Where did America go off the rails?
You could make a plausible case for a number of different periods.
Was it 1619 when the first black slaves arrived in Virginia? Was it 1776 when Thomas Jefferson inserted the line “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence? Was it 1865 when the North won the War Between the States? Was it 1919 when the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified? Was it the American victory in World War II? Was it the Civil Rights Movement and the counter-culture of the 1960s?
After giving this subject a considerable amount of thought for the past twenty years, I have concluded that it really comes down to three causes. The first is liberalism which elevates the autonomous individual over the community and which makes it impossible to maintain cultural norms and boundaries necessary to maintain a healthy culture in a free society. The second is modernism which elevates the interior world of the subjective self and its liberation, expression and realization above anything objective or external to the self. The third is the Jewish Question which was made possible by liberalism and modernism.
What about capitalism? Capitalism is liberalism applied to economics. What about feminism? Feminism is liberalism and modernism applied to sex and gender. What about antiracism and civil rights? It is liberalism applied to race relations. What about atheism? It is liberalism applied to religion. What about the counter-culture of the 1960s and the Sexual Revolution? It was the second wave of modernism. What about critical theory and postmodernism? The former was made possible by liberalism and the Jewish Question. The latter is simply a more extreme form of modernism rather than any kind of break with it.
While there are multiple threads with various different origins in time that came together to contribute to America’s racial and cultural decline, they converged in the culture of the New York avant-garde which became what we call the “mainstream” in the 1920s and 1930s. America’s racial and cultural decline is largely the story of how New York became the cultural capital of America and how its poisonous culture became hegemonic and began to trickle down and negatively impact the rest of the country.
In the 19th century, Americans had mostly lived in small towns and rural areas in communities based on shared values. Culture was local and regional. The development of film, radio, mass circulation news magazines and television in that order changed this, set the tone of a new national culture and created a vertical pyramid of culture which was imposed from the top down by metropolitan elites on the masses. Before this could happen though, the Genteel culture of 19th century New York symbolized by the tastes and values of The Century Magazine had to be eclipsed by the modernist avant-garde.
All roads lead to New York and how the modernist avant-garde captured New York in the early 20th century. This leads back to the Great Wave between the 1880s and 1920s when Eastern European Jews like Emma Goldman began swarming into New York and settling in their beachhead on the Lower East Side in which they imported the café scene and radical leftwing politics of Europe. It would be intellectually dishonest though to lay it all at the feet of the Jews as it was really this combination of alienated Jewish radicals and alienated WASP and European ethnic radicals who got modernism started in Greenwich Village in the 1910s and who went on to take over New York culture in the 1920s and 1930s.
The following excerpt comes from Christine Stansell’s book American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century:
“Around 1910, the diffuse elements of turn-of-the-century bohemia collected at one stop on the old circuit, Greenwich Village. Suddenly, it seemed, New York’s avant-garde emerged as a coherent community, visible and audible not just to its protagonists but to the whole city – and the country. To the participants, the change seemed to occur in the modern manner – that is, instantaneously, irrevocably, as a rupture that severed everything that came before and all that came after. They were a much larger group than the drifting bands of the 1890s, and their claims to importance – social and artistic – soared. Bohemia had always been self-aggrandizing but now it was millennial. “Life was ready to take a new form of some kind and many people felt a common urge to shape it,” proposed one of the enthusiasts, the impresario Mabel Dodge. “The most that anyone knew was the old ways were about over and the new ways all to create. The city was teeming with possibilities.” …
Greenwich Village, as it came to be celebrated, did not refer to an actual neighborhood so much as to a fictive community. It was a selective vision of city life that installed some people in the foreground as protagonists and shunted others to the background or offstage altogether. The notion of the “Village” enhanced the mutual awareness of newcomers but not that of longtime residents; in situ, artists and journalists, New Men and New Women, could recognize one another but seldom their working-class neighbors …
The newcomers saw themselves as bohemians. But they also viewed themselves as intellectuals. The word itself was new, one of several keywords generated by the political left (“feminist” was another); it denoted professionals who supported themselves through some vocation in arts and letters. Originating as a self-designation of the Dreyfusards in France in 1898, “intellectual” had oppositional connotations; the term nodded toward men (women were problematic) of modest social backgrounds, not the gentlemen of property and standing who had devoted themselves to culture since the nation’s founding …
“Vital contact,” a phrase used by Harvard rebels in the 1910s, distills a sensibility of dissent formed from the general agreement that privileged youth – especially, but not exclusively men – were enervated by overeducation and overrefinement and that they could revivify themselves through contact with supposedly simpler, hardier, more spirited people. The notion suggested a form of elite renewal that could foster amity and shared goals across class lines. …
Vital contact was bleached of religious impulses. Not the search for “God” but the search for “life,” not the indwelling of “grace” but “experience” shaped its imperatives, thereby separating its adherents from Christian do-gooders. Not in the first decades of the century or thereafter would these moderns go to church, pray, or even debate the existence of God; agnosticism was in the urban air they breathed. Occasionally, much later, some Villager under a cloud of misfortune sought solace in religion, though seldom in Christianity but rather in theosophy, Oriental mysticism, Gurdijieff, peyote. In this as in much else they found fellow spirits among the Jewish radicals. Secularists by virtue of throwing in their lot with socialism and anarchism, the Jewish moderns turned their backs on religious observance as archaic. This meant, for one thing, that varieties of anti-Semitism that required a Christian subsoil did not take root among left-leaning settlement residents.
The excitement of vital contact helped cast downtown New York, especially the Lower East Side, as a free-spirited, convivial quarter rather than the fetid bog of tubercular paupers that conventional reformers saw. The cafés never closed, marveled one settlement house resident, contrasting them favorably with the gentlemen’s clubs with which he was also familiar …
The political and social breaches of the wall in the early years of the century would, in time, lead to the crossover of immigrant Jews into the American intelligentsia in the 1930s, when the offspring of the first wave of immigrants became famous as writers, critics, and editors. But it was in the 1910s that a particular American chemistry had first gone to work, as if a dash of the “other,” whether the Jew or the New Woman, was necessary to distill the modern from the cultural solvent.”
To recap, Eastern European Jews flooded into New York through the wide open door of American immigration laws thanks to liberalism and capitalism and settled in the Lower East Side around the turn of the 20th century. Once there, they recreated the lively intellectual atmosphere of the café scene of Europe and brought with them their radical socialist and anarchist politics to America. Leon Trotsky spent three months there in early 1917 before the October Revolution.
Around 1910, a bunch of alienated WASPs and European ethnics mainly from the small town Midwest via Chicago and from the East via Harvard or Columbia University began pooling in Greenwich Village. The neighborhood became a bohemian modernist enclave like Montmartre in Paris which had been the site of the 1871 Paris Commune. The Young Intellectuals as they came to be known were influenced by Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Bergson and H.G. Wells. They were into modernist art. The shared secularism, modernism and socialist and anarchist politics of the Greenwich Villagers and the Jewish radicals in the Lower East Side brought them into contact and they gelled and created the roots of what became “mainstream” culture from a variety of different influences.
“Vital contact” was one of the doctrines that brought the Harvard radicals into contact with the Jewish radicals of the Lower East Side. It led to hedonism and novelty chasing. Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and especially William James had pumped their minds full of vitalist philosophy. From these influences, they had learned that truth is relative and useful. Morality is bullshit and gets in the way of “life” and society can easily get along fine without it. Religion is only a practical aid that helps you get through life. Art is also a great stimulant to life. Life is also the “experience” of the stream-of-consciousness.