The Culture War has been lost. There’s no question about that. One thing however needs to be borne in mind – winning or losing a war is not always the end of the story. Quite often a war simply sets the stage for a second war. This is true of purely military or political conflicts and it may well be true of culture wars as well. Culture War 1.0 is over and perhaps Culture War 2.0 is yet to be fought.
One thing that stands out about Culture War 1.0 is how easy the victory was. Social and cultural attitudes changed dramatically in a very short space of time. In 1960 marriage was the cornerstone of western society. Most people got married and most people had children and almost everybody agreed that this was the formula for happiness. Within twenty-five years the institution of marriage had crumbled. Marriage was no longer regarded as something permanent and sacred. It was now an option, and was widely regarded as being not exactly a permanent or even a very significant arrangement. What mattered was love and everybody knew that love meant sex. The secret of happiness was lots of sex. Children were seen as an encumbrance. Fertility rates plummeted. Women who considered having children to be the most important thing in life were thought of as being a bit odd and vaguely disapproved of. To feminists women who wanted children were traitors.
Twenty years ago homosexual marriage was a bizarre and laughable fringe idea. Now it’s the very bedrock of our civilisation and anybody who disapproves of it is regarded as being an evil nazi.
What happened? The answer is very simple. People conformed. In the West we had long since abandoned the ideas that religion mattered and that there were eternal moral values. What mattered was being popular. You didn’t need to worry if your opinions were correct, you simply made sure that your opinions conformed to what was popular. Or at least to what you were told was popular.
The key point here is that if social and cultural attitudes can be changed almost overnight in one direction then logically and obviously they can be just as easily and just as quickly changed in the opposite direction. Most people will conform to what they see as the dominant ideology. The dissenting minority is then forced to conform. If the dominant ideology changes then, like magic, social and cultural attitudes change.
The objection to this is that the dominant ideology of the present day is so dominant that it is unlikely to change. To believe that is to ignore the lessons of history. The most important lesson of history is that the future is always unpredictable. If you had a time machine and you transported someone from the year 1914 to the year 1939 they would find themselves in a world that would have been entirely unimaginable in 1914. Entire empires had vanished. Entirely new countries had appeared. Strange and incomprehensible political doctrines were now considered to be perfectly normal.
This was largely a result of the First World War but wars are not the only ways in which everything can be changed in ways that could not have been predicted. Demographic change is another. Whether demographic change is a good thing or a bad thing is not relevant here (I think it’s a bad thing) but it’s likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Thirty years from now the United States will be a different society. It will be a very hispanic society. There is no way of predicting exactly how that will play out but it will cause major political changes and could lead to significant social and cultural changes. Will the social attitudes of an hispanic United States be the same as the social attitudes of the U.S. today? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the extent to which those numbers can be turned into cultural power. It also depends on the extent to which the hispanic segment of society conforms to the ruling ideology of liberal atheism. Could hispanic immigration fuel a religious revival? Even a Catholic revival? Who knows.
Then there’s western Europe. Islam is going to be a much bigger presence thirty years from now. Again the question is the extent to which this will translate into political and cultural power. There’s also likely to be a race between, on the one hand, a growing secularisation and on the other hand the likely emergence of powerful strains of political Islamism. Will a Britain with a much larger Muslim population continue to conform to its current ideology of rainbow unicorn feelgood soft totalitarianism? Again the answer is maybe, or maybe not.
In my next post I’m intending to address the question of soft cultural power in more detail.