Alas, I cast my net into their seas and wanted to catch good fish; but I always pulled up the head of some old god.– Nietzsche
If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?…Two hundred years ago no one would have thought sheer volume of available facts in the digital information age would produce informed Americans (Given the following context, I assume he meant to say “would fail to produce” – TVS). Founders of the republic, steeped in the Enlightenment as they were, and believers in an informed citizenry being vital to freedom and democracy, would be delirious with joy at the prospect. Imagine Jefferson and Franklin high on Google.The fatal assumption was that Americans would choose to think and learn, instead of cherry picking the blogs and TV channels to reinforce their particular branded choice cultural ignorance, consumer, scientific or political, but especially political. Tom and Ben could never have guessed we would chase prepackaged spectacle, junk science, and titillating rumor such as death panels, Obama as a socialist Muslim and Biblical proof that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs around Eden. In a nation that equates democracy with everyman’s right to an opinion, no matter how ridiculous, this was probably inevitable. After all, dumb people choose dumb stuff. That’s why they are called dumb.But throw in sixty years of television’s mind puddling effects, and you end up with 24 million Americans watching Bristol Palin thrashing around on Dancing with the Stars, then watch her being interviewed with all seriousness on the networks as major news.
Yada, blah, etc. Yes, it’s another ventose jeremiad from Bageant about Myrrhkin misology, indistinguishable from every other one he’s ever written. I do like how he references “Babbitry” at one point, but seems to forget that H.L Mencken, who coined this particular variation of the term from Sinclair Lewis’s novel, was railing against the “booboisie” long before television existed to puddle their minds. But anyway. We all complain like this at times, of course, but not all of us are fortunate enough to parlay it into a writing career. The profits of doom, indeed.
Complaining about specific instances of idiocy and the destructive results that follow is one thing, but the type of whinging that he and others like Morris Berman have made their stock-in-trade is more generic, more in line with the ancient Hebrew prophetic tradition of excoriating the chosen people for failing to uphold their covenant with God and warning of the apocalyptic results to come. Apparently they feel that we modern Americans made a similar covenant with Reason and Enlightenment that we’ve been steadily betraying ever since, which would probably have been surprising news to the majority of the population that didn’t consist of highly educated, aristocratic intellectuals. But since we’re talking about the idealism of certain eighteenth-century Founders here, let’s also mention that others like John Jay and James Madison felt that those who owned the country ought to govern it, and that the Senate was designed to be more deliberative than the House in order to stave off mob rule. And it’s right there in the Declaration, isn’t it? “Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.” Nothing about an imperative to live the examined life in there that I can see. So how about we quit with the lamentations and rending of garments and lay the prophetic voice down to molder alongside the other rotting bones of monotheism?