Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Degrading and Debasing the Culture

After yesterday's romp, I'm feeling morning-after guilt. There is no question that American culture is going down the shitter (witness my use of shitter as Exhibit "A"). I could have said "toilet", but no, I use a base and degrading word. What have we come to? To understand the state of the culture, it seems that one needs a fundamental understanding of the forces that drive human behavior and therefore, group behavior. (Although, and this is important, how a person acts individually and how he acts when influenced by the group dynamics can be entirely different. People can act both better and worse depending on those they associate with. A group can elevate an average man and can make an average man do things he would never do on his own.)

To get to the heart of our cultural phenomena, I'm going to wax philosophical for a moment and talk about energy. There is only one energy around in the world and that energy is loving and creative. When people throw the term around "negative energy", it's kind of a misnomer. The negative energy spoken of is simply a lack of energy, period. When one is drained by something or someone, the situation or person is sucking the positive away, trying to fill the void. That is, they are trying to take a positive to fill up the emptiness.

Energy can be applied in a negative way, but it is a positive force used for negative reasons. For example, the energy used to hurt or harm can be applied to heal and help. It's the same creative force applied differently. What made some world tyrants so formidable is that they took their essential positive gifts--oration, persuasion, influence--and applied them negatively. They created chaos and used their energy as a force for destruction.

The problem in the culture today is not lack of energy, talent, creative force, or any of the other raw material to create greatness and beauty. The problem in our culture is the energy is so wasted and misapplied. For example, and I've talked about this before, children are treated as the latest fashion accessory, the cherry on the top of a good career or the reward to wear like the latest Gucci purse after years dedicated to self-aggrandizement. Cassy Fiano notes the latest Hollywood ode to narcissism:

Tina Fey's movie "Baby Mama" illustrates an epidemic to me. Her character "wants a baby more than anything else", so she finds a way to go out and get one. Nevermind that she's not even dating anyone, so they kid will have literally no father figure in his or her life. Nevermind that an adoption agency turned her down. She wants a baby, damn it, so she's gonna get one by whatever means necessary. She finds a woman to be a surrogate so she can have her baby.
A woman's creative energy, the ability to mother, is a powerful force of nature. It is primal, spiritual and a life force, and it has been diminished and debased. This creative energy, that I believe is a direct conduit to God, has been distanced, merchandised and cut off from the natural bonding that occurs between a man and a woman. The highest creative force has been emptied of value.

Cassy also notes how sexual energy (what is more innately creative than the energy that manifests a new life?) has been warped and applied to children. I, too, have lamented this modern development. By objectifying children, young girls, the girls are stripped of their innocence and childhood, forced into an adult realm where they are neither sophisticated enough nor able to fend off the inevitable advances of boys and men stimulated by the visual. Cassy says:
Popular tween store Limited Too is a must-stop at the mall for girls between the ages of, say, 7 and 15, features bras and assorted panties -- from bikini bottoms to boy-cut shorts to thongs -- for little girls. Camisoles feature plunging necklines, skirts are short, and all the clothes in the store follow the fashions of celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
The energy required to create bras and camisoles for a seven year old could surely be put to better use, no?

Hollywood and fashion change agents face the same old question: Do they reflect the culture or do they create it? There is a symbiotic relationship between art and the culture at large, to be sure. But, the desire by the marketeers to elevate the base and promote the degrading has reached a fevered pitch in recent years.

The new "normal" is abnormal and devoid of beauty, meaning, and light. Empty nihilism is promoted and extolled. After years of bravery and valor and courage and honor, there has yet to be one movie highlighting the good of American soldiers. After years of turning the African AIDs tragedy around, there is yet to be one story of hope and life. After the millions of lives saved through medicine, every movie frames the people working to change the world for the positive as greedy and wrong.

There is much that is right in America, but you won't see it. This bias reinforces the base and degrading because the good and the beautiful will never be elevated. And so yes, the culture has degraded, but instead of fighting the tide, those who vent their cynicism, feed it with their creations.

The energy spent to destroy, could be spent to build. Unfortunately, destruction seems to be the goal.


Anonymous said...

The energy spent to destroy, could be spent to build. Unfortunately, destruction seems to be the goal.

Delivered with curled upper lip and accompanying Ironic Quip.

Doc, the vibe I'm getting is a general End of the World hysteria, from Left Behind to Global Warming to those gleeful Housing Bubble blogs I checked earlier today to the "Earth Without People" special that's been in heavy rotation on History Channel.

"Remember when we had no future?
Well, this is it."
-- Blank Reg, Max Headroom

And what happens when anything like a bright future -- or a future itself -- gets dismissed with the Curled Lip and Appropriate Ironic Quip?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Anon 4:15,

Are you saying that by noting the cultural slide, I'm adding to it? That's an interesting perspective. And, in fact, the New Age types would agree with you: that whatever we pay attention to grows.

So, instead, my focus should be on how great things are and the cultural crap will fade away? Or it will be consumed, hopefully, in the goodness that grows.

Anonymous said...

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