Hedonism and Populism

One of the most curious social phenomenon is that so many decades after the sexual revolution, sex is still regarded as edgy. Same with alcohol. People talk about drinking heavily like it is some bold and radical act of subversion. The Volstead Act hasn’t been a thing for a while. Having never had an alcoholic beverage in my life. I was recently listening to Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender” which sounds like a meth addiction according to a meth addict mid-high. They think they’re cool but they’re tooth-loosing sad.

The narrator describes getting shit-faced drunk to cope with a breakup as a radical act instead what it actually is: a sad act. It isn’t a wine tasting or hard cider over a bonfire, it is getting balance-losing puking drunk in a state of emotion that should be reserved for the death of a family member. The amazing thing is that the narrator seems to be an adult and not a teenager. The song was released in May 2014 but while Yadizi civilians were being beheaded by ISIS and the Philipines was still rising from among the worst hurricanes in history, this woman felt more sorry for herself than anyone else.

The way in which hedonism is regarded is a noble savage archetype. Living in the South, there are two equal and oppoaite stereotypes. That of the moralistic puritan and that of the hedonistic redneck. The hypocrisy of this region has been a massive factor in shaping my worldview. In fact, the complete, abject, utter, pure, titanic, extreme, and absolute hypocrisy of the adults of the society I was raised in is the most significant factor in my philosophical and political development. Having my behavior constantly policed by people whose seeming core beliefs were morally nihilistic and the decision to forge my own moral journey after a total disillusionment with authority and my home culture.

The common thread between the stereotypes is they are anti-borgeous. They’re both anti-intellectual but they’re more generally anti anything sophisticated and see the hedonism they practice perpetually and the puritanism they never practice but feign perpetually as a noble simplicity. Whether they are preaching against sexual degeneracy on their social media or drunkenly trying to have sex with randos on the internet a few seconds later on the same device, they are still Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington compared to the more refined strata of the culture.

The entirety of the country genre can be described as the stories of people who have never, for a millisecond of their lives, made any attempt, whatsoever, at living by the principles to which they ostensibly ascribe. Yet, any attempt at living an earnest life of sobriety, learning, personal conservatism, ordering mocktails while they’re shooting whiskey, is seen as elitist and contrary to the normative morés of a moral life to a Southern conservative. In one sense, the hypocrisy is a moral normative since leading a clean life is felt to be too evolved. It is felt, as a cultural myth, that the Garden of Eden represented ignorance since that is equated with innocence and that to be worldly, such as being cultured and mature enough to resist one’s base nature, is a sin against innocence. Hedonism, in being animalistic and unevolved, is seen as, according to that cultural myth, holy.

Many a redneck has employed the term “metrosexual” to describe a culture less red meat and vice-ridden than their own. This is, of course, a value judgment of a normative form. Coming from a conservative Christian, it says the moral ideal of a man is to be a hypocrite. That to be morally righteous one is supposed to believe in a moral code and violate it. It is one of the reasons why it is almost unconscionable to large sections of society to have a good time in settings other than drunk partying, clubbing, and doing the other weekend warrior stuff.

On a level, it is considered immoral to enjoy oneself and socialize in sober and clean manners. Worse yet, those who lead clean lives are seen as less popular and, as backed up by the Lerner and Simmons study from 1966, therefore less moral. That is to say that those who abstain from vice are percieved as morally inferior to those who engage in it because vice is associated with social status and higher social status is assoicated with stronger moral character. It is also borne of the cultural idea that status reflects work ethic which reflects character. While this is explicitly associted with wealth, it is subconsciously extended to social capital.

In one sense, it is the moral subtext of the myth of the American Revolution that has been expressed in everything from the Fischer-Spassky chess match to the movie Titanic. The rough and honest against the sophisticated and jaded as the central moral of the American story. Strip clubs and The 700 Club are both associated with moral Conservatives of the hickish heartland but while they are ostensibly diametric opposites, they are both anti-intellectual and anti-sophisticated. In the end, hedonism, often highly hypocritical, represents the rgh simplicity that makes this culture moral. It is Marion against the Tarleton, it is the Wolverines against the Red Army, it is Jack rescuing Rose from the stuffy British upper-class. Cocaine, strippers, and beer are the pasttimes of simple, Jesus, folk in their moral crusade against the influence of the urbane and the cosmopolitian.

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