“Celebrity-ism without Merit”
I put the title of this installment in quotes because I heard Lenny Kravitz use it at some point (I think) in reference to Paris Hilton. His words captured a unique phenomenon of our times and our country. Our society has become utterly and completely ‘defined’ by popular culture and its perverse fascination with over-the-top materialism and blatant self-absorption. Just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse yet another, even more incredible example of bad taste and out-of-control vanity is celebrated in the mass media and basically force-fed to us in as many ways and forms as possible.
This is how we as Americans are DIRECTLY perceived in other cultures, in other parts of the world. That’s the double-edged power of satellite television and the Web. Our messages – good and bad – are beamed all over the world for everyone to see and interpret. I dare say that the majority of the messages are of the latter.
When our mass media outlets are almost completely saturated by the type of programming that has come to dominate (reality television/shock-over-quality content/the dumbing-down of America) our culture – it comes as no surprise that we are largely perceived as clueless, Godless, and shallow idiots who are completely devoid of ethics, estimable values, integrity and compassion. And to make matters worse, as the richest country in the world we are by default set apart as an example.
It’s hard not to view these phenomena as a somewhat sinister development – a byproduct of the ‘corporate-ization’ of every aspect of American life. I feel it’s the ‘disconnectedness’ of these large corporations and how they control so many aspects of our life experiences that are to blame to a great degree. Blood-for-oil, global warming, government controlled by special interests/lobbyists, make a buck no matter what the cost or consequences, wag the dog, etc. It’s like these large, multi-national corporations are controlled by a bureaucracy that are able to side-step personal responsibility and accountability by sheer virtue of their anonymity. Safety in numbers. Let me be even more concise: In 'An Inconvenient Truth', Al Gore didn’t specifically name companies or individuals at fault because he lacked backbone, I think it’s because there is a significant layer of protection in the anonymous bureaucracy of large corporations. He just didn’t know a concise, short list of who to point out! It’s easier to broadly blame THEM, than it is to be specific or worse - take a close look at ourselves and our contributions to global problems.
All over the world, we as Americans are hated for good reason – I hate us! And that’s a good a reason as any - but the root cause is a pervasive lack of personal responsibility and accountability - at the highest levels of our society. Change must take place and that change will begin at the opposite end of the social spectrum. It has happened before. It's called revolution. And my prayers are those that express the hope that in this struggle, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's ideals are upheld - not those of the anarchists.