A new plague is stalking the land. It’s not the black death and it’s not cholera, but much more serious than either of these. I know it’s serious because it was the first item on the SKY News website this morning. It’s called binge viewing and it’s destroying the sleep and, says SKY, the lives of those afflicted.
Sadly, this virulent plague chiefly affects people described as “vulnerable”: that is the hordes of intellectually challenged, morally depraved and aesthetically numb who sit up all night watching tawdry shows such as Game of Thrones. Binge viewing, we were informed, is “a syndrome,” so victims who are made to suffer by Game of Thrones are very likely to have their sorry condition aggravated by the fact that they are also addicted to Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent or that top of the range nuts ‘n’ sluts show Say Yes to the Dress in which very fat women – both black and white, so there’s nothing racist about this – giggle and squeal as they try on ludicrously expensive wedding gowns which are then paid for by their fathers.
Back in the 1960s there was a remarkable and at the time shocking television play called The Sex Olympics. The premise was that there would come a time when, under a totalitarian government, millions would gawp endlessly at actors fornicating on screen. This fantasy has now been realised and it’s called Love Island.
I recall a telling remark by C.H. Sisson: “What makes St Augustine so interesting is that he lived through times very much like ours – and rejected them.”
Indeed, Augustine describes a state in which people are, “…unconcerned about the utter corruption of their country – ‘So long as it lasts’ they say – so long as it enjoys material prosperity.” The downfall of the Roman Empire was preceded by a whole series of financial crises. It was overwhelmed by mass immigration and threatened by barbarian violence. The comparisons with our own time are very striking. Augustine prophesied against “…rulers who are interested not in the morality, but the docility of their subjects; they are regarded not as directors of conduct but as controllers of material things and providers of material satisfaction.”
Doesn’t that make you think of extravagant loans to people who could never afford them; of laws to encourage 24/7 shopping and 24/7 boozing; of the whole world turned into advertisements? Art and culture debased, as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies once remarked of a Damien Hirst exhibition, “…into manufactured artefacts without content, with just a brand tag supposed to guarantee market value.”
A civilisation cannot survive on such debased conduct, on pretend values which are really valueless.
Augustine describes a society where: “Full publicity is given where shame would be appropriate; close secrecy is imposed where praise would be in order. Decency is veiled from sight; indecency is exposed to view. Scenes of evil attract packed audiences; good words scarcely find any listeners. It is as if purity should provoke a blush and corruption give grounds for pride.”
Here we are again on the eve of destruction. Pizza and porn are today’s bread and circuses. Binge viewers everywhere, sit back and enjoy the Sex Olympics.