The Conversation

Slouching Towards Idiocracy

In response to 10 Secrets to Seduce a Politician? Et tu, Jane Pratt?:

That's truly terrible.

It's terrible personally because most of us had some kind of early hero.  I don't know who mine would be.  I guess this would be like finding out that Jovial Bob Stein was a warden at Bergen-Belsen.  

But beyond the personal -- leftists like to portray the world as divided between the moralistic and dumb, on one hand, and the sexually liberated and intelligent on the other.

Usually this leftist paradigm is merely crude and wrong, but oftentimes it is the precise opposite of the truth.

I defy anyone to look upon the article you linked, by Ms. Sydney Leathers, and come away with any other impression that this isn't merely trashy, nasty, low, and crude, but it is also very dumb, very unintelligent, very uneducated, very unenlightened.

I don't mean to say she writes in gibberish.  But our culture is increasingly dominated by a celebration of the  cheap, base, and vulgar, taking Idiocracy not as a frighteningly plausible warning but rather as a fun model to emulate.   

When even a teen girl's magazine is celebrating "'batin'" -- instructing teen girls how to masturbate for older married men -- then our society is now championing an essentially animal-level existence.  Not just in terms of morality -- the bien pensants will always scoff at such a bourgeois construction -- but also in terms of intellect.  Something the bien pensants once pretended to be interested in championing.

This is lower than moral nihilism -- at least nihilism requires some kind of conscious, intellectual determination at the outset.

This is simply a kind of willful devolution, the human animal deciding to give up the higher functions of its brain and go back to pack-feeding and rutting.

Thinking and standards are difficult and boring. 

But Dumb is Easy and Easy is Holy.

It's become a kneejerk response to praise the awful, to binge on guilty pleasures, to feed upon little but the rankest crap.

Isn't this fun?  Isn't this terribly naughty?  Isn't this thrilling to the spirit, mind, and senses?

It's none of those things.  I stand second to no man in appreciation of the erotic or comically transgressive but that's not what we're seeing here.  And I'm a bit of a scholar and fan of the vulgar.  But this is simply the crudest form of reality tv television, now spreading to print like genital crabs.

It occurred to me, long ago, that the transgressive is only interesting and naughty and daring if there is actually a line capable of being crossed; it is only having a gress to trans in the first place that gives the step a sense of danger and makes viewers, readers, or participants feel a frisson of "getting away with something naughty."

It's funny if someone accidentally drops an f-bomb on TV and gets bleeped.  Why?  It's forbidden.  It's not funny to see Bill Maher say the f-word with desperate regularity on HBO.  Why not?  Well, in addition to the fact that he's basically a 1950s Borscht Belt comic with jokes as stale as Atomic Age Twinkies but armed with the Edgy, Somewhat Ethnic Attitude every Fresh Young Comic had in the 1970s, it's not forbidden to say the f-word on HBO.  We know he's allowed to say it.  We know, in fact, he could say it 100 times if he liked.  And, if his jokes are bombing badly enough, he just might.

So what now, when there are no lines to cross anymore?   When there is no boundary across which it may be unsafe to step?  When there are no dark and silent woods at all for Red Riding Hood to venture into, but only a carnival landscape of garish neon lights and the unending carnival-barking come-ons of brothel wranglers?

What must one do, then, to appear transgressive or just tastefully beyond the bounds of the conventional and proper?

Where does sexy go then?  Dirty just isn't dirty when there's no such thing as clean.

And where does intelligence go then? Who can speak intelligently in a loud enough voice to carry over the hoots of apes and the growling of pigs?

We, as a culture, seem to spend more and more time sitting on couches and gawking at a never-ending parade of circus freaks, enjoying the spectacle of poor creatures we're essentially paying to degrade themselves for our pleasure, just so we can feel, perhaps, slightly better about ourselves for a moment or two.

Perhaps at some point we'll begin to ask who the circus freaks in this strange relationship really are.  After all -- some of the participants are being paid to participate in the grotesqueries, and the rest of us paying for that honor out of our own accounts, whether with money, or, more importantly, with the most precious coin of all, our time.

So who, in the end, are really the unfortunates here?

 


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