Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#442. Ashen Culture

I think I've finally figured out what's wrong with American culture.  Everyone's obsessed with themselves.

I know, big revelation (and a little fishy, considering the person who just write that maintains many different blogs devoted to his spurious opinions).

But what I really mean is that most people seem obsessed with a subjective rather than objective perspective of the world.  This is to say they're reactive rather than proactive.  That is to say they're destructive rather than constructive.  That is to say they consume rather than produce.  That is to say they don't much care about other people, but they won't mind if other people agree with them.

Okay, so let's try clarifying.  I'm as guilty as anyone of joining the Message Board/Instant Messaging/Myspace/Facebook/Twitter Generation, devoted to providing total strangers with opinions that must be vehemently shouted and considered the only possible way to view something.  It's the way American politics have been from the beginning, so it's no surprise that American culture has finally come to reflect this national mentality that you don't try to build anything up so much as either support or denounce it.  There is no sense that anything has anything meaningful to contribute, so much as it amuses us and we can use it as a tool to demonstrate our superiority over others.  If something is not popular, that's taken as a matter of exclusive status.  If something is popular, that's taken as evidence that it can't possibly have any worth.  There is no middle ground.  There is no rational examination.  There is no objectivity, only relentless, mindless subjectivity.  Hence, everyone and everything is dispensable.  This is is a horrible joke, because even those who have fashioned themselves to be martyrs of just causes will only say of the opposition that there's no way anyone with a tiny smidgen of intelligence could be among those ranks.

The future will always be doomed in this context, in this mindset.  Even when the subjective view gets its way, it assumes that next year all that hard work will be undone unless the same bludgeoning of the opposition is repeated.  There is no prospect of development in an environment that assumes the basis of every single decision will produce either a right or a wrong outcome.

I am not talking about opinions, but rather the way that Americans have the ability to subject everything to a nihilistic interpretation of quality, so that instant gratification will subvert any appreciation of something's actual worth to a kneejerk illustration of an agenda, or some comfort that otherwise accomplishes nothing.  There is room for agendas and comfort, but at the end of the day, quality should be defined by an objective contribution to the national dialogue.  Subjective contributions are useful, too, but they tend to ignore the prospect that anything productive can result from a conversation.  They will only ever have a negative connotation.

This is to say, freedom of speech is terrific, but being humble in the face of this is a far nobler virtue than the right to say whatever you want.  Restraint and logical consideration are key to this.  It is very hard to be altruistic, but it's far easier to be holistic.  Assume that your words are not necessary, and that if you choose to share them, that you have something worth saying.  You will find that most of what you think you can contribute has already been done better by someone else, and that if you embrace the challenge of expressing something new, you will have not only improved yourself, but everyone else around you.

That's the bridge between subjective and objective thought.  Subjective thought is an impulse, while objective thought is a measured response.

If we thought a little more along these lines,we might shake loose the dust from our own culture.

4 comments:

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

That's the problem with Twitter and all that. You go on there trying to pimp your book and then you find out all these people "following" you are really just doing it so they can sell their books (or other products) to you. We're just a society of whores that way.

Tony Laplume said...

It sucks. Pimping is incredibly easy these days.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Tony, I don't think this is a uniquely American thing, but it's true. I have to disagree with you though. As Terrance Howard said, "It's hard to be a pimp." ;)

Tony Laplume said...

Well, I was reading a book on the formative development of American culture at the time. And to amend my previous statement, it's easy to be a pimp, but hard to be an effective one...

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