With the traditional culture attacked and subverted, the negative elements of anti-traditional ideology began to seep in and bring chaos. The following section is aimed at revealing the chaos wrought on contemporary American society by these cultural distortions. With America as the de facto leader in the tone of global popular culture, the distortion of American cultural productions has had a huge negative impact on the world. As mentioned, some traditionally conservative countries with profound traditional cultures, like China and Japan, themselves found the distorted popular culture of the United States irresistible and went about emulating it. The result has been the spread around the world of wanton, unrestrained conduct, and a rebellious, anti-social and amoral ethos full of cynicism, self-indulgence, and decadence.
Hip-Hop and Rock-and-Roll
The focus of traditional music was on civilizing man, cultivating virtue, and helping people be healthy both mentally and physically. Its effect was social harmony and harmony between man and nature. Beautiful music that celebrated the glory of God was promoted, while atonal, chaotic, or licentious music was anathema. But today, popular culture is full of shockingly corrupt musical productions, with hip-hop and rock-and-roll being striking examples.
Hip-hop emerged in New York in the 1970s. Starting in the streets, it first influenced black communities, then Latino and Jamaican Americans. Hip-hop performers, or rappers, voiced their dissatisfaction with society and politics through their rhymes. Many residents in poor communities, not engaged in productive activities, joined in. The origins of hip-hop, therefore, including its associated practices such as breakdance and graffiti, were products of poverty and boredom. The primary focus of rap lyrics are topics like violence, guns, pornography, obscenity, decadence, racism, and poverty, all of which are glorified in rhyming lyrics sung to a beat.
Over the past several decades, rap and break dance have been exported from New York and become a global craze. Hip-hop has become part of popular culture in Asia, Europe, and many African cities. Despite the obvious moral corruption of this music, often focused on promiscuity, killing, violence, and drugs, it has gained worldwide recognition and is even celebrated in world-famous theaters.
In the Broadway musical Hamilton, the life of Alexander Hamilton, the United States’ first secretary of the Treasury, was sung and rapped about onstage. The musical was an instant hit in American show business and has won numerous awards. It was performed in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center for almost three months. The show set box office records on Broadway, and the expensive tickets could be bought after booking online and then waiting in a queue of thousands.
The origin of rock-and-roll was earlier than that of hip-hop, tracing back to the 1940s. Rock-and-roll uses drums and guitar underneath its lyrics, unlike hip-hop, which establishes a beat upon which rhymes are rapped. Rock-and-roll was closely associated with the Beats, and numerous rock singers were inspired by them, with the two groups often associating and collaborating.
In the 1960s, rock-and-roll had become the theme music of the counterculture. It transported listeners to a mad, irrational state of mind. The hysterical singing accompanied by distorted electric guitars and intense drums led listeners to indulge in their sensual instincts and desires. With reason cast aside, the demon nature that is typically kept at bay due to the demands of civilization was unleashed—in many cases listeners were simply handing themselves over to the control of low-level forces.
Even worse, nihilism became the dominant attitude of rock, while many rock subgenres encouraged other behaviors: Psychedelic rock encouraged the use of drugs, for example, while some psychedelic and other, darker forms of rock called for rebellion, suicide, violence, and homosexuality, or encouraged promiscuity, adultery, and rejection of marriage. Lyrics suggested obscenity or lasciviousness, or delighted in praising evil and condemning the divine.
For example, some so-called rock superstars justified sexual harassment of underage girls with their popular lyrics, which made audiences desensitized to a culture of sexual abuse and promiscuity. Some lyrics were full of strife: “Hey! Said my name is called Disturbance/ I’ll shout and scream/ I’ll kill the King, I’ll rail at all his servants.” (from “Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones.) One song was titled “Sympathy for the Devil.” One album by a psychedelic rock group was called Their Satanic Majestic Request. A famous song was called “Highway to Hell”: “Hey Satan/ Payin’ my dues … I’m on the highway to hell.” Some rock songs praised socialism and communism. For example, the famous song “Imagine” challenged its listeners to imagine a communist society free of paradise, Hell, religion, country, and private property.
Even religious groups have found it hard to resist the negative impact of rock-and-roll. Christian church music was meant to praise God, while rock-and-roll was excluded for its indulgence in evil. Yet with the popularity of rock-and-roll, modern music of Christian churches adopted rock elements to appeal to young men, which gave birth to so-called Contemporary Christian Music.
Accompanying rock-and-roll are adultery, violence, decadence, drug abuse, corruption, and opposition to belief in any deity. Corrupt behavior forbidden by traditional morality and beliefs have all come along with the rise of rock.
From Chapter Fourteen: Popular Culture–A Decadent Indulgence