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!