man or Woman is a loser in the Millenial or Gen Z worlds. If this were the Middle Ages, they would find the splendor of Golden Age Baghdad boring and slither like zombies to the meadhalls of Valhalla. Except, unlike the original Valhalla, there would be no lyres, skaldic poets, or folk songs but just mead and hookers. They seem to take Okham’s Razor to the joys of life to, like a dissipated addict, discard all of the soft and sweet stuff to get to the stuff their lizard-brains are after. Art, science, romance, and the rest do nothing for them and they claw like they’re possessed for their next hit with no distractions.
To a degree, this has been increasingly the case for seventy years. The notion that being intellectual made one lame is, of course, a high school stereotype, existing since roughly the 1950s. Before then, intellectualism was not seen as lame and, in fact, was seen as a virtue. Lameness existed but it was not associated with culture, art, science, and the like. Yet, today, intellectualism is socially toxic to anyone who does and it well into adulthood. Anxieties over social capital are much stronger now than they used to be. It used to be that dating beneath your league was toxic, but even platonic leagues have grown in strength among the current generations and people are terrified. This is driving a mass boycott of smartness and culture.
It isn’t that people don’t enjoy culture and learning but that they’re terrified of getting caught. Anyone with social capital cannot have a token hobby, anything percieved as different is persecuted. This is not because they will get bullied or cyberbullied. Ghosted and shunned, more than anything active, in terms of bullying. However, while social media plays a role, it isn’t that as much as comfort is equated to safety. If being different makes people uncomfortable then it is wrong.
Nowadays, Regina George is Sheldon’s victim if he comes to her lunch table because while he is a social reject, she is the victim of discomfort. This idea was invented by my fellows on the left to protect minorities but I’m young enough to attest that it was taken by everyone else to protect their feelings because the idea that discomfort is victimization doesn’t protect the weak as much as it just reinforces whatever social mores exist at the time that idea becomes enforced. In other words, it makes cooties real. The idea that if losers interact with popular kids, they’re victimizing the popular kids with their lameness is insane but is the end result of the safe space idea.
Ironically, this has made everyone lame. The parties suck and they have no art or style. It is a social liability to be the type of person who can point to Austria on a map or even know what Brexit is. Bill Maher recently did a piece on the rise of modern stupidity and he’s right. It’s at a critical level but it isn’t just intelligence but anything not base. Anything culture-oriented, artsy, romantic, with any style beyond the utilitarian aim to maximize dopamine in the minimum time is uncool. That is horrifying.