Saturday, July 2, 2016

Signs of Cultural Collapse

Signs of American cultural collapse are accumulating as we speak. We recall Camille Paglia’s dictum, to the effect that the current mania about the transgendered is a sign of cultural collapse. The fact that no one but Paglia dares to say it compounds the problem.

Allow me to add another sign of cultural collapse: the role that celebrities play in our national political debates. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but surely something is wrong when the nation waits on baited breath to hear what Susan Sarandon or Lindsay Lohan or Ben Affleck or Lena Dunham has to say about a political issue.

And, from looking at the press you would think that the opinions of stand-up comedians really matter, that they are newsworthy. Whether it’s Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher or Samantha Bee… you cannot look at the news without hearing someone announce breathlessly that an opinionated comic offered his opinion about something he knows next-to-nothing about.

Of course, it’s all about the entertainment. It’s all about the ratings. One understands the reality of the television news business. And the news channels often put on people who are tedious and boring, but who know their stuff.

And yet, something happens to our national political debate when the words of know-nothing celebrities are granted respect and authority. If you think that most of these people are dumb as posts, that they might as well be ventriloquist’s dummies mouthing opinions they do not understand, you would do well not to say so in polite company.

Julie Gunlock screwed up her courage and took America’s mayors to task for dumbing down their national conference. The U. S. Conference of mayors held a meeting recently. Guess who they invited to inform and instruct them on mindfulness? The Dalai Lama. OK, you would expect that the Dalai Lama knows something about Buddhist mindfulness meditation.

But, who else did they invite to share the stage with this eminent religious leader. You know the answer already: Lady Gaga. Someone must have thought that it would be fun to pair a religious leader with an irreligious celebrity. To be more accurate, someone was not thinking at all if he did not consider that the pairing might be insulting and offensive to the Dalai Lama.

One hastens to mention that the mayors did not do it for the ratings, and that, considering the crime wave that has broken out in many of their cities, they might have pondered questions beyond the entertainment value of scantily clad pop stars. But, No… Lady Gaga it was.

Gunlock paints the picture:

Last weekend, American mayors gathered for their annual conference in Indianapolis. As it often does for such conferences, the U.S. Conference of Mayors assembled an impressive array of political leaders, policy experts and industry big wigs. Lectures and panels were held on a variety of issues, ranging from water safety and technological innovation to business development and educational programs. And then the Mayors heard about inner peace and meditation from a pop star.


That’s right. The U.S. Conference of Mayors invited Lady Gaga—a pop singer best known for wearing a meat dress to an awards show and for sometimes forgetting to wear clothes at all while running errands–to sit on a panel with the Dalai Lama to discuss inner peace and meditation. All together now: Namastupid!

While the Dalai Lama is certainly an authority on meditation and mindfulness, Lady Gaga is a bit of a head scratcher on this topic. Her qualifications appear to be that she sometimes lights aromatherapy candles and practices yoga. Good enough for the Mayors, I guess.

Is Gunlock being unfair to Gaga? Is she offering a caricature that diminishes a thoughtful and serious woman?

Not at all: it’s impossible to caricature a caricature. To be fair to Gaga, Gunlock offers the pearls of wisdom that were dribbling from Gaga’s lips:

Now apparently Gaga is also a thought leader, taking on heady intellectual issues and appearing on stage with religious, media and business leaders. She was respectful, even ladylike, at the Mayor’s conference. During the panel, the Dalai Lama focused on compassion and selflessness—and without understanding the irony, Gaga nodded and agreed that these are important qualities. She offered her own rambling, pseudo-intellectual answers to questions. At one point former Today show news reader Ann Curry—who moderated the panel—asked Gaga a question about kindness and why mayors should consider kindness when managing their cities. She responded by saying “The really fantastic thing about kindness is that it’s free. It’s the best recourse that we have because you can give and give and receive kindness and the well of it inside you will never dry up.”

Call it cultural collapse. Call it the dumbing down of America.

Houston, we have a problem!


Ares Olympus said...

I don't know. It looks rather harmless, not a choice I'd make, but mostly harmless.

Gunlock: Yet, when it comes to being kind and respectful to people of religious faith, Gaga’s well of kindness dried up long ago. Just like Madonna did decades before her, Gaga takes particular pleasure in insulting Christians. ... Perhaps Gaga will take her own words to heart and realize just how many of her actions, songs, performances and behaviors demonstrate a deep-seated unkindness and contempt for people of faith. Perhaps she’ll realize the importance of using her talents in less harmful, disrespectful ways.

That is an interesting point, and shows something divided within all of us, who want to think of ourselves as good kind people, while not seriously reflecting on how our behavior negatively affects others.

Perhaps the Dalai Lama's comments will cause her to reflect and eventually change course and she can someday call out her own poor choices and say "Do as I say, not as I did." to the next generation of status hungry singers.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least they didn't invite 50 cents.

More cultural collapse.

Anonymous said...

Brit politics turning into farce.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Cultural collapse is not an unwillingness to defend culture. Cultural collapse is an abandonment of culture. Abandonment of Western culture is indifference to civilization. Its a dismissal of our inheritance, we who think ourselves so morally magnificent in comparison to our ancestors, who were just as human as we are... or so "science says." Abandoning civilization is more toxic than love or hate, it's "Meh." Only a stupid people do such a thing. We are fast becoming a stupid people... in this postmodern age where we leave Christendom altogether. We are certain that God could never become man in Christ, but we are convinced man can play God, or become God. The mistake among the elite sophisticates is that this is an advancement. It is a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. Our elites don't believe that ideas fill a vacuum, ignoring the human operating system. Other ideas will come. We are not as perfect as we imagine ourselves. War teaches us this. Daily.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, you mention three different things "Cultural collapse", "abandoning civilization" and "leaving Christendom".

Some of us, presumably Stuart is not Christian, and we live in a country that has freedom of religion, not just freedom for Christianity, although Jews and Islam all follow the same old testament God at least.

You say "We are certain that God could never become man in Christ, but we are convinced man can play God, or become God."

I don't suppose burning one-time resources like fossil fuels, allowing for world populations to explode in a century has anything to do with "man playing God" or claiming anthropogenic climate change is a hoax because we don't know how else to keep ourselves to the lifestyles we've been accustomed without burning this ancient stored sunlight?

Wendell Berry said only the Amish have an honest lifestyle that deals with the limits of human-scaled technology, and he refused to use a computer because he didn't want to become dependent upon unnecessary technology that doesn't allow him to think any more clearly than paper and pencil. And he also refuses to write at night because he despises the mountain top removal to get at the coal seams, by leveling off the mountain tops and filling in the valleys, and filling all the streams with toxic metals leaked from the rain runoff on the despoiled landscape.

Thomas Jefferson's vision for America was the Gentleman farmer, but we've progressively abandoned that for the speed, noise and opportunities of the city, or fake country suburban or exurban landscapes, while spending hours every day in a small metal box getting from city employment to a country escape.

Local culture is being lost, certainly, but probably the reality is that most local culture is reinvented all the time in learning how to cooperate with others. And now we can pretend we don't need culture, we don't need good manners. All we need is access to credit, like Donald Trump, and then we can be anyone we want to be. So the rise of conservatively hated multiculturalism and the rise of money go together.

I'd like to know a world we can go back to, one where life long debt wasn't a prerequisite to a shot at a middle class. The reality of our indefinite future seems to be that debt is only a good deal for people like Trump, who can simply renegotiate with his creditors when his bets go bad, while the rest of us may find some future variation of debtors prison, thanks to ever stronger laws that favor large lenders over small borrowers.

Anyway, who has time for promoting civilization unless you're paid to do it when you have bills to pay, and little saved for an imaginary retirement that may never come.

So at the Mayor's meeting, the Dalai Lama focused on compassion and selflessness, which sounds hopeful, but where does that fit within a debt-filled world? If your debt is my retirement investment, who needs compassion when that arrangement no longer works?

The only thing that is always clear is someone else needs to sacrifice to make things right, while your own hard-earned benefits must be protected at all costs.

Some Christians talk about a debt jubilee and something like that must come, a sort of collapse and rebirth at the same time. It would be nice to imagine it was something that could be managed, but it looks necessarily messy, and probably war will end up wasting most of the resources as the last benefactors try to secure their shares.

Anyway, I'm still not worried about Lady Gaga's participation, and I'm glad she recognizes kindness is important.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares , you make my point exactly. I'm not asking you to be a Christian. You are corrct, we have freedom of religion. But you demonstrate a lack of understanding of the foundations of Western civilization. Much of Western civilization owes a great deal to the heritage of the Jews, Greeks and Romans and their connection to the foundation of Christendom. But Christianity forms the bedrock of our unique view of freedom and the sanctity of life. Indeed, our freedom of religion emerged as a solution to the Hundred Years War so that Christendom might live in peace. Our freedoms are lost without context. That's why departing from a cultural tradition because the legacy was passed from "a bunch of dead white guys" reflects not only a failure to appreciate the history of ideas, but reflects a juvenile silliness that is not making us any better. In fact, it's turning us into a bunch of sniveling, blithering idiots. We are not a wise people. We are moths at the Glowing Box -- obeying it's commands, reflecting its depth.

sumner said...

Suzy Parker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.