Like Beauty, Decline Is In the Eye of the Beholder
On falling from greatness and the dilemmas of perceiving things that aren't actually there.
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Not to get all philosophical, but how do we know if things are “real”? Part of the problem with “decline”—as a word and as a particular sort of American genre—is that it’s about vibes. If you feel America to be in decline, then in a sense (at least to you) it is in decline.
Or to put it differently, “decline” is simply a word—a point raised by a member of the Crowd in our second-ever live podcast recording. As a word, it has no inherent content outside of the (subjective) meaning and connotation that you as a reader impart to it. There are things that are palpable and inescapably real—the table I’m writing on right now for instance. No one (except perhaps for a philosopher or two) would argue that the table isn’t there, because—to the extent they trust their senses—they can see it.
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