There are exceptions to every broad statement, but this does not mean that generalizations are therefore devoid of value, especially in terms of understanding human emotions and behavior. Here is one I personally love: If you are into “extreme” anything, you are probably an a–hole. Now that I have convinced you to go along with the idea, one generalization I observe is that the natural uncorrupted default emotional state of the modern American is moderate.
Moderation is rooted in contentment, simplicity and gratitude. Extremism is rooted in greed, fear and boredom. There are many stimuli that can depress or elevate the emotions of Americans: sports, food, drugs, music, sex, pets, weather, etc. These all share one common characteristic. They actually occur in some way that is tangible or personal to the affected person. We will call these things “tangible personal stimuli” for the purpose of my analysis. I know this is not entirely precise, however the pursuit of precision is not what we are after. We are after some sort of detached sociological and psychological appreciation of our nature as Americans. Canadians may also benefit from this approach.
Many Americans will get out of balance by under doing or overdoing things that stimulate them. When they do, there is typically some set of consequences that act as a control mechanism to limit their ability to continue the excess. When you overdue alcohol, you lose your marriage and your house which gives you lots of free time to get sober and then try again.
If you continue past those consequences then you die, wind up on the street, or go to prison. If you under do exercise, you get fat or lose strength and suffer illness, discomfort, and degradation of your appearance. If you continue past those consequences you risk isolation, depression, early illness, death, or a show on the Food Network. This is an illustration of the generalization, so yes, for those of you who cannot wait to argue that point we see it. Please hang in there. We are going to agree with you before the end, I promise.
What is “the media”?
Well it is a broad term for shouting at people on the street, print, radio, television, and now the internet, which has sort of eaten the rest. The internet embodies all the other forms in one chaotic unregulated circus of easy anonymity, unlimited vice, and first class payment plans for people of the lowest virtue. OK, I know I lost a lot of you there. Yes, I made a value judgement but using the word “virtue”, but please hang in there. In the non-internet world where behavior is observable and people are accountable, virtue is easy to spot. You help others and do not harm them. You take responsibility for your actions and seek to be a good member of your community. You seek wisdom and humility, rather than fame and power. If you like fame and power and are offended, please know that I acknowledge you could still be virtuous in other ways. That type of ambition is not virtuous though, sorry.
What is “virtue” on the internet?
Well the literalist will state that it is the same everywhere and hand you the Oxford dictionary. The deconstructionist will say that definition was created by ancient Greek men of property and now virtue should be understood as a tool used to disempower women and send people of color to die in wars fought for the rich. The moral relativist will say that in a chat room full of people who enjoy videos of goats being slaughtered that virtue is a well done goat slaughter video with nice lighting and editing. We will go with the literalist, for purposes of this analysis.
Now, back to the “media”.
I put it in quotes, because we are going to define that term. It is a vessel. It is a small cup of water that nourishes and promotes health. It is a radio that tells you the tornado is coming. In the case of 1,500 channel cable TV and internet mega-media, it a barge full of disease infested prostitutes offering opium at half price while you donate to save children with cancer. It is a soap box that every budding Hitler, Stalin, Limbaugh, Maher, Martha Stewart, and bored troll can use to influence the masses or the Kardashians as part of their terrible agenda to twist people into a sustained frothing rage to earn money from Google and product placements and stick it to those jerks they disdain, which is pretty much everyone who disagrees with them.
That sentence was way too long, and I am sorry. But it had to be, because this modern mega-media is interesting, like the bubonic plague was interesting. There are lots of moving parts to this new American emotional sociological and psychological dynamic, and again yes, I know that these generalizations are not precise and you can cite a very cogent list of exceptions and counter-arguments. I will read them later while checking out your political memes that destroy your opponents’ clearly specious arguments that your arguments are specious. I hear you.
I cannot help but notice that my country is now overrun by people who would otherwise be more consistently moderate.
They have become habitually incensed by intangible personal stimuli. That term means they are incredibly angry and worried about something with no tangible effect on their actual daily life. Yes, I know it could mean disaster later, but whether they ignore it all or not they still get their stuff today. They have a great life and want for nothing, either way. They proceed through each day with an inescapable feeling that all is lost when they have lost nothing they would not have lost anyway.
Still, all is lost, because of them. It is those people they disagree with who think that all is lost because of them. If they happen to lapse into contentedly petting the cat with the sun on their face, they will reflexively turn on some mega-media source to reinvigorate their ire toward them. This will remind them, it is all coming to an end because of them, but not so soon that they should put off getting that latest upgrade that helps them stay connected and agitated which comes with a minimum one year commitment. They got it, so must I.
Ok, I hear you. The “deep state” is real, the truth is out there, and we must speak truth to power. They must do this. They must not settle into contentment with their actual daily lives. They must not turn their backs on the good fight. They must make sure those people don’t stay or get in power. The struggle is real. The deep state, the truth, the aliens, the rich white men who send people to war so they can make more money, the arrogant hypocritical liberals who want to take away my guns, cigarettes and diet soda (just try it!), and those monsters who will not let the people with whom I agree speak without being heckled.
It is my right to enjoy voyeurism and mob behavior, or fight these things when done by others. Obsessively consuming propaganda must come before my cat and garden, or at least with them playignin the background. I am essential to the struggle and keeping tabs on them. I am also addicted. This false conflict is real, and that real conflict is false. It has become my ethos. My ethos used to be jogging, playing with children, and watching old movies. Then I had a higher calling. Now I must fight them. In war there is no room for kittens, unless they are in memes.
But the terrible or wonderful truth is that the card games, bicycles, (real) kittens, gardens, and sunshine will always win.
One by one they will lure us back to their simple existential pleasures and frustrations. They are eternal, and they are exempt from the great universal limiting truths of all things great, evil, and fashionable: (1) people get bored, and (2) life is a cycle. The fad of divisive media fueled partisan hatred and the resulting consumerism, anxiety disorders, and civil unrest will end. They will just get boring, and the cycle will repeat. I hope I am still young enough to dance. Maybe this will happen after a civil war, or a nuclear holocaust, but it will happen. Or maybe it will be more like the transition from the sixties to the eighties, otherwise known as the seventies. The seventies started out with people still enthralled with social revolution and political struggle. They ended with Saturday Night Fever and Jimmy Carter packing his bags. Then we had the eighties.
The eighties were a full blown embrace of tangible personal stimuli. Speaking for myself, it was awesome. Endless hand wrenching over idealistic conflict was out, and you could easily get ridiculed giving a crap. “Where’s the party?” was the issue. If you think this will not happen again, remember why people get married. They find that person they just have to have or at least they think they maybe they should not pass up, because being single got old and Mom won’t shut up about it. Then they get married and have this person over and over, day after day. Now after a couple decades they no longer want them, and in fact they have secretly already gone to see a lawyer.
Sorry mega-media, but America has already secretly gone to see a lawyer. The papers for their divorce from media bringing propaganda inciting extremism are being drafted and the armies of summer kittens are assembling on the battlefield of whimsy. Yes, just as with those couples who somehow manage to stay married until their bitter deaths, some Americans will cling to their belief that Paul Krugman / Katrina Pierson knows the answers and Katrina Pierson / Paul Krugman is the devil. They must continue the addiction. But most people are going to casually wander off back to their (real) kittens and remote control hobby clubs. Even though the modern mega-media is incredibly efficient at delivering huge doses of ever more shrill incitements to remain frothing, America will hit the wall or just get bored. Either way, the (real) kittens and dance crazes always win. Today I saw people playing a board game. This is the end.
Ok, so the really smart people may have spotted the flaw in my reasoning. I don’t mean the people smart enough to think their smart because they spotted that I should have used “they’re”. Not the people who are smart because they like Donald Trump / Elizabeth Warren and hate Elizabeth Warren / Donald Trump. I mean the real “Plato” types. By now they have spotted the flaw. My argument amounts to isolationism as virtue. I am saying that it’s all bulls–t, so don’t bother caring or doing anything politically activist. Just stay on the sidelines petting the (real) kittens because it all does not matter to you or anyone actually in your life. But here I have you, really smart people. I am going to hit you with some pseudo-Buddhist logic, to which you must adhere because you are really smart.
Go ahead. Do the political, social activism. Do it because of some actual tangible thing touched your life today from some vessel other than the mega-media, and do it through some manner other than mega-media. Do and feel nothing because of mega-media propaganda you feed on each day like the milk of a diseased emperor rat, and do not encourage others to suck on that evil diseased mega-media teet. It is bad for you. You have become addicted.
I know I can’t stop you, but all you mega-media addicts will either kill each other off or get bored of it soon enough. So, go ahead and do your thing. I think they just did something really awesome that totally destroyed them. Go watch and catch the insightful analysis from the four pretty people and one token not so pretty person. Stay in the game. The garden can wait.
And by the way, if you want to know where I stand on all of those important issues of the day being hashed out by those people who used to have some gig that was somehow related to the issue we are now totally crushing, here it is: I totally agree with you.
Dave Huntoon has BA from Williams College and J.D Cornell Law School. He is a retired attorney, and currently a desert dweller, dog wlker and aerial video producer.
Copyright 2017 The Moderate Voice