To say we live in strange times would be the understatement of the year. As well as last year. And the year before.
Probably next year, too.
Objectively, life for the average individual is materially better than it ever has been before in the history of mankind. The luxuries and conveniences we possess–including the more recent inclusion of electronic encyclopedias in the palms of our hands–are things not even H.G.Wells could have imagined in an opium-induced dream.
Still, what we are DOING with our leisure time and conveniences–and what our State overlords are legally prohibiting us to do or penalizing us for engaging in–makes me worry about what kind of future we’ll be living to see emerge.
Yes, statistically, the overall life index is better now for all inhabitants of earth. The poorest people in today’s society almost worldwide would be considered wealthy by Dark Age standards. And yet, while our lifespans extend and innumerable time saving devices proliferate every year, our culture is deteriorating and rotting right before our eyes and ears.
Coarseness, incivility, rudeness, and anti-intellectualism have always been with us (see Dark Ages reference above). But in the past, such behavior and attitudes were not only socially marginalized through being deemed totally unacceptable and treated accordingly, it was also penalized by the shadow of shame and being shunned by fellow members of society.
Being “ashamed” of something or feeling recalcitrant at one time was akin to having a scarlet letter on your head. To a large extent, this form of social condemnation worked to keep the troublemakers marginalized. Neighborhoods and communities policed–and individual consciences repented–which kept the government out of the “business” of totalitarianism and forceful moral torch bearers.
We are, thankfully, no longer Victorians or social prudes. This is a good thing. However, our culture, in unshackling the bourgeois confines of modesty, respectability and reason, has unleashed a sewer of irrationality and crudeness that now, thanks to social media and that phone in our hands, exposes the masses to garbage every hour of every day. That includes our children. We’ve gone from one extreme to another.
The new “norm” is violent or disruptive protest instead of reasonable debate, “guilt” by association, the use of force to enforce beliefs, belligerent and threatening behavior to coerce rather than convince–the list of litanies goes on and on.
And if you try to get away from the daily news grind in which the above is in full and embarrassing display you can always turn on your television and get sitcoms littered with potty jokes and smut or “documentaries” about ghosts, gremlins and Big Foot. Bad behavior is thereby encouraged. It’s the new norm. Hey, if it’s on TV or in the movies, it must be okay: that is the message the modern anti-conceptual mentality holds. By anti-conceptual I mean, essentially, uneducated–the lack of ability to distinguish between fact and fiction, right and wrong–even good and evil. The ability to mimic or follow a group replaces individual thought and action.
My disdain for modern cultural fare is well known to anyone who has ever heard me speak or read one of my columns over the past 30 years. But two recent example bear mentioning to bring my point home.
Whenever I go to my iTunes store to peruse some tunes for purchase (usually something prior to 1980), I note that ninety percent of the new music releases have the “E” warning next to them, meaning “explicit lyrics.” That’s the popular garbage our children are listening to these days.
Then, the other night, I noticed a favorite old actor of mine, Judd Hirsch, had a new sitcom out called “Superior Donuts.” Forgoing the usual political programing, I decided to give it a try. Five minutes into it, I had to change back to politics: foul-mouthed, childish dialogue coupled with terrible acting and no discernible plot describes the show kindly. Sad to say, from what I’ve seen, “Superior Donuts” is not an anomaly. “2 Broke Girls” anyone? Or how about one of those “blow and maim the hell out of your opponents” video games so popular now?
Fortunately, I can place myself inside a cultural cocoon wherein Hugo, Rand, Rundgren, “M*A*S*H,” Mozart, Earth Wind and Fire–i.e., classy, funny, uplifting and educational entertainment–exists and edifies for my choosing. That is one of the great benefits of modern technology. (I only wish it was more of a norm instead of my own little universe).
But I miss the days–not that long ago–when, as but one example, TLC stood for “The Learning Channel.” Not anymore.
Sadly–and frighteningly–the classics that once existed are drowned out totally by the same technology that showcases the claptrap being peddled and produced today. Frightening in that a majority of people must obviously LIKE this kind of thing. Profits are through the roof. And Lady Gaga calls herself controversial or cutting edge? Please. She’s as conventional, staid and conformist today as Ward Cleaver was over 50 years ago.
No wonder our political culture is what it is today. And no wonder the government overlords will step in and keep the masses in check and crackdown so often just to keep us “honest.” We’re practically begging for it. Such is where culture and politics intersect.
That, however, is another subject.
Suffice it to say, if the nation is being turned into, and raising, non-thinkers and troublemakers, there will be hell (read: more laws) to pay for it.
I just hope I can try and continue to go gently into that good night. Bets are that I won’t.