Indifference is endemic. It is a disease which has spread through our whole civilization, and which is a symptom of a lowered vitality. The sensibilities are dulled and the average human being no longer cares to feel the keen edge of life, to have freshness in vision or zest and savour in the senses. He prefers to face life in the armour of boredom and cynicism, fending off despair with the brazen shield of dissipation. If he is rich he can command amusements that soothe his exacerbated nerves without engaging his mind or intriguing his imagination; if he is poor he will plunge into the cheap make-believe world of Hollywood where he can enjoy vicariously the glittering life of the rich; or he will gamble his ill-spared shillings on the football pools in the expectation of one day being able to indulge his own hectic spending. But rich or poor, it is the same fever to escape from reality – above all, from art, which is the mirror of reality in which the reality of life is accentuated.
—Herbert Read (‘The Symptoms of Decadence’
in To Hell with Culture, p. 86)