01 October 2023

Mor al and cultural decadence in Europe

Moral and cultural decadence in Europe

Topic by Jorge

Notes by Lawrence

This is a definition of decadence from Google: moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury. (1)

And Eurostat published this message earlier this year: In 2022, 95.3 million people in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion; this was equivalent to 21.6 % of the EU population. (2)

Finally, Eurostat again wrote in 2022: In 2021, the 20 % of the population with the highest income received 38.2 % of disposable income in the EU Member States. (3)

As a figure of speech when we say a generalised statement such as “X is d” we do not necessarily mean that all “X are d”, but rather we have a valid belief that “X is d” meaning “d” is very common in the context of “X”. Not all the citizens in the EU are morally decadent or culturally decadent.

So is Europe decadent and has Europe lost its moral and cultural heritage? With 22% of the EU population within the poverty line we can hardly say that pleasure and luxury affect the whole population of the EU. Even if we accept that in such cases, there will always be a long fat tail of inequities in a population.

Regarding culture, it is a truism that culture changes and evolves over time. Traditionally, the causes of culture change were influx of groups of people or successful occupation by an external power. But historically, this would have been measures in centuries and not just a decade.

More recently, abundant access to information about other cultures influences culture change in short periods. Firstly, we had the Hollywood movie invasion and now the internet and streamed videos has a strong hold on European and world cultures.

Just because this change in European (EU) culture is happening, it does not imply it is decadent or immoral. For example, whilst I agree with those who abhor fast food culture and other aspects of new culture changes, this is part of the process of culture. The question is: when is something culture change and when is it unfettered profiteering.

Morality, it might be argued, is a different matter since this is, first and foremost, an individual matter and any acts that seem to be acts of collective morality are still the sum of individual acts. The problem here is that it is very difficult to generalise about collective morality. Even the worst events of collective immoral acts still have to be investigated between moral acts and the individual acting.

Of course, some individuals are evil and immoral, but an import aspect of immoral acts is the intention of the individual. Without deviating into normative ethics, there are many factors that might lead someone intending to something and not something else. In addition, two of those factors are fear and influence by others.

What is clear is that income distribution is an important motivator for action since this is a relevant component in survival. Intentions are one side of morality, but what is the role of “duty to be informed” in moral actions? What’s the excuse in 2023 for people to elect governments whose main agenda, hidden or not, is to limit human rights and inequitable distribution of national wealth?

(1) Google:

(2) Living conditions in Europe - poverty and social exclusion

(3) Living conditions in Europe - income distribution and income inequality

Best and take care


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