I previously wrote (May 03 05) about intellectual decadence in the US, as exemplified by the spread of irrationalism and superstition. But this is not the only form of decadence, nor is this just an American problem. Where the need to control populations takes precedence over everything else, decadence will always arise.
With political decadence, all political parties become essentially the same. Today, all mainstream parties - even the Greens - indulge in forms of neoconnery. Gone is any pretense of challenging the corporate system. The elimination of different viewpoints shuts off debate and represses alternative policies. Political health is indicated by multiple parties with different views, which attract and involve the overwhelming majority of the population. Today you have a rapid decline in party memberships, and a fall-off in voting. The channels that would allow gradual change are blocked. A society in a state of political decadence will either collapse, become a dictatorship, or have a revolution.
With political decadence, only inferior individuals decide on a political career. Crusading lawyers, social gospel clergy, academics and statesmen once filled the Commons. (1) These have been replaced by carpetbaggers, hate cultists and semi-literate nobodies. While egotism and graft were always part of politics, now these seem the only reasons for a political career. The old politicians would lie to cover themselves, now they lie as a matter of principle. In the past, even Conservatives were motivated by a desire to help the average person, think only of John Diefenbaker and the Old Age Pension and the Charter of Rights. Today the political game is to harm as many people as you can and then gloat to the media about your crimes.
Part of the problem of political decadence is rooted in media decadence. Any party which deviates from the party-line that all parties must follow is shouted down and marginalized by the media. Imagine if the NDP actually decided to take on the corporations. They would be inundated with slanderous propaganda.
While the mass media of the 1950's and '60's was also hostile to labour, minorities, the peace and student movements, most of the important writers and commentators were not. In fact, people like Pierre Berton, June Caldwell, Peter Gzoski, Barbara Frum and Alan Fotheringham were progressive and sympathetic. The odd right-wing moon bat was kept around for entertainment purposes only, as ex-MacLeans Magazine editor, Peter Newman claimed of Barbara Amiel, er, rather Lady Black of Crossbarhotel.
Good progressive writers and commentators have not disappeared - think only of Avi Lewis and Naomi Cline . But they are marginalized. The place of Berton, Caldwell etc., has been filled with pudgy nonentities churning out Neocon boilerplate.
Mass media decadence leads people to develop alternative media. But the most of the population is not aware of the alternative sources and relies upon the totalitarian mass media. This leads to a dumbing-down of the population, and the creation of a vicious circle of ignorance and right-wing reaction.
1. John Diefenbaker, the crusading prairie lawyer, Tommy Douglas, the social gospel Baptist minister, Pierre Trudeau, the academic, and Mike Pearson, the statesman.