Our Murderous Culture
"We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."
Image source: By lorrainemd @ flickr.com
We are all sick and dying from brain to bones. And the sickness spreads, because the afflicted believe they are perfectly healthy. We wretch and hack and vomit all over each other, then we grin, oblivious, and continue talking about sports. Lepers were better than us. At least they had the decency to keep to themselves. Our lepers are everywhere
-- TV shows, movies, magazine covers, billboards -- and they don't know how ugly they are, because the entire world tells them they're beautiful.
The sickness we are dying from is the loss of all meaning. In the United States, we don't care about anything good or meaningful or lasting or life-affirming. We care about the pointless and ugly and wretched and life-destroying.
Inane exercises in inhuman cruelty are now a popular form of American "entertainment." Turn your radio on, and you might actually hear a human being die. It happened a few weeks ago on a station in Sacramento. Some DJs designed a contest in which the participants would try to drink the most water in a short period of time. The "prize": a Nintendo Wii game system. One of the participants, a 28 year-old mother and wife named Jennifer Strange, died from water intoxication after drinking two gallons.
According to several news reports, the DJs were warned of the dangers by callers. One DJ responded: "They signed releases, so we're not responsible. We're OK."
Death as "entertainment" in radio is nothing new. A couple of years ago, DJs in Portland, OR named "Marconi" and "Tiny" played an audio clip of the beheading of Nicolas Berg, playing music and cracking jokes over Berg's screaming and gurgling. The DJs and their producer were immediately fired. But just a few months later, "Marconi" landed a job as an on-air personality at another (considerably more popular) Portland FM station.
Most Americans will express indignation when told of these incidents.
But few recognize that the sickness revealed in these stories is a collective sickness driving our culture into oblivion. This sickness, programmed into our brains as easily as a computer virus, is our shared obsession with the inane, moronic, grotesque and murderous.
This weekend, a billion people will froth and rage over the outcome of a football game. The Super Bowl -- huzzah! You might think that our national obsession with professional sports is a harmless diversion from the stresses of life. I'm sorry, but this is wrong. It's a symptom of a staggering pandemic that is destroying lives and creating the apocalypse.
If you watch the Super Bowl, it's not a problem. But it's a major problem if you have never once questioned why the Super Bowl is important to you. No one is BORN enamored with the sight of steroid-riddled maniacs tackling each other and running with a ball. In fact, no one can articulate a rational basis for an emotional investment in any sporting event. We only care about such inanities because we are following a collective illusion created and fueled by the media-driven culture.
This is not a small matter. Every problem -- yes, EVERY problem -- afflicting human beings is the result of erroneous cultural programming. Do you think that anyone was born a suicide bomber, a terrorist, a "holy warrior," or a murderer? If you believe that, I have a newsflash for you, you arrogant prick: If you were born in a particular region of the world at a particular time and EVERY person around you -- including your mother, your father, your spiritual counselors, your government officials, and media personalities -- taught you to HATE a certain type of person (Jews, Muslims, Christians, the Irish, the British, whoever), you could not have shrugged off the conditioning and chosen a different path. You, like I, could have easily been made a suicide bomber, a terrorist, a holy warrior, a murderer.
I'm not saying that people who watch the Super Bowl are the moral equivalent of murderers and terrorists. I'm saying that OVERWHELMINGLY, we have no idea why we think the way we think or do the things we do.
Consider how many young women in the U.S. are afflicted with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It cannot be a coincience that American media endlessly parade underweight actresses and models and declare them "beautiful." Such examples of cultural conditioning making people insane are overabundant, yet almost no one ever questions the tenability of his own opinions and values.
Buddha taught that the source of all human suffering is ignorance, but we are not ignorant. We are stupid -- too stupid, in fact, to even choose what is constructive and meaningful over what is obviously destructive and meaningless. But this is not entirely our fault; "beauty is truth and truth is beauty," and the truth is hard to see when you are being pummeled by ugliness. American Ugliness is everywhere and in everything. It's in our hopelessly dumbed down public schools, churning out one increasingly diminished generation after another; it's in our chemically laced air, water, food and soft drinks, poisoning our bodies and damaging our brains; it's in our rancid and spiritually vacuous media that market murder and sadism as entertainment; it's in our bought and sold "elected" officials who make life and death decisions based on their own financial interests, and for whom "truth" is just a matter of semantics; it's in our economy, which is guided by the principles of "win at all costs" and "screw everyone but me"; it's in our corrupted religions, which have been usurped by political extremists and completely robbed of all spiritual meaning; and it's in the mostrously hideous "cookie-cutter"
architecture that makes up endless American suburbs.
We are drowning in meaninglessness, but contrary to popular belief, the source of life's meaning is not a well-kept secret. It is well-established through human testimony, and even supported by medical science, that happiness and contentment can be found in family, friendship, community, and the intangible beauties of art, literature, music, poetry, architecture, and nature. Likewise, the ingredients of a physically healthy life -- essential for any life to have meaning -- are not at all mysterious. Everyone knows that a diet rich in raw, organic produce and grains is preferable to a diet of meat, sugar, white bread, and other heavily processed foods. But both meaning and health remain elusive for many of us, because we are immersed in a culture that is totally meaningless and totally destructive.
The favored pastime of Americans is not reading or exercise or any activity that could be defined as healthy or good. Most Americans spend their free time watching TV, and this habit is handed down from parents to their children. The problem is not just that excessive TV viewing leads to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, heart disease, a loss of social skills and friendships, and a breakdown of familial communications. A perhaps even greater problem is the totally grotesque and fallacious "paradigm" promoted on the vast majority of television programs.
For years, the most talked about television show in the U.S has been American Idol, the "reality" program devoted to awarding the winner of a singing competition. Of course, everyone knows that the hallmark of the show is the supposedly "humorous" insults dispersed by the Idol judges. The only "moral" one can take from the show is that superficially "talented" people deserve to be revered, while the supposedly less talented should be shit on and humiliated. I guess kindness and humility are useless when fame and fortune seem so much more exciting.
Other TV shows are equally distorted and perverse, from sitcoms (with their sheer vapidity and formulaic "humor"), to wildly inaccurate and brutally violent crime dramas, to cable "news" broadcasts that are little more than glorified versions of Entertainment Tonight.
Given the prevalence of TV watching in America, it is no wonder that so many of us are lonely and depressed. Indeed, chronic loneliness is becoming a serious health problem for millions of Americans. We see emerging the paradox of increasingly pervasive electronic "communication," and terrible social isolation for many of us. Perhaps our imaginary friends on the tube aren't such good company after all.
It is clear that meaning cannot be found in mainstream American culture. In fact, meaning can only be found through the conscious RESISTANCE of virtually every value and lifestyle trend that the culture promotes. To do this, one must first acknowledge that most if not all of his opinions and values might be completely invalid. Like it or not, ALL of us are the products of cultural conditioning. This recognition can be terrifying, but it is the first and most critical step toward freedom and empowerment.
Take a moment and consider anything in your life that seems to cause you pain. Say, for instance, you are troubled by an unrequited love interest or the loss of a romantic relationship. Of course, this feels terrible, but consider the pervasive cultural influences that have PROGRAMMED you to believe that sex and romance are the be-all-end-all of human existence. For your entire life, you have been bombarded by emotional propaganda, including sentimental pop songs, Hollywood movies, romance novels, and sexualized media, all promoting the idea that you will never be happy unless you find your "one true love." If you are honest with yourself, you'll see that your unhappiness is less the result of a tragic event, and more an effect of cultural conditioning.
We will never find meaning without the courage to confront our programmed beliefs. I am not overstating when I say that WE MUST DO THIS NOW TO SAVE OUR OWN LIVES. Without meaning, human life is reduced to a futile search for random titillation. Those who know no meaning are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Meaning IS available at every moment to everyone, but it does not exist in the world "out there." It can only be discovered through a conscientious journey into the vast and unknown depths of one's own heart.
This prospect does not trouble me, nor should it trouble you. To quote Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket: "I am in a world of shit, yes. But I am alive, and I am not afraid."
Article received from: Michael Goodspeed