It is hard to take the temperature of a culture. There are so many contradictory trends, happening at the same time.
Take Brexit, probably the most important development to determine politics in Britain for many decades.
Whatever the possible justifications for leaving EU, there is no doubt the prospect has given permission for the worst feelings of racism and prejudice to be expressed within its generalized xenophobia.
Consequently, many on the Left feel hopeless in face of these retrograde developments, seeing them as symptoms of the reactionary drift within contemporary British culture.
Nevertheless, simultaneously, the increasing acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, despite physical violence against specific individuals, seems, to pessimistic conservatives, to be unstoppable at societal level. It is simply that Left and Right pick different symptoms, to mobilise their disgust. They are, within their separate ideological silos, variously delighted or despairing at divergent trends.
These two attitudes are, however, opposite sides of the same cultural coin. Adopting Slajoj Zizek’s term, the “parallax view”, we see they cohere within the same historical conjuncture.
The contradictions belong to an identical development, expressing accurately the opposing possibilities within the zeitgeist.
Globalised capitalism encourages the dissolution of all ties, in favour of multiplying personal options, but also thereby producing atomized individuals and disenfranchised communities.
Brexit is a reaction, from the gut, against the global flows of peoples, and the bureaucratic control of Brussels, which threaten to overwhelm the particularities of British insularity.
Paradoxically, however, such atavistic nationalist independence would actually leave Britain, more vulnerable to global capitalism, isolated from powerful solidarity with the EU.
The sexual and gender revolution also contains contradictions. Conceived as an assertion of individual freedom, against conformist heteronormativity, poly-sexuality actually represents capitulation.
The individualistic logic of the market is simply extended to the personal arena, of consumer-demand, and the creation of personal brands, economic or erotic, marketized for immediate enjoyment.
The assertion of the local and national, of the personal and individual, are therefore both expressions of the loss in connection, even as they protest against it.
The result in Britain is a Weimar mood of disengagement and fatalism. These trends are seen as inevitable.
As with global heating, there are many proposals, but little action. We feel like we are on a downward escalator.
The immanence of a synchronic cultural analysis, the measure of the dominant lines of flight, must also therefore be set alongside a sense of imminence. Impending disaster. There is a sense that amidst the confusion, something is coming along the line – a “slow train coming”, to quote Bob Dylan.
As Richard Weaver wrote: “Ideas have consequences”. It is a reaping of what we have sown, the bad karma following from breaking the dharma of right actions.
Indeed, today we are witnessing the reaper overtaking the sower. As Jean Baudrillard suggested, effects are preceding their causes, in a riot of precession.
The krisis is enveloping our whole civilization. Because the West, the epitome of capitalist modernity, has influenced the entire globe, the deathwatch has spread everywhere.