I’ve been holding off writing this post for a while, since sex has been, in one way or another, a key subject in several of my recent posts and I would actually like to move away from the topic to something else. But I’m tired of having this page marked in this book I am reading, and I did want to share it.
The book is The Abolition of Britain by Peter Hitchens. Published in 2000, it was written in a pre-9/11 world, yet it’s impact and relevance is not diminished — at least not so far. I have only just begun reading it, yet so far it is meeting the high expectations I created for it after reading its marvelous introduction. I don’t know that I can recommend it yet, having not finished it, but I must say that at this point it is beginning to look like required reading for anyone interested in where Joseph’s sons — both the UK and the US — are headed.
The passage in the introduction that I have had marked to post about was this one (from p. 13), concerning the impact of America on the mores of Britain:
The triumph of Elvis Presley, whose influence was rightly seen as revolutionary by American conservatives, brought an entirely new thing into our lives–the sexualization of the young, combined with the narcotic emotional power of modern rock music. Even in the vast and flexible society that is the modern USA, Presley was the cultural equivalent of a 100-megaton explosion. In Britain’s narrow, restrained atmosphere, the charge was more powerful still. Presley dug beneath the fortifications of British sexual reserve, leaving them so weakened that John Lennon and Mick Jagger could knock them down completely.
First, this passage grabbed me because I have a couple of big Elvis fans in my life, and I am a fan of some of his music as well. I think his incredible voice, which got better as he got older, puts many of today’s popular singers’ voices to shame. (My wife is not one of the “big fans,” although we currently have two Elvis songs residing in my wife’s iPod and one cover of an Elvis song by someone else. I also have a big Mick Jagger fan in my life, though I seem to be related to no John Lennon fans.) Secondly, it is a part of Hitchens’ larger discussion of why the post-WWII surge of American “tastes” and “values” were too much for Britain’s circuitry — a really excellent analysis, which I have never considered before.
However, the passage struck me most of all because I suspect he is right and it got me to thinking of all the black and white clips of official-looking men of the time warning about the dangers of rock and roll and Elvis’ hips. They are often shown for the sole purpose of being mocking — stuff about corrupting youth, etc. Yet, in the final analysis, as “ridiculous” and “prudish” such warnings seem now when we compare Elvis to what we see today, those men have been vindicated to a certain degree. We can see such things not as the doom of our sense of decency, in and of themselves, but as powerful steps in the wrong direction.
If the popularity of Elvis’ hips was the key that unlocked the door to society’s acceptance of the below-the-waist antics we see in music videos today, then Elvis should have stilled the pelvis and kept his hunka hunka burnin’ love to himself. And, in retrospect, the debate as to whether or not his hips should have been shown on television might have been a worthwhile discussion after all. More truly relevant than the “quaint” with which it is usually dubbed.
Makes me curious if there were any “prudes” or “Puritans” who complained when married couples on TV began to be shown in the same bed (like Mike and Carol Brady) versus in separate beds (like Ricky & Lucy Ricardo). It may have been a change that occurred with nary a complaint at all. I’m no expert in TV history, and perhaps there never was an explicit, codified standard about the same bed/separate beds arrangement — just an informal understanding. I am not familiar with the politics of changing TV standards through the decades, and I would like to know how the same bed/separate beds change played out. Perhaps some of you out there can enlighten me.
But if there were complaints about the change back then, I wonder if — were we to read them, now — hindsight would make the prudes seem more like prophets.
Regardless, so far Peter Hitchens’ The Abolition of Britain seems an incredible read — even if I am reading it seven years too late. And if anyone out there is interested in what the Bible says about the future of America and Britain, they should check out our free booklet on the subject. You can click on the picture below for an HTML version of the booklet, or you can click here to order a free copy to be sent to you (which will have the illustrations and maps that the HTML version is missing).