A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Here in the Western World, we live in the most benevolent civilization in all human history. The irony is a lot of us seem pissed off about it. Odd as it may seem, a ton of people spend a ton of time complaining about our world and the collective bounty of 3,000 years of economic and social success. Why? There are three reasons. I like to call them the Killer Bs.
Bewildered — Like our medieval ancestors, we don’t understand anything about the world we live in. Face it, folks! We’re stupid. These days, most people couldn’t tell you the difference between an aardvark and an antelope if you put burning coals between their toes. And it’s not just zoology that stumps us. Common knowledge simply isn’t common anymore. We might be able to read and write, but we’re culturally, historically, economically, scientifically and mathematically illiterate — and proud of it. For some weird reason, smart is not a currency we use or even value. However, without these intellectual building blocks, it’s impossible to make sense out of the 1,001 complex systems that govern contemporary life or to understand our place in it. At least a 12th century peasant could rely on God to justify his existence. Unfortunately, since Nietzsche shot his mouth off, we don’t even have that option. So, unable to figure out the simple how and why of what’s going on, many people boil over with frustration and say “Screw it!”
Bored — Intellectually divorced from reality, we have retreated behind our videos screens which filter out all the complexities of real life. This is a mutant utopia, scripted with gratuitous drama and broad music-hall comedy. The problem is it’s all relentlessly the same: kittens have achieved maximum cuteness, blockbuster movies bust tired old blocks, and the only shock left in those “shocking finales” is a shrug. There’s no place to go in the cyber-verse that isn’t somebody else’s sequel, prequel or reboot. All that’s left is hours and hours and hours of looping YouTube videos, everybody “liking” everything and bum-numbing binges of “must see TV.” Face it, folks! We’re bored — bored to the bone — and it’s making us bitchy.
Betrayed — We may ignore it or fail to understand it, but this is still the only reality we have — and sometimes it can be nasty. Unfortunately, when that nasty comes calling (and it always will) it’s so alien to our everybody-gets-a-rainbow existence that we think something has gone horribly wrong — and we want to know why. Flushed with excitement at the possibility of a “real” problem, but unable to comprehend any of the nuances of it, we demand an explanation for how our society failed. We want a reason, and we want it yesterday. When we don’t get it — we get angry. We begin to see evil where it doesn’t exist, impossible plots and conspiracies, tidy theories of nefarious secrets and blame — lots and lots of blame. Face it, folks! We truly believe we’re being betrayed by the very institutions we’re supposed to trust.
The Killer Bs aren’t killing the most benevolent civilization in history, but they’re certainly making it unpleasant. If we could get them under control, we’d all be a lot happier.