On Coincidence and Conscience
Sometimes I feel like I'm living my life on a pop-culture tape delay. This started early in life with my parents' restrictions on what was available for consumption. For nebulous reasons that both they and I can laugh about now, I was not allowed to watch (and to this day have never seen an episode of) The Smurfs among others. I knew what Smurfs were; I could even identify a few of them by sight (Father Smurf, Smurfette, Gargamel), but I was struck to ashamed silence whenever a discussion of Smurfs or The Dukes of Hazard (Daisy was deemed too overtly sexual for my young eyes) came up among my early grade school classmates. Of course, everyone has this experience as a kid. There was always something that each child's parents forbade which others of their peers were allowed. Often, the selection of the forbidden seems arbitrary. Consequently, I plan to forbid my own potential future child from reading the funny pages from whatever analog of newspapers exists in the future. He or she will thank me some day.
What makes me feel like my case is different is that my parents took this banishing of materials to near-Amish proportions. I exaggerate, of course, but while I often got the shame of not having a point of reference for a conversation, I don't remember ever dishing out that shame. It seemed like anything I got to watch or read or listen to was universally allowed, so there was never a kid who didn't know what I was talking about because he wasn't allowed to watch that show. Among the more egregious infractions on my pop-culture education were the omission of Star Wars, which I was not allowed to experience until I was in high school, and the fact that I was not culturally aware of who Kurt Cobain was until long after his death. I had no idea what a friend of mine in college was talking about when she said of David Bowie in Labyrinth that as a child she didn't know what that was, but she wanted it.
For all the harm (perceived or actual) visited upon me by the breadth and depth of material inaccessible to me, there were some benefits to being cloistered from commercial consumption. I can say truthfully that I have never owned materials or merchandise from any of the following: New Kids on the Block, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Van Halen, etc. Mercifully, I was spared exposure to these until after they had become punchlines and I was never forced to try to like them.
The effects of this upbringing continues to have consequences (good and bad) in my life today. I have not, to a large extent, become a rapacious consumer of the new, and I can avoid several things until judgement has been rendered by many of my trusted sources. I don't tune in to a lot of what's out there, so my tape delay blocks out obscenities like the new albums from Green Day, Eminem and whoever won American Idol last year. Sometimes I'll try to go out there and experience something I think I originally ignored but think I might have missed out on and I find that I was much better off without it: I'm looking at you Jet Li and Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom. It also means I miss some really great things until after they're over: Firefly comes quickly to mind.
And then, on strange occasions, my pop-culture tape delay syncs perfectly with the world in which I'm living and makes me really think. I experienced this yesterday as I watched the season 1 finale of Dexter via my Netflix connected Xbox 360. As I smiled at the "greeted like liberators" fantasy at the end of the episode, I was struck with a bit of cognitive dissonance. How was it possible in the course of one day to feel such revulsion for one murderer and be later cheering on a fictional serial killer. The recent murder of Dr. George Tiller is horrific. More horrific are the justifications for that murder from those who, without any sense of the irony, proclaim themselves "pro-life". I'll hold back my two cents on the abortion issue except for saying that I want a world in which most abortions aren't necessary because we have better education and access to birth control (including a male pill...c'mon already, science!).
I think it says a lot about our culture that we seem to be able to cheer on a killer whose values sync up with our own. What I think it says, specifically, is that in certain ways, we're obviously not as morally advanced as we like to imagine ourselves to be. The human brain has a tremendous capacity for ignoring ethical dilemmas that pose a threat to our beliefs. Here's hoping our moral tape delay starts syncing up with our supposed cultural evolution. That said; Dexter is a thoroughly entertaining show and a great commentary.
...And last night's hockey game:
It was nice to get the win, but I still hold little hope for the series. I think it helps that the 'Wings are just that good that the Pens can hold their heads high just for playing them at a level where a bounce one way or the other is deciding games.