Friday, May 23, 2003

Decadent -- my literal minded old dictionary says this means in a state of decay or decline.

Is that all? Heck, I thought it was something bad. I guess my compost pile is always decadent, and for that matter, so is my driveway. It declines very noticeably -- or, wait, is that inclines?

Seems to me "decadent" comes with a lot more freight than that. When someone declaims that our civilization is decadent, it resonates with impending doom. It conjures pictures of opium addicts languishing and famished on tattered fainting couches. I expect buildings falling into disrepair on every hand and giant cockroaches feeding on the rubble.

No, that's not what's going on. Our cities still grow, our technology continues to rise (have you noticed all the advances in mops recently?), and recent economic wobbles are not long enough to be statistically significant. So what, if anything, is in decay or decline in these our United States?

I suspect most of the people who get excited about our decadence have in mind a decline in morals. And reading yesterday about porn revenues did cause a moment's wonder. But I find any moral decline there vastly outweighed by our great improvements in treating all citizens equally. Tolerance trumps sexual repression in my book.

But here is a decline I worry about. I don't like to see fewer and fewer people voting. And the other day in the coffeeshop, I overheard a discussion about the impossibility of trusting any news source. Since you don't know what's going on, the argument ran, there's no point in voting. You can't know if you're doing any good.

So there we are -- a decline in desire to participate in our government.

Wouldn't it be a shame to let this experiment in democracy decay?