(The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin)
These are just my personal thoughts. Many things have been nagging me for a long while now. There is no denying that often I feel alienated from those around me. Why do I feel this way? It is not that I do not talk to people or have good relationships. No, it is something else altogether. I refuse to become part of the popular culture system.
What do I mean by this? I make my own opinions. Regardless of if something is widely considered great or not, if I do not like it I will not pretend in order to be accepted. Many great classic films like Titanic (1997) I abhor and my taste in books ranges from classic literature to manga, my opinions of each determined with equal scrutiny. In other words, while I can enjoy the dark Romanticism of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), with a simple mood turn I can become engrossed in the captivating series Mushishi (2000-2008).
(Cover art for Mushishi by Yuki Urushibara, 漆原 友紀)
But this just determines that I have different and eclectic tastes. What sets me apart then? Simply put, it is a guiding moral compass. I think deeply about what I allow into my brain. Every time I read a new book or watch a new film or TV series I ask myself, “What is it really trying to tell me?” (Aka the deceptive tool subliminal messaging.)
I do not think people realize how much entertainment rules our lives. Yes, they think about it for two seconds after reading an inspiring quote about connecting more to family and nature on Twitter or Instagram. But does it really sink in?
As many of you know, I was a music teacher in a middle school last year. I experienced first hand the detrimental effects bad entertainment has on people. I saw it through my students. They are constantly plugged in and though they have access to more information than in any other time period they use it to play games, watch Jennifer Lopez and some other chick rub their bodies against each other, and check the all too important status update.
Trying to teach them about music proved to be insanely difficult. There was a constant demand from my kids to be entertained. If the lesson was not fun or engaging enough . . . I was not considered a good teacher. They made my life miserable.They were 13 and 14 years old and had little to know comprehension or experience in musical training. Classical music was automatically labeled boring. Anything more than six months old was obsolete. Their favorite artists included Wiz Kalifa and Two Chains. Rap was superior to Opera or Ballet. Why? Because it was hip. It was trending. It was popular.
There is a problem with this. Unbeknownst to them, they are molding themselves after a flighty, aging and traitorous system. Let’s take for example the song “Anaconda” performed by Nicki Minaj. I heard it all over my classroom everyday. They asked me repeatedly if I could play it for them. I refused. They asked why. In return I asked if they knew what the song was about. With blank faces they shook their heads most of the time.
(Picture of Nicki Minaj from The Rolling Stones)
Here is one verse. (For the sake of my sanity I edited the swearing.)
This dude named Michael, used to ride motorcycles
$&@! bigger than a tower, I ain’t talking about Eiffel’s
Real country-&@$ $&@6, let me play with his rifle
Pussy put his $&& to sleep, now he calling me NyQuil
Now that bang, bang, bang
I let him hit it ‘cause he slang cocaine
He toss my salad like his name Romaine
And when we done, I make him buy me Balmain
I’m on some dumb $&&@
By the way, what he say?
He can tell I ain’t missing no meals
Come through and $&&@ him in my automobile
Let him eat it with his grills, he keep telling me to chill
He keep telling me it’s real, that he love my sex appeal
Say he don’t like ‘em boney, he want something he can grab
So I pulled up in the Jag, Mayweather with the jab like
My anaconda don’t
My anaconda don’t
My anaconda don’t want none
Unless you got buns, hon
In less the ten sentences Miss Nicki advertised premarital sex with a random stranger, cocaine, NyQuil and even more than that. What do young kids hear? Catchy, catchy bass notes and other delightful noises mixed with rapping and a chorus they do not fully comprehend.
But what sticks with them? For boys, to be a man you need a big $&!? and be good at sex. For girls, in order to be sexually attractive, you need a big butt. There is also a dominating push for girls to become sex objects. (Aka girls become that way so you can become a man’s toy. If you do then you will be wanted and accepted) There are even more horrible evils hidden in plain sight: drug references, horrible swearing, and an ultimate testament to lustful behavior. That is really what it is about. It states, quite plainly, that lustful relationships are the norm and should be accepted.
And yet, it says nothing about the consequences: broken families, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, drug addiction, crushed self esteems, depression, suicide, divorce, inprisonment, murder, and the exponential count of children’s children caught in a cycle of self-destruction.
Nicki Minaj is an icon, one to follow because it is popular to do so. She does scandalous things for attention and lives on the shock value of her actions and music. But it will not last. She will disappear and be replaced by another. That is how it works. But people are too concerned with the now to notice when people like her disappear. Ironically, this song is no longer popular or really remembered. People have moved on.
Another example is the show Good Luck Charlie. Yes, there is the famous lesbian couple episode but I did not see that one. While I worked at a teen center, an episode came on with the family going to visit the place where the parents met. While there, they find out that they were never married at all. The show treats it as a funny misunderstanding. The first thought that came to me was “What have they done?”. The children did not feel bad about it or state the obvious problem: that their parents had been living a lie their entire lives. They simply had another marriage ceremony and moved on.
The overwhelming message was very clear: you do not need marriage to have a family. Plain and simple. It bothered me. A lot. What does that teach children? What most do not want to admit is the negative effects the “no strings attached” attitude has on couples and children. What holds the relationship together? There are no boundaries of respect, no legal commitment, no MORAL commitment and it usually, no, most of the time ends horribly. Children need to be raised in a home with a mother and father. There are so many studies on it. But it is after the fact. The damage to our culture is already done.
There was an excerpt I read in college by Neil Postman entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. It opened my eyes to something I had never considered while reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931).
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.
The last sentence, “Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.” is especially chilling. Everything Powell outlined here is all too real. It is happening. Now, under our very eyes and yet most are too blinded by self gratification to see it. It is frightening because it is reality. But most do not fear what they have become numb to.
In the book itself, the character the Savage and the director Mustapha Mond engaged in a saddening conversation after the Savage sees the world outside his reserve. Disgusted, frightened and torn between his birth world and his mother’s “paradise” he challenges the director’s system of “stability”.
‘But I like the inconveniences.’
‘We don’t,’ said the Controller. ‘We prefer to do things comfortably.’
‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’
‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy. Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer, the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’ There was a long silence.
‘I claim them all,’ said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. ‘You’re welcome,’ he said.
Brave New World, though I am loathe to admit it, is a book everyone needs to read. It is shocking, uncomfortable but the ultimate example of what I like to call “a how not to live” book.
Stop and consider what entertains you. For it defines you. How? Because it shows what you deem acceptable, what you will allow to change you. It becomes an indespensible part of your personality.
That is the biggest part of it. All these entertainments are merely a means for human beings to destroy themselves. That is what troubles me.
It disturbs me that Fifty Shades of Grey is considered a beautiful love story. (Frankly, it is porn for women.) It concerns me that I need to worry about homosexuality and transgender characters slipping into mainstream animation. It irks me that Trainwreck is one of the highest grossing films this summer.
But what troubles me most is that most do not care. We live in a troubling world. But what do we do about it? That is entirely up to us as individuals. The actions of one has a startling effect on the world.
We must not allow our individuality to become overwhelmed by the majority. We must consider morality, goodness, and beauty above all else and not let amoral, evil and destructive forces purge us of what we instinctively know is right.
In short, we must become as the lotus flower that rises above all these things, pure and untouchable.
‘One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water.’– Bhagavad Gita 5.10
I say this knowing full well the reprocutions. I believe in a Heavenly Father and his Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. I believe in morality. I believe in living a virtuous lifestyle. I am not and will never be ashamed of this. Because of His teachings, I have a happiness built on beauty and everlasting truth.
Remember this from Brave New World.
‘But if you know about God, why don’t you tell them?’ asked the Savage indignantly.’Why don’t you give them these books about God?’
‘For the same reason as we don’t give them Othello: they’re old; they’re about God hundreds of years ago. Not about God now.’
‘But God doesn’t change’
‘Men do though.’
‘What difference does that make?’
‘All the difference in the world.’
. . . Yes, we inevitably turn to God; for this religious sentiment is of its nature so pure, so delightful to the soul that experiences it, that it makes up to us for all our other losses.'” Mustapha Mond shut the book and leaned back in his chair. ‘One of the numerous things in heaven and earth that these philosophers didn’t dream about was this’ (he waved his hand), ‘us, the modern world. ‘You can only be independent of God while you’ve got youth and prosperity; independence won’t take you safely to the end.’ Well, we’ve now got youth and prosperity right up to the end. What follows? Evidently, that we can be independent of God. ‘The religious sentiment will compensate us for all our losses.’ But there aren’t any losses for us to compensate; religious sentiment is superfluous. And why should we go hunting for a substitute for youthful desires, when youthful desires never fail? A substitute for distractions, when we go on enjoying all the old fooleries to the very last? What need have we of repose when our minds and bodies continue to delight in activity? of consolation, when we have soma? of something immovable, when there is the social order?
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World