I take culture, and in our case especially Pop-Culture, to be the representative expressive display of all that the dominant philosophy of the time values and aspires to.
A not so complete sampling of other cultural (not religious, but current cultural ideals) heroes of the past have been Achilles, Pericles, Alcibiades, Alexander the Great, Cincinnatus, Augustus [a centuries long break] Charlemagne, King Arthur, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare, George Washington, Rousseau, Lord Byron, Thomas Edison, Cyrano de Bergerac, John Wayne, FDR, James Dean, JFK, Jim Morrison, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lechter. An interesting list. Selective to be sure, but I don't think unrepresentative as to the fondness of their times.
Modern philosophy being ruled still - in disarray for sure, especially since the fall of the USSR, but dominant still, by the current end-point of Marxism - Postmodernism. And so modern culture, especially pop-culture, self-evidently shows itself to be the direct descendent and expression of postmodernism. I recently [actually less than recently, about an hour ago] strolled by [in my own basement] a TV broadcasting a show on cable 'Celebrity Resume', that quizzed contestants about what actors were involved in what TV shows & movies, well known or unknown - trivia. The content - certainly worthy of some commentary - isn't what caught my eye, at least not beyond an eye-roll.
What did catch my eye, were the contestants, and the staging, and the lighting.
Lit from below so as to cast their faces in shadow, with camera angles and backlighting to accomplish the same effect as stage and lighting directors seek to accomplish in horror movies, and/or in any setting where menace is desired to be conveyed (keep in mind the nature and subject of the show - entertainment trivia - remarkably, someone actually made that choice, but again, not the point here)
The contestants, several at any rate, were dressed in fashionably thuggish attire, most with disturbing tattoo’s creaping [yes MS Word, I know that’s misspelled] out from their sleeves and up through their collars and on up and around their necks.
Basically, the mood achieved, as has been the goal of most pop-culture for the last 70 years, has been that the edgy, the dangerous, the bad guy; as cool, worthy of emulation, in spirit if not deed.
Why would that be?
Think about it, why would that be held up as an ideal?
What is such an ideal - the reality behind the ideal - what can such a person (by way of their image) be counted on to be even remotely possible or able to, accomplish in life? At the best of expectations, they might - after being turned at the last moment by an Holywood style epiphany - might be useful in defeating an enemy. But then what? What can they accomplish?
At the core of their projected image is the threat of destruction and violence - not in the defense of Values, such as with the Military (Note the image of the Ideal Marine in a recruiting poster - clean, sharp clear lines in face and dress, self control and order dripping from his pores and manner - utterly at contrast with that of a thug), but only of violence and destruction being trained on those defenseless against them.
An Ideal producing nothing, creating nothing, expressing nothing (nihilism) but menace.
Ask yourself what a philosophy must have as its goal, for this to be its commonly understood expression? Modernity IS a child of the Enlightenment, but there were two strains of the Enlightenment, and after a promising start by my favorite (the English branch), the other strain (French fried) is currently ascendant over the other - at least in modern culture. To see the contrast in another way, imagine offering two contrasting positions to aim for, one of the English Enlightenment, the other of the French Enlightenment.
What We Need Is A Good One-Handed Culture
Picture standing there side by side as representatives of the popular cultural ethos & ideals of each - on one hand:
- George Washington, a man preeminently representing Character, integrity, ability, trustworthiness and judgment - of quite plainly representing Truth, Justice and the American Way -
juxtaposed on the other hand with:
- Hannibal Lechter representing menace, fear, destruction, unlawful murderous uncontrolled rage and someone possessed with an abundance of culturally bestowed 'Cool'.