BB #52: Orange Bubbles

poll

Election chances as calculated by the FiveThirtyEight website.

How is it that I live in a world in which the graph above is real?

How is it that an obvious human monster is able to get this far? How can people be so committed to winning, or just destroying their opponents, as to be so stupid?

And it is stupidity. Massive stupidity. There is no other root explanation.

That’s what bothers me most. Not the Orange One, his type has long been with us, so much as his supporters. The combination of stupid, angry, and incited, scares the shit out of me. There are signs and portents that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

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Julian Zelizer, writing for CNN Politics (Why Donald Trump is the Next Walter White), invokes our modern love of the anti-hero as a reason more aren’t repelled:

Americans no longer expect virtuous protagonists. For almost two decades, Americans have been tuning in to cheer on the antihero on television, on acclaimed series from “The Sopranos” to “Breaking Bad” — and dozens more. We watch characters who do whatever is necessary to make things happen. They are not pleasant, they are unethical, they are mean and nasty, and they cheat and steal to get their way. Some even resort to torture and murder. Yet we have urged them on with our fandom and our excitement.

He goes on to mention J.R. (from Dallas), Dr. Greg House (House, M.D.), Don Draper (Mad Men), Frank Underwood (House of Cards), and others.

(I’ve blogged about this myself, because it’s a trend that bothers me a lot. See: Berman’s Vulcans, Han Shot First, The Betrayer…)

The combination of reality show addiction, an obsession with anti-heroes, the devaluation of intellect and rational thought, frustration and anger with a rapidly changing world, and a ‘burn down the house’ mentality, and it’s not hard to see how this happened.

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There’s no more clear example of extreme dissonance than in how the Evangelical Christian Right has embraced Trump, a man who clearly and obviously lives a life completely contrary to their espoused views.

It’s not like it’s hard to tell the difference between Trump and Jesus.

The level of hypocrisy going on there is jaw-dropping to me. And by people who pride themselves on being ‘more Christian’ than average. Astonishing how many of them wear the WWJD bracelet.

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Back in July, after the convention, Jennifer Rubin (wish there were more conservatives like her) wrote in the Washington Post:

This past week many Republicans were suffering from convention envy. Their own convention was angry, pessimistic and lacking in joy. Democrats were having fun, taking the mantle of the party of patriotism, inclusion and optimism. The GOP had a parade of victims blaming illegal immigrants; the Democrats had a parade of survivors (a disabled woman who overcame challenges, mothers of killed African American sons, Mr. and Mrs. Khan) who extolled America and are showing their grit and determination. The Democrats had first-tier entertainers; the Republicans had the dregs. Bill Clinton gave a fact-filled speech highlighting his wife’s accomplishments; Melania Trump read a plagiarized script. Democrats had oodles of Hillary friends, people she’s helped, and fellow Democrats; Trump had blood relatives and paid staff. The top-tier Republicans generally stayed away from Cleveland.

The contrast between the two was, indeed, something to behold!

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In Politico, also in July after the conventions, Michael Grunwald wrote:

The 2016 conventions featured a plagiarism scandal and a Wikileaks scandal, a snub by Ted Cruz and a non-snub by Bernie Sanders, Republicans chanting “Lock Her Up!” and Democrats chanting “Not a Clue!” Republicans heard from the National Rifle Association, a Benghazi mom, and Scott Baio; Democrats heard from Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter moms, and Meryl Streep. The parties nominated two well-known but not well-liked candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as their less controversial two-syllable sidekicks, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. There were high-profile speeches by six Trumps, three Clintons and two Obamas.

It ought to be beyond belief that the GOP can even continue this charade, but the polls show many genuinely support Trump (along with whores like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and others who have hitched their wagons to what surely will be a falling star… unless the world truly has gone mad).

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As an aside, I gotta record: I never liked Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

When she first appeared on the scene, she seemed okay, but as her star rose she got more and more political (by which I mean: an obvious liar spouting party rhetoric). She has all Hillary Clinton’s personality negatives without any of the upside or grace that Clinton has.

What happened didn’t surprise me in the least.

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Speaking of Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Rubin (WaPo, July) points out that:

In a general election, we could find ourselves with a choice between one candidate who repeatedly tells us untrue things about her own conduct and another who tells us untrue things about the world. You would think that in a country of this size we could find someone who inhabits reality and stays within spitting distance of the truth.

Maybe you can see why I like reading her so much. Exactly so! What has happened to us that we’re in this strange pickle?

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Also for the record, Rosalie Chan, Time, Aug 4, writes:

[Khizr] Khan [66, along with his wife Ghazala, came to USA in 1980, Master in Law at Harvard, 1986,] spoke at the Democratic National Convention about his son Humayun Khan, a Muslim American army captain who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004, and attacked Republican Donald Trump. Trump later responded by saying he, too, had made sacrifices, which sparked criticism from many, including families of fallen soldiers.

[Added bits mine to include some biographical data.] This is the man and wife who showed Trump for the monster he really is. You need no further demonstration than this that he is unfit to sit in Lincoln’s chair.

And, as I said before, if this turned out to be the turning point (as it seems to be per the graph at the top of this post), what perfect justice and balance is there in a Constitution-loving Muslim-American immigrant being the one to finally slay the monster?

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In New Republic, Aug 23, Ani Kokobobo writes:

As a professor of Russian literature, I’ve come to realize that it’s never a good sign when real life resembles a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, with its riotous rhetoric and steady stream of scandals, calls to mind Dostoevsky’s most political novel, “Demons,” written in 1872. In it, the writer wanted to warn readers about the destructive force of demagoguery and unchecked rhetoric, and his cautionary messages – largely influenced by 19th-century Russian political chaos – resonate in our present political climate.

As I said above: signs and portents. We’ve seen this movie.

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I’ll leave you with a little tragic-comic relief:

 

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

18 responses to “BB #52: Orange Bubbles

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I’m not sure the anti-hero so clearly represents our amoral or immoral sensibilities. It’s possible, but speaking for myself, I watch shows like Breaking Bad to see how an ordinary man makes pivotal decisions that ultimately demonstrate the ugly side of his nature, which leads to misery for him and everyone around him. I see it as a cautionary tale. Walter White starts out just like us (pretty much) and his gradual changes are something we see happen, which is something we usually don’t get to see. WW starts out with redeeming qualities, we might even like him at first, but as the show goes on we grow less and less attached to him and more attached to the overall message of what will become of him and those around him.

    I know a lot of people have a hard time with unsympathetic characters. They simply can’t watch or read anything with these protagonists. But I tend to distance myself from the character to look at the overall story. This is nothing really new, actually (Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “I know a lot of people have a hard time with unsympathetic characters.”

      You can number me among them! I don’t care at all for them as the protagonists of the piece (as the villain, fine). I can’t get into a story that centers about someone I wouldn’t break bread with.

      But I tend to read more as a reader than as a writer, I primarily read fiction for enjoyment, and my reading tastes reflect that.

      “I’m not sure the anti-hero so clearly represents our amoral or immoral sensibilities.”

      Not the archetype itself. As you say, that’s nothing new, but its prevalence in modern storytelling seems to signify something. In particular, all those protagonists who make awful moral choices and yet succeed. In the history of writing, anti-heroes generally came to bad ends.

      Now they often succeed in a script-driven combination of virtue ethics and consequentialism (the latter often glossing over the actual consequences). Think of all those who’ve had their vehicle “borrowed” by the hero desperately pursuing the fleeing villain. Who’s to say their need transportation didn’t far outweigh the needs of the chase?

      (And the irony of virtue ethics in characters seemingly otherwise lacking in virtue. In reality, their virtue is merely assigned to them by the script.)

      In Zelizer’s article, for the most part, he listed shows that I think are actually the cream of anti-heroes. They are morality parables on some level, and they had quality writing, acting, and directing, telling the tale.

      (I’ve never watched Breaking Bad, so I can’t comment. That it’s about a meth dealer disqualified it for me. Personal choice. There’s no amount of quality storytelling that can get past that for me.)

      There is certainly validity in a story that’s about a series of small choices leading one deeper and deeper into bad territory. I did watch the Weeds series, which was a much milder sort of tale. (And even so, it vaguely bothered me that the series never really “balanced out the karma” so to speak.)

      In any event, I don’t think shows like this are quite what Zelizer meant. They’re just the ones everyone knows. Overall, there is a much larger crop of shows that routinely offer highly flawed, even rather darkly flawed, protagonists.

      For instance, Grimm and Gotham both offer the standard male force character long on immediate action and short on brain and nuance. (As a Batman fan, I’m deeply offended by the revisionism of Jim Gordon.)

      There’s even a show, Lucifer, that’s about the actual devil deciding to take a vacation and hang out in Los Angeles… where he teams up with a female homicide cop and helps her solve murders (for fun).

      So, not any one show, and probably not really those shows, but that anti-heroes seem to be everywhere and genuine heroes seem more rare. (The high moral values are part of what attracts me to shows like NCIS and Madam Secretary, but again: personal choice!)

      • rung2diotimasladder

        So funny that you should mention the ubiquitous car-stealing of so-called heroes. I wrote about that in one of my short stories as a very long aside. (The guy steals a bike and goes off on a tangent about movies and people taking other’s cars as a way to justify this. This rationalization is part of his character, and he pays a hefty price for it later.)

        I would find it difficult to stay with a story with an anti-hero who never pays the price for his amoral or immoral ways. That seems not only in bad taste, but unrealistic.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, we seem to have one running for President right now.

        It’s also interesting to consider the most recent realizations of Superman. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight tapped into an existing ethos surrounding Batman. But Superman was always (some say impossibly) squeaky clean. More recently he’s been transformed into a much darker creature.

        We did the same thing with the Vulcans. Roddenberry’s vision had them a bit snarky and arrogant, but they’d earned the right (I always thought), and overall they were a noble race with high goals and values. Over the years they were brought down until they became the same shits humans are.

        I really wonder why our cultural mythos seems so opposed to lofty goals and values. Does our social consciousness have the sense that, since we can’t raise to the bar, we bring the bar down so everyone feels better? Have we, as a society, given up on the idea of high values?

        Recent results in game theory suggest the best strategy in The Prisoner’s Dilemma is the simplest: tit for tat. Over time this results in long, slow waves between cooperative friendly societies and paranoid unfriendly ones.

        Cooperation works until a few begin to work the system. Eventually everyone has to adopt the aggressive “me first” posture just to survive. But then, eventually, society gets tired of that (it’s exhausting) and shifts back to cooperating. (Wash, Rinse, Repeat.)

        You can actually see it in the Old Testament “eye-for-an-eye” ethic giving way to the message of Christ and the ethic of loving your neighbor.

        And I can’t help but wonder, as I look around, if we haven’t reached the end of the New Testament cycle. Sometimes it seems as if I can feel the tide turning in lots of little signs.

        And while the idea that media affects society is debatable, the idea that media reflects society is much more certain, I think. We say who we are through our art!

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Does it make you feel better to know that Trump is down in the polls? Or is that too little too late?

        Egalitarianism is the root cause, I think, of media reflecting a not-so-noble sensibility. Same goes for Trump, which is the saddest thing of all. And paradoxical, since he doesn’t exactly stand for the kind of egalitarianism liberals are used to, but you do hear his supporters say “he’s just like me.”

        I just watched a documentary on WWI and WWII linking democracy (and attempts toward democracy) to tyranny. I didn’t think the documentary was well done, but the point there was that democracy needs a cultural counterpoint in order to work.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The thing is, he continues to survive things that should eliminate him, and he’s currently rising in the polls. That chart at the top of this post? His chance estimated at 16.3% when I posted. Same website, five days later, shows him at 22.5% right now. Scary. And most historical analogues show we should take him seriously.

        As Hillary said, he’s shown us who he is. We should believe him.

        I’m not sure what you mean by media egalitarianism. Can you elaborate? I can think of various ways it might apply.

        Also not clear on what kind of cultural counterpoint democracy needs to work, so it’s hard to respond. You’ve seen that Leon Wieseltier quote I like about how democracy places an urgent intellectual requirement on citizens who wish to preserve a free society. You mean something along those lines?

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I agree we should continue to worry about Trump. I just hope his lagging in the polls continues, and that it’s a reflection of our capacity to collectively self-correct. But that might be going too far.

        The egalitarianism I was referring to isn’t necessarily caused by the media. Although we’re dealing with a chicken and egg sort of thing to some degree, I think media reflects culture more than the other way around…especially in TV. After all, a show dies when people don’t like it. And conditions within culture should be ripe for anything novel to come along and get accepted. TV shows used to present happy families with what we’d now call first world problems. Now they present dysfunction at all levels. Even commercials (especially pill commercials) show average looking people, which they’ve discovered appeals to us. I’m being a bit simplistic here, and there are a lot of exceptions.

        I wasn’t clear on what kind of cultural counterpoint the lecturer was getting at either. He seemed to be anti-American (pro-British), so he seemed to suggest that having a monarch symbol acts as a sort of buffer against rampant democracy. He was a bit more nuanced than this, but I sensed a bias. He didn’t get into education or intellectual requirements.

        I think democracy needs a counterpoint, but that’s already reflected in our Republic’s establishment. (A point the lecturer didn’t seem all that impressed with.) But I do think more is needed than this. I just don’t know what. Education is a great start!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, good news, as of today he’s down from 26.2% chance to 25.5%. First downward movement since the upward trend started. May it continue! It might be the Mexican trip reminded voters, or that his doubling down on immigration has turned off moderates who thought he actually had pivoted. (As if that was even possible for a psycho like Trump.)

        “I think media reflects culture more than the other way around… especially in TV.”

        As I said in the post, I think that much we can all agree on! I do suspect you’re right that the effect of TV directly on culture is probably much weaker — I don’t know how much adults are swayed by outside input — but I think the link is much stronger with regard to TV’s effect on kids. They’re effected powerfully by all environmental factors, and most kids get a lot of TV input. To the extent that TV presents a “normative” reality, the reality it presents tends mostly to be a messed up one with unfortunate values.

        “Now they present dysfunction at all levels.”

        Yes! What concerns me there is the normalizing effect. Rather than present worthy goals and worth striving towards, this seems to say, “Yep, the world is fucked up; everyone is a fucking loser; it’s okay that you are, too.” I worry at this cultural low bar, this embracing of our animal natures as if that’s all we can ever hope to be rather than speaking to our better natures and offering those worthy goals.

        Maybe there are mountains we can never climb, but the effort makes us better. Giving up and accepting that we’re just shits doesn’t.

        “Even commercials (especially pill commercials) show average looking people, which they’ve discovered appeals to us.”

        Heh. Well, you know how I feel about pill commercials! I just saw a YouTube video the other day about how all those damn pill commercials came to be. They’re essentially unheard of in most other countries:

        Another example of the sort of thing you’re talking about is how Walmart uses very average people in their advertising. I’m not sure I call that egalitarianism due to the underlying cynicism. It’s driven by marketing, by the realization of what is effective, more than what is right.

        But I absolutely agree that the “center” of TV shows and movies seems more towards the “unwashed masses” (so to speak) than it was in some ways, but good stories have, at heart, always involved the ‘everyman’ on some level. It’s possible that the artificial nature (broadcasting morals codes… like never showing a man and wife in the same bed and that whole “at least one foot on the floor” rule.

        In that sense our storytelling has returned to its genuine roots (cf. Grimm’s actual fairy tales, for example, or even just Shakespeare) and shaken off some of its sanitized silliness (for which, no doubt, we can blame the suspiciously religious). That’s been a wonderful trend, but there’s a bit of baby-bathwater going on as well (to my mind).

        “I wasn’t clear on what kind of cultural counterpoint the lecturer was getting at either. He seemed to be anti-American (pro-British), so he seemed to suggest that having a monarch symbol acts as a sort of buffer against rampant democracy.”

        Ah, well, the Brits and royalty. It’s well-documented that they’re not entirely sane on the matter. 😀

        I’ve been toying with the idea that the central problem is that culture needs to grow out of infancy. If you think about it, so much of what people pursue is incredibly child-like. The love of superhero movies and empty action. The addiction to computer games. And some of the almost infantile postures of so much TV.

        They say we tend to keep our dogs in a state of enforced childhood, that we never let them grow up. Certainly compared to their wolfish origins, that is true. Most dogs tend to be puppies all their lives.

        I find myself wondering if we’ve done the same thing with culture. Retreated to our security blankies and kept the nasty old world at bay as much as possible.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        An interesting thesis! You know, other cultures tend to think of us as child-like. We go blundering our way into other countries, loud, sincere to a fault, inflexible in certain ways (especially when we expect everyone to speak English), somewhat oblivious. There are upsides to this characterization, honesty being the first thing to come to mind.

        There might be some truth to enforced childhood, especially when you think of how dumbed down things have gotten in the media and in public education. Still, quite a few people find this dumbing down repulsive, or at least something joke worthy. Any more ideas on this?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Me? Ideas about modern society?

        Well, I guess I have a few now that you mention it…

        As an aside, speaking of dogs, have you seen the study making the rounds lately about how wolves are risk-takers more than dogs? Hunting is risky — sometimes you don’t succeed, so it makes sense to risk more trying — but dogs get dinner on schedule. We’ve bred risk-taking out of dogs; it’s part of how we keep them child-like.

        Other cultures are right on several levels. The USA is just over 200 years old, so we’re literally a young culture. But we’re also culturally insular and stupid; we maintain a child-like innocence and ignorance about the rest of the world.

        And, yeah, the open honesty of children is nice. (It’s nicer when they grow up to be honest adults, but maybe that’s just me.)

        As just one depressing example: CNN Global is a completely different news organization than CNN USA. People in this country just aren’t interested in the rest of the world unless it affects them directly. Or it’s really cute or really horrifying. We love a good show.

        Which is another point. We love a good show and often take it as we did our cartoons: like it doesn’t matter, like explosions just make you all black and embarrassed, like dying is just until the end of this episode (Spock lives!), like it’s all a fucking fairy tale.

        Star Wars was massively popular; it was a cultural revolution, a game-changer. It was nearly universally embraced. Star Trek was a niche phenomenon embraced by geeks… Until they turned it into the same infantile shit, and now it’s mainstream popular (and utterly pointless and without value; it’s no more interesting than a Domino’s pizza).

        Star Wars is adored by little kids. It’s entirely accessible to them. Which says something about its content. Star Trek was not accessible to kids; it was for adults.

        Computer games, sitting back and watching sports or empty shows, these things are fun and generally effortless, but an interesting question involves what value they return. There is also the parallel question: What value should anything fun return? (We’ve touched on the topic of value-returned for leisure activities before.)

        An observation: When the number of individuals in a system becomes large, the importance and value of any one individual decreases. In small animal packs, wolves for example, each member is important to the pack. Likewise in small villages, each individual carries a large share of the work that group must do.

        In a huge herd of cows, or a colony of ants, individuals are common coin and often spent casually. No one individual contributes that much, so their loss — their very existence — isn’t terribly significant.

        Is the human race currently more like a wolf pack or a herd of cows?

        Most humans, let’s face it, are the equivalent of the sperm cells that end up on the sheets. Or the ova flushed down the drain. Few actually matter in the overall evolution of the social animal at large. Barack Obama matters. Most of us, not really.

        So we live in an ant colony world in which the members really have little else to do with their lives than work and play. The bulk, ant-like, work at jobs, not careers. Many hate those jobs. Most just tolerate them until quitting time when they can play.

        Or do the personal work at home that needs doing until they can play.

        But Maslow suggests that self-actualization is the ultimate goal of civilized people. Most people are down in his lower layers just… existing.

        Which is either stupid or childish or maybe just plain very, very human.

        Maybe people just don’t really want to confront the existential aspect of the situation, so it’s kind of a deal where you hide under the covers and try not to think about it.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        “But Maslow suggests that self-actualization is the ultimate goal of civilized people. Most people are down in his lower layers just… existing.
        Which is either stupid or childish or maybe just plain very, very human.”

        I suspect the latter. You may already know this, but the ancient Greek word for “leisure” is “schole,” from which we derive words like scholar and school. In other words, leisure=time for intellectual pursuits. People who worked didn’t have time to pursue such lofty goals. The same is largely true today, especially here in America where we are expected to work a lot more than people in other countries, with very few vacation days or none at all for those who work multiple minimum wage jobs. And it’s not surprising to hear that people choose not to take those vacation days out of fear they’ll get sacked. Few will have the energy or inclination in such circumstances to pursue entertainment that educates. I’m lucky to have plenty of leisure, but I know if I had to pull off a career, raising kids, cleaning the house, walking Geordie, etc., I don’t think I’d be able to focus on anything more than the most trivial, mind-numbing entertainment. TV, for sure. (That said, since I did get a liberal arts education, I would probably seek out the better shows, as I do now.) And if I had a mere job or jobs, I don’t know how I’d survive. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do it, at least not for long. At this level it truly is just existing.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I did get a liberal arts education”

        I think that’s the key right there, I really do.

        It opened your mind to the world and provided a hell of a lot of context.

        “In other words, leisure=time for intellectual pursuits.”

        I didn’t know about the words, but I’ve long understood that both art and much of science depend on (at least some) people in a society having time not involved in survival efforts.

        That said, even the most hard-pressed villagers often find time for some level of artistic expression. I really do believe art is one characteristic of intelligence; it wants to express itself. (I’ve defined art simply as ‘what artists are driven to do’ but that raises the question: Then, what is an artist? I’m pretty sure I can’t get away with: “Someone who creates art.”)

        There’s also the observation that peoples who live in tropical settings, where life is pretty easy, don’t always pursue intellectual topics or art. It almost seems some level of conflict is necessary to drive curiosity.

        In any event, I do think most people have free time to one extent or another. Not necessarily vacations, but evenings or lunch breaks or whenever. People obviously do spend leisure time in a variety of ways. It’s the choices they make I find fascinating (and disappointing).

        I’m just not sure what to make of people who say they are unable “to focus on anything more than the most trivial, mind-numbing entertainment.” (At least some of them, for example, seem to have amassed a vast amount of sports trivia or computer game knowledge.)

        To the extent that it’s the only leisure time pursuit for some people, I really don’t know what to make of it. (But I tend to not think much of it.)

        The bottom line is that, no matter what’s right or wrong or just whatever is, the fact remains that once again I’m completely at odds with the world. My values are seemingly inverted from the values most appear to — not just share but — embrace.

        It’s getting really fucking old.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Your point about conflict is interesting. Could it be that higher thought and the arts thrive in conflict? That makes a certain amount of sense. Conflict drives us to resolve it, to make sense of it, even to recreate it in artistic form so that all can see the conflict from our own perspective, perhaps even seeing it for the first time.

        I think, too, that people who have families want to spend their time off with their families, which often involves doing things with the kids. Which is fatiguing and mind-numbing all at once. At least it is for me. (I know some people, mostly women, really get energized by being around children. I don’t get it, but I don’t think I’m typical here. I taught a summer course for children of all ages and I will never do that again. Each day after work I’d collapse into the darkest, heaviest sleep. Before dinner. And then I’d go to bed early and have no problem falling asleep.) But the point is, some people spend time with families and derive a kind of domestic happiness from that. Intellectuals are notorious for pulling away from the domestic realm, even disdaining it. I’m somewhere in the middle here. But then again, I have the luxury to be in both realms at once.

        The problem is that people now consider family time to be sitting in front of the TV together or doing mind-numbing things. There are quite a few people who try to make something more of their time together, but even these (mostly middle class rather than lower class) folks end up on their gadgets or making a big deal of not turning on their gadgets. It becomes this big issue, Quality Time. Which makes me wonder what the hell they’re running from…the stuff they’d rather be doing? Is Quality Time like eating your veggies? Does it really have to be force fed? What does that say about us?

        “I’m just not sure what to make of people who say they are unable “to focus on anything more than the most trivial, mind-numbing entertainment.” (At least some of them, for example, seem to have amassed a vast amount of sports trivia or computer game knowledge.)”

        Well, I don’t think there are many options for those who work those minimum wage jobs and have a family to support. And as you mention, the education level indicates lack of context to delve in to something more intellectually stimulating.

        That said, sports trivia will always be a mystery to me.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Could it be that higher thought and the arts thrive in conflict?”

        I’ve long believed it. The art world is filled with stories of the great art produced by tortured artists. (Van Gogh is one often cited. He’s in one of my all-time favorite Doctor Who episodes; they go back and visit Vincent van Gogh! And fight a monster.)

        And I know that I’ve worked out a lot of things in my writing. Often more in the writing of emails to friends, but blogging has turned up some surprises, too.

        “I think, too, that people who have families want to spend their time off with their families, which often involves doing things with the kids.”

        No question. As you point out, many thrive on it; it’s what they would choose to do given many other options. You and I don’t have that particular bent, so it doesn’t seem as appealing to us.

        I’ve done some teaching (for adults, though), but I know what you mean about how tiring it is. Teachers I’ve known (my mom and sister, for two) put in long hours.

        Even so, people still end up with leisure time, and what they choose to do with it interests me. There’s a chicken-egg, too. Do people thrive on “domestic” pursuits because that’s truly their world, or because that’s what they know?

        ” Intellectuals are notorious for pulling away from the domestic realm…”

        Agree. I’m not saying everyone should get into intellectual pursuits. To each their own!

        “The problem is that people now consider family time to be sitting in front of the TV together or doing mind-numbing things.”

        Exactly. Within the context of people doing their own thing, following their own interests, it’s possible (I think) to do some analysis of what those interests are. And I think that analysis shows too many people spend too much time doing… nothing of value.

        And, again I repeat: Doing nothing of value isn’t bad in itself. It’s vital to do nothing sometimes. I just think it’s also vital to do something sometimes. That’s all I’m saying.

        “Quality Time.”

        Heh. Yeah.

        It’s meant, I guess, to be taken as a prescription for insuring you spend time with your family doing “good” things. Creating memories to look back on, and that sort of thing. Making sure your kids don’t remember you more for your absence than presence. Being there.

        But, as you say, it becomes a rote and not well-understood process.

        “Well, I don’t think there are many options for those who work those minimum wage jobs and have a family to support”

        There are books at the library, games of strategy (chess, go, many modern ones), content-filled magazines, tons of science-y videos on YouTube, and a whole world to explore. I know this to be true, because I’ve met many people there while exploring it.

        (For the record, we were poor. Pastor’s families live in houses provided by the church (“the parsonage”) and pastors don’t get paid much at all. There was a lot of scrimping and saving in my childhood, and very little money.)

        “And as you mention, the education level indicates lack of context to delve in to something more intellectually stimulating.”

        Exactly. And that’s the problem. As a result, few have the wherewithal to go out and explore that world we’re talking about.

        I read an article the other day about how studies are showing the importance of good teachers even for gifted children (which I definitely was). I was fortunate enough to have some good teachers.

        I know I come off blaming people for being morons when I do know that (a) a lot of it has to do with my perspective (to me, most people seem a bit slow when the truth is they’re entirely normal and average), and (b) at root it’s the fault of the education system.

        OTOH, who is responsible for the state of the education system, hmm?

        So, for me, it still kinda comes back to the choices people make.

        They’re all wrong! 😐

      • rung2diotimasladder

        The educational system is a bit of a chicken and egg thing, that’s for sure. When a culture values education, you get a better education. But when you don’t have a good system of education, it’s less likely the culture will value education. I find that our culture likes to give lip service to education, but both political sides are remiss in this area.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Absolutely! On both counts.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        p.s. And I hope she utterly destroys him in the debates. I’m kind of looking forward to it.

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