The Party Is Over

Why is our world so screwed up?

In the early 20th century, we went through World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression and World War II. The Victorian culture of the 19th century died in this tumultuous crisis period and the Modern culture of the 20th century emerged from the wreckage.

The key changes to American culture took place during this period from World War I to World War II. Woodrow Wilson led one America into World War I and FDR led another America out of World War II. The country became liberal, modernist, cosmopolitan and antiracist in this period. Since 1945, this “postwar consensus” has been basically working itself out to its logical conclusion.

The Lost Generation (born 1882 to 1900) is where the decisive break with the past happened. The Losters were the first Modern generation. They grew up in the Late Victorian era in the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s. They were the Doughboys who were sent over to Europe by Woodrow Wilson to fight in the trenches of World War I. They came back home screwed up by that experience which discredited their elders. Young people rebelled against their parents and embraced Modern values in the Roaring Twenties in the United States and Britain, the Années folles in France and the Golden Twenties in Weimar Germany. This was a period of sweeping cultural change throughout the West in general.

The GI Generation (born 1901 to 1927) and Silent Generation (born 1928 to 1945) absorbed the values of their parents the Losters. The GIs grew up in the Depression and were the soldiers who fought in World War II. The Silents grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. The Losters entered middle age around the time that the Great Depression hit them in the 1930s and emerged from World War II as elders. Their adult lives had spanned two World Wars, the Roaring Twenties and the Depression. President Harry Truman and President Dwight Eisenhower were Losters as was General Douglas MacArthur.

The following excerpt comes from Nathan Miller’s book New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America:

“Prosperity is just around the corner,” said Vice President Charles Curtis in a statement usually attributed to Hoover. But in the spring of 1930, the tide started running in the other direction. The economy slowly drifted downward, first into a slump, then into a recession, and finally into a full-fledged depression. Factories and businesses cut wages and followed up with layoffs and plant closings, which led to a decline in consumer spending, which created a vicious circle of more closings …

Women no longer had the filmy, diaphanous look associated with the flapper. Hemlines were dropping to the lower calf, breasts and waists reappeared, and the once mandatory bob seemed to grow out overnight …

And then the storm, which had so tauntingly veered away, roared back in full fury – this time from across the Atlantic and engulfing the American banking system …

American writers were already looking back upon the Twenties with regret for wasted time. Scott Fitzgerald captured the mood of this new era in his story “Babylon Revisted.” Like Fitzgerald, many American writers wanted to forget the Twenties and “jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element.

Most of the expatriates returned home when the money that had sustained them abroad ran out. Paris, Majorca, Capri, and the Riviera were empty of Americans. Harold Stearns, whose departure for Paris in 1922 had caused so much comment, returned unnoticed and rediscovered America. The former expatriates talked about Paris and how good it had been to sit in a sidewalk café sipping wine and letting the world go by, said Malcolm Cowley, “but nobody had time to listen, and soon, the exiles, too, were caught up in the new life, adopting political doctrines and … marching in demonstrations.”

One evening, Henry Mencken and his wife, Sara, accepted an invitation to visit the Fitzgeralds at the home they were renting outside Baltimore, where Zelda was being treated at the Sheppard Pratt Hospital for a nervous breakdown. Neither man had weathered the crash very well. Fitzgerald had published nothing except Saturday Evening Post stories since The Great Gatsby in 1925, and the magazine had not only reduced his fees as an economy measure but complained about the quality of his work. His book royalties had fallen to about $50 a year. He was working on what was to be his favorite among his novels, Tender Is The Night, based upon Zelda’s struggle with madness. At the same time, he tried to take care of his daughter, Scottie, and to deal with a mountain of debt, his notoriety as a drunk, and his despair over a schizophrenic wife. Mencken found that politics was not a laughing matter after 1929 and had stepped down as editor of the Mercury. It was no longer enough in the proletarian 1930s to merely carp at national absurdities; a positive faith was now required, and many of his followers had moved leftward toward a rather naive Marxism …”

As America entered the Great Depression in the 1930s, it had developed a liberal intelligentsia based in New York, which had become the cultural capital of the United States. This intelligentsia was modernist, cosmopolitan and antiracist, but the dire circumstances of the Depression quickly became the all-consuming political challenge of the day followed by foreign policy.

In the 1930 midterm elections, the Democrats took over the House and nearly took over the Senate from the Republicans. In the 1932 presidential election, FDR won 42 states, the Democrats seized control of Congress and the parties realigned as the New Deal coalition took shape. Conservative liberalism went into the dustbin and remained there for over a generation until the memory of Hoovervilles faded.

After World War I, Americans tossed the Democrats out of power and the Progressive Era came to an end. In the Roaring Twenties, Republicans dominated because of economic prosperity. The Democrats were badly divided over cultural issues in 1924 and 1928. Americans tossed the Republicans out of power because of the Depression. In the 1930s and 1940s, economics and foreign policy kept the Democrats in power and papered over their divisions. After 1945, the Democrats began to divide over racial and cultural issues and finally the Republicans came back to power in the Nixon era due to backlash politics.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, the drunk, and his wife Zelda, the tanned schizophrenic, are culturally our forebearers. Randolph Bourne, Walter Lippmann, H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Cowley and others from the 1920s belong in this category. William Dean Howells does not.

Note: Bourne died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. He was 32-years-old. His spirit lived on though in his generation.

About Hunter Wallace 9599 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

12 Comments

  1. Speaking of life of the party, I wonder what Richard ‘the clown’ Spencer is up to. Let’s take a look…

    Oh my, Spencer retweeted an anti-Christian tweet stating that Christianity is dead, about zombies, and is an enabler of wokeness. Interesting. So is Spencer’s implying his version of urban atheism is the answer?

    Oh look, Another retweet by Spencer implying conservatives are actually dominating on Facebook. Interesting. I guess the censorship of conservative information and support is a figment of our imagination. I wonder why Spencer is defending Facebook. Has Mark Zuckerberg been abused in some way that it compels Richard to defend him?

    Perhaps Richard is trying to enlighten us that the tech industry overlords are actually our friends and that urban atheism is actually much more anti-wokeness than Christianity. We should all put our faith in Richard Spencer’s metrosexual urban feminized atheism because it is in the best interest of the White race. Only a cool metrosexual atheist like Richard has insights into being anti-woke.

  2. “Bourne died of the Spanish Flu in 1918. He was 32-years-old. His spirit lived on though in his generation”:

    Again, I stand corrected regarding Randolph Bourne. I had thought (heard) that he was essentially a hero of the antiwar movement, namesake of Antiwar.com and the Randolph Bourne Institute, but in fact his opposition to war was not so straightforward, and his main interest and activity lay elsewhere. Thanks for the thorough and accurate history review.

    • The party is over for the liberal/conservative world order. We are headed into another economic maelstrom worse than the 1930’s and it’s going to sweep away current economic, social and political arrangements. Interlocking system failure is in our future, prepare to be much more self reliant than in the past. Belief in the ridiculous such as “progress” and “All Men are Created Equal” will go by the boards.

      Government provided SS, pensions, bond payments etc. will stop or be paid in greatly depreciated money; inflation will eat away the value of the dollar and living standards. Private savings and pensions based in U.S. Dollars will also be affected likewise. Foreign currencies will also fail since all of them are “fiat” currencies too, based only on “confidence”, whatever that is and backed by not one grain of Au or Ag.

      This will affect WIC, AFDC, EBT and the rest of the alphabet soup Government programs that keep the urban leisure class somewhat docile. No doubt they will burn down their own neighborhoods first to show their displeasure at their reduced circumstances then threaten White suburbs with a visit. We have already seen the first act of this play this year in many U.S. cities.

      This will be a shock to the sophisticated, open minded, over educated, credentialed, useless, “liberal”, White, suburban types with their BLM signs. “I’m on your side!” they will scream as their homes are destroyed and they flee for their lives. Unfortunately, they still won’t learn anything from the experience, their indoctrination is too strong. They and their multiculturalism, diversity and “wokeness” will end up in the dustbin of history, there is no reaching them.

  3. “The Magnificent Ambersons” versus “The Great Gatsby.”

    Those two novels fall on either side of the great divide you’ve been discussing, Mr. W.—the Victorian-Modernist divide.

    The former, which was written by Booth Tarkington, was published in 1918 and won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for fiction but would seem to have been completed by 1916 (since that’s indirectly mentioned, in the book’s opening paragraph, as the present year).

    The only reason “Ambersons,” which seems to me far superior to “Gatsby,” hasn’t been forgotten entirely, I suspect, is that Orson Welles made a movie of it. “Gatsby,” on the other hand, seems to be one of those Great American Novels, whatever that means.

    Though the authors, Tarkington and F. Scott Fitzgerald respectively, hailed from the Midwest and are probably considered Midwestern writers by scholars—as I’m afraid I don’t know—both had fairly-recent Southern ancestry. Tarkington’s father or grandfather, I think, was said to have been a Southern gentleman; and without knowing anything about the subject, I’d guess Fitzgerald’s attraction to the ultimately-unfortunate Zelda Sayre had something to do with her Southern-ness (though her American ancestry started in New York’s Long Island, not the Alabama where she was born and raised).

    The novels are not only both love stories but—SPOILER ALERT—deal, both of them, with early-love revisited. Via Wikipedia’s entry about Tarkington, I was led to two magazine articles that both treated Tarkington as a once-esteemed, now-forgotten American figure. The sub-headline of one of those, in November 2019’s New Yorker, reads as follows:

    “How a candidate for the Great American Novelist dwindled into America’s most distinguished hack”

    In that same piece, if I’m recalling this correctly, the author—that is, (((the author)))—says that Tarkington “taught himself to write reliable prose.” (At the moment, I can’t access the page, to make sure I have that right.)

    Since I’ve never been quite sure what “sublime” means, I’ve never used it in a sentence; but I’ll venture to say “The Magnificent Ambersons” is a sublime rendering of the Victorian America that the Moderns washed away. Because the novel is set in a fictional version of Tarkington’s own Indianapolis, I posted a passage from it here, at Occidental Dissent, on the day of the 2016 Indiana presidential primary. I seem to remember that commenter stephen dalton enjoyed the passage.

    “The Magnificent Ambersons” may be read in its entirety, at no charge, at bartleby.com:

    https://www.bartleby.com/160/index.html

    The two articles I mentioned above are at the following:

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/11/the-rise-and-fall-of-booth-tarkington
    (“The Rise and Fall of Booth Tarkington,” New Yorker, November 2019)

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/05/hoosiers/302943/
    (“Hoosiers—The Lost World of Booth Tarkington,” Atlantic, May 2004)

    I’ll note, too, that Tarkington is mentioned in a passage that you, Mr. W., presented in your October 9 entry “H.L. Mencken, The Scopes Monkey Trial and the Culture War.” The passage, from Henry F. May’s “The End of American Innocence,” is as follows:

    “Everybody knows that at some point in the twentieth century America went through a cultural revolution. … Clearly on one side of this line lie Booth Tarkington and O. Henry and the American Winston Churchill, and also, we should not forget, Henry James. Clearly on our side lie Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Stearns Eliot, and also the writers of television advertising.”

    • PS Tarkington and Fitzgerald both spent college years at Princeton, though neither, I’m pretty sure, was awarded a degree. In “The Magnificent Ambersons,” a character attends college in “the East,” and the main character of Fitzgerald’s debut, “This Side of Paradise,” which I’ve not read, is a Princeton student.

  4. Randolph S Bourne (1886-1918) published a 1916 essay in ‘The Atlantic’, with some ideas that could have been published in 2016, the essay even ending with a diversity-is-our-strength claim

    Bourne sees an evolving ‘cosmopolitan’ America that has failed at being a ‘melting pot’ and must accept non-assimilating diversity, as authored by its citizens, including the newer ones

    He says USA people are all foreign-born or descendants of foreign-born, so it is just that “the Anglo-Saxon was merely the first immigrant”, and there is nothing special about that as ‘Americanism’ to which others should assimilate, aside from the common language etc as a useful toolbox

    He denies it is a new culture because it is just Anglos maintaining a stale version of the ancestral one, whilst old England actually continued to develop. “English-American conservatism has been our chief obstacle to social advance,” he writes.

    Noting that USA immigrant Italians keep much of their culture just like Anglos kept theirs, Bourne’s vision of the USA is as a kind of Lebanon, where the groups might all speak the same language, but each keeps their group identity, which in the USA are linked to old European ancestral homelands, and that this group-interacting ‘multi-kulti’ is what America is all about

    Tho he does acknowledge some deep roots set in the South and Yankee New England, but sees them both as dying. He says, “We shall have to give up the search for our native ‘American’ culture. With the exception of the South and that New England which, like the Red Indian, seems to be passing into solemn oblivion, there is no distinctively American culture.”

    Re the newer migrants, he says, “The process has not been at all the fancied ‘assimilation’ of the Scandinavian or Teuton. Rather has it been a process of their assimilation of us.”

    He scorns ‘half-breeds’ who lose their European roots, interestingly – “Hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards but those of the mob” whose culture is merely unthinking, “the American culture of the cheap newspaper, the ‘movies’, the popular song, the ubiquitous automobile”

    His vision is that of a “transplanted Europe, its colonies inextricably mingled, yet not homogeneous. They merge but they do not fuse … a federation of cultures … the first international nation … America is already the world-federation in miniature … America not a nationality but a trans-nationality”

    “America shall be what the immigrant will have a hand in making it, and not what a ruling class, descendant of those British stocks which were the first permanent immigrants, decide that America shall be made”

    “An enterprise of integration into which we can all pour ourselves, of a spiritual welding which should make us infinitely strong”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/07/trans-national-america/304838/

  5. “Magnificent Ambersons” was a favorite of my best high school English teacher, who was a liberal social critic. I remember the theme of falling slowly and steadily, helplessly, into poverty, which happens regularly to members of the middle class in this system.

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