The Rise of the "I'm Bitterer Than Thou" credo - The Gridlock of unintegrated 'Knowledge' Part 2 –
"When things are once in the mind, the words offer themselves readily." ("When things have taken possession of the mind, the words trip.")-Seneca, Controvers., iii. proem.
"Who do not fit words to the subject, but seek out for things quite from the purpose to fit the words."-Quintilian, viii. 3. - From Montaigne, “On Education”
To try and examine the outward signs of why our world has slid so far below the level of our last worthy benchmark, with the "Greatest Generation" of WWII, I'm going to try and run a skimmer through the surface of our cultural pond scum. This won't bring up the deeper underlying causes, but I think it will show us signs of their motive power which we readily see as the state of our world around us.
I've noted before how some of the lower level beliefs that develop into "liberal" ideology, feed the current anti-american and reactionary views, so prevalent in our Media Culture today. In fact the two, leftist talking points and Anti-American sentiment, go hand and hand together, with the first inevitably leading into the other. Yet I find, as you might too, that when I find myself trying to apply that same analysis to the comments of my friends & relatives who rattle off such talking points in casual conversation, sniggering at my dissagrement, annoying though their comments are - I can't see Them as anti-American - it just doesn't wash.
There is part of me that refuses to believe that there are intelligent people who can really accept this bile as thought, and believe it, and support it. It's confusing, and it is crushing. There must be some key to fitting this puzzle together, one which can somehow fit the two pictures together - one of those I Hate, and the other of those I Love - into one seamless picture, without destroying the later group in my heart and soul.
What I've been looking for is an identifiable, credible reason, which explains why those whom we know don't hold deeply anti-American beliefs, yet give their support and sniggers to those who Do hold anti-American stances.
Note that I'm really not talking about just Democrats or Greens, or what have you - there are plenty of Conservatives, Libertarians and non-aligned people who fire off or side with some of the most outrageous and unsupportable comments imaginable.
What I'm looking for is the source of the "sentiment", that gives safe harbor to a Leftist, or it might even be more appropriate to say a "Media Mentality", approach to the important issues of the day.
I'm also quite certain that this is most definitely NOT an issue of intelligence. One person who I know to fit this bill, I've known for 20 years, he's extremely intelligent. He's able to analyze and often solve nearly any problem put in front of him. He can read human psychology, and group dynamics with the best of them. But when it comes to deeper issues of politics, economics or of cultural judgment - his positions don't go past what can be skimmed off from any common media source.
Well, I think that I've finally found the clue that I've been looking for in the "sniggers" that inevitably accompany these demonstrations of support for the popular MSM views. I see them as being a strong clue as to why these otherwise sensible people make these comments, support these views and cast the votes, which they do.
If we turn the calendar focus of our attention back to the turn of the 20th century, the cradle of the "greatest Generation", we can see the first popular stirrings of these views. Much happened in the first years of the 1900's: Abandoned by the philosophers who raised not a peep against several events assaults against the rights of the Individuals:• "Trust Busting" Teddy Roosevelt's first big assaults on private property, • they were the first generations to have their educations mandated, from outside their local communities, to be given outside the home - preferably in public schools, • the banks were corralled under the authority of the FED Reserve, • and they were of course shaken by the destruction of WWI.
The Philosophers greatest betrayal was to tell them that there weren't really any objective truths in the world - in fact there might not really even be a world at all - could be all in your head. The Good began to doubt the power, and worse, the worth of Virtue. In popular culture the Hero's began to be illustrated as strong silent types, burdened with a touch of grief and bitterness, such as Humphrey Bogart's characterization of Sam Spade, and others like him. This Hero was someone who still believed in, and fought for, the Good, but who no longer had confidence that it would be likely to prevail.
As soon as that character trait sank into the American psyche, assisted by the goings on of the Great Depression, there followed the overwhelming destruction of WWII. Well, the Good Guys won… huh, well… now what? Following on victories heels came the anti-hero, the disillusioned man of action bereft of direction and compass - typified by Marlon Brando & James Dean. Prior to their characterizations, the bad guy was still bad, and no one wanted to be like him, but after them, then people began to romance their plight, to sympathize with secular Christian zeal for the victimized, thinking that here were hero's unfairly separated from the pack and victimized by accidental circumstances.
But I think the worst case of cultural evil sunk into the American psyche, like a debilitating disease, through the onslaught of - (before typing the next word, I can't shake the image of the Wizard "Tim" in Monty Python's 'The Holy Grail' describing the fangs of the most horrible monster … which turns out to be a bunny rabbit...) - Humor (... ofcourse after The Knights scoff and attack the bunny, it then leaps and tears their throats out, killing them all).
It is said that Laughter makes the best medicine, what isn't mentioned is that it also makes the most effective and corrosive poison.
Read P.G. Wodehouse' stories of the ultra effective Butler named Jeeves, and you will see humor as it should be conveyed; some shades of that tone can even still be seen in Bill Cosby, where it is peoples foibles and shortcomings that are lanced with humor, so that with the laughter there comes no urge to emulate their failings. That began to change however with TV shows and Movies such as the campy TV versions of Batman & Get Smart, where the Good were made fun of because they were Good. But it reached its first truly destructive plateau, with the characters of M*A*S*H; particularly that of Hawkeye Pierce.
With Hawkeye, it is people's virtues, shown to be mere fronts to hide sins, which are lacerated by his cynical and sarcastic humor, albeit accompanied with touches of kindness and a "heart of gold". The purpose, the function, the result of art - looked for or not, is that people come away from it with a desire to emulate it's hero's '"virtues", the key actions & traits of the Hero of the story. Hawkeye's key actions and traits outside the operating room were those of Slovenliness, a tormenting sense of humor, "little white lies" to aid in womanizing, and in supplying a never ending supply of test tube Gin. His style was that of all things slacker, drawn to expose the fraudulent good among those in authority. All things High are false, all things low are common and "fun", and no things are worthwhile in the long run. That is true and naked evil, and few there are who see it.
Am I overdoing it? I don't think so. Look back to the movies of the 30's & 40's - the only characters with traits resembling this kind of humor were the out & out villains, or beaten up, partially reformed, world weary sidekicks - not the Hero. And even when the hero might be a beaten up world weary type forced by circumstance to become the Hero of the story, while he might slouch & mock when out of the fray, the moment he had to spring into action, he bolted up to his feet, his back ramrod straight, eyes steady & fierce inside a level head. Look at the Hero’s of today’s movies, the slouch never straightens, the humor always mocks, and no conviction is ever held.
The cutting edge of humor has been turned back towards the speaker (listener), cutting and putting down attacker and victim alike, through cynical, sarcastic, mocking. Gone is Sam Spades uprightness, replaced by Hawkeye's slovenliness, gone is Sam Spade's weary but moral tone, replaced by cheap derisive, mocking sarcasm - all capped off with a drunken haze of glamorizing humor and moral superiority which declares NOT I am holier than thou, but I am bitterer than thou, and I… I am not going to be duped, taken in like thou.
Emulating that characterization has brought into us an avoidance towards taking action at all, any desire to stand up for what is believed to be right (“nothing really is, don't you know, they'll show their true stripes soon enough”), and humor magnifies it's ability to spread that weakness by infectious humor and the widespread emulation of its style.
Millions of teenagers in the 70's, like me, drank that up, and emulated some shade of it in our behavior. This new corrosiveness was not spread throughout the culture by any force of Evil, but by an association with what was taken to be the good. The Hawkeye we consciously saw was a doctor, working feverishly, heroically, to save soldiers lives. What our minds saw via the subconscious conceptual integrations being made, the point of the show which was transmitted to the world, was that the true bad guys were discipline and standards, and that the greatest fools were those who let themselves be taken in by morality, and that the inevitable victims of the powerful would be those who attempted to defend the Right.
I know my friends to not be bad people, and certainly not evil, however, Evil does not spread through the power of evil alone, but through the errors and toleration of the Good. Evil is by nature a parasitic virus, it must have some vehicle to ride upon in order to smuggle itself into those who don't suspect its presence - that's the only way it can spread.
Knock on the door and proclaim yourself to be evil ("hello, landshark"), and the door will be slammed in your face, possibly followed by a shotgun blast. But claim to be a fellow member of the good, and with some star appeal, affect a twinkling winking humor with hidden implications of evil, and your message will be received, achieved, transmitted and emulated.
Look how "humor" has spread since M*A*S*H. The precocious-tending-towards-obnoxious kids of comedy shows starting with "Leave it to Beaver" have since progressed to those wisecracking snots of "Full House" (usually accompanied by a particularly "hip" [read childish] elderly character), and on to Beavis & Butthead, Bart Simpson, Stewie of The Family Guy - my god, pure sickness and filth with a smiling face "welcome! Come in! My goodness that was funny, rerun that show so I can try to imitate you!" comes the response of it's multi-million person audience.
The problem with Humor, is that outwardly, on the surface, laughter feels Good, a laugh is a laugh is a laugh - it feels pleasant! "What's the problem? " as my 13 yr old continually asks me as I turn his shows off, "You laughed too!". To a certain extent that is true, humor, if it makes the proper integrations with just the right amount of surprise and conceptual homonyms, you get a belly laughing experience. But what you may not notice, unless looking for it, is that of the degrading affect that laugh can have if directed not in support of your values, of civil behavior, of politeness - the stature, the value and seriousness which you allot to particular concepts & persons in your mind, are reduced by laughter being directed at them. There is also a further association being made, between this once sacrosanct serious item of mental furniture and something that is, well, laughable. It establishes a precedent for no longer automatically taking something seriously. That is a very strong offensive beachhead being made in your mind, for the forces opposed to any strongly integrated relationship between reality, and your assessment of its value.
Without that bulwark in the culture to fall back on, the leftists would be mowed down with righteous wrath, but with that "I'm only Joking!" and "you don't seriously believe…" established as a foundation to be built upon, they have the upper hand. It is now the morally upright who find themselves going it alone on muddy ground, with little or no support capable of being lent it from the popular culture, swamped as they are with the echoes still being amplified about through Hawkeye's children.
Homer may have summed this type of attack up best 3000 years ago with Odysseus's Trojan Horse - the ultimate image of virtue and worth to the Trojans was the strong and upright horse - and as they wheeled in that glorious idol wrought by their enemies, followed in by cheerful throngs of revelers, the evil hid in it's belly, and with the coming of night emerged among them, and slaughtered them, and threw down their protecting walls to destruction. Americans were once known as being the most remarkably sunny, optimistic, good natured people on the face of the planet. Now we are more known for celebrities affecting cynical conspiracy theories, bad manners, and the stupidest students on the face of the planet.
Positions of public cynicism are now the common stance of celebrities of all types. Spawned from the culture that lifted up entertainment such as M*A*S*H, with it's corrosive humor trained on anything resembling upright behavior & idealizing slovenly, hedonistic behavior as "Authentic" and sincere and more humanitarian than others, more Caring than any other.
After the widespread events of disillusionment in the last few decades (Hoover, JFK, Vietnam, always Vietnam, Nixon , Abscam, Jimmy "I have sinned" Swaggart and on and on) People are desirous, even eager, to come off rather as too smart to fall for believing in integrity and honesty from people with any hint of wealth and power or moral standing, than to be fooled yet again.
Taken together, the How’s identified in the previous post (The Gridlock of unintegrated 'Knowledge' Part 1), and this cynical humor as the standard backdrop to everyone's behavior, what else can we expect from our friends who find that the popularity of a position will have more currency and importance to their social standing and so adopt them as theirs (“after all, it’s not like they’re REALLY important to anything”); they are going to strike the pose of a Hawkeye Pierce, a sneering grin directed at anyone who claims to stand for virtue (“obviously a hypocrite”).
Again, with our Media Cultures’ glamorizing cynical humor over moral clarity, it leaves the casual citizen more likely to adopt as their new credo NOT “I am holier than thou”, but “I am bitterer than thou”, and I… I am not going to be duped, taken in like thou (“won’t get fooled again!”). Take a look at any popular TV character, such as that of Chandler from "Friends" - does that not sum him up rather well?
People who have no real interest in economics and politics, nevertheless don't want to appear to be clueless, so they adopt the language that they've heard used by those who are culturally acclaimed as knowing, and who have some tinge of glamour or status associated with them, which they can by association, siphon off of. Couple this with the stance educated into them through their professors, that there are no truly integrated principles, that things can be approached with Clintonian compartmentalization, and so not only do they not understand it the concepts they are scoffing at, they don't think that there really exists any relevant link, value or importance in it to their lives.
So we've got not only the urge to not be duped, but the desire to look like someone who won't be duped, and to tap into the cultural glow by adopting that (anti) Hero glamour.
Just as we might respond to a flat earther with an "Oh Come On!" were they to say that the earth was flat and there's no such thing as gravity, even though we aren't able to explain the reasoning behind it Newton’s theories, they "Feel" that they have an exceptionally valid and established set of reasons behind the assertions made by the Authorities they respect. They don't have an interest in investigating the point, they don't think it is necessary at all, and they're satisfied with the story they are passing on and upholding.
From this combination of sequences, we get people primed to continue the liberal line, but also to parrot and give a pass to the ones truly in the "know" to work their acidic poison deeper into the cultural mainstream.
But I’m not bitter about it.