Saturday, August 2, 2014

Preserving A Way Of Life

Reality TV, and by that I mean “all” TV, are the new soaps.

I come to this conclusion via the narrative structures of gun owners when prompted to imagine a scenario by which they (legitimately?) take the life of another person. The story they concoct says SO much about not only who they are, but who they see themselves as being. Read that twice – I had to.

My sample base is small (p < 10) but some curious patterns emerge. First is the establishing scene – the activity they see themselves engaged in just prior to murdering someone is really, really telling. With one exception, everyone is enjoying some form of leisure “Well, I'm sitting at home watching TV....”

This is my first trigger phrase. I make a point to interrupt the thought process and ask: “What time is it?”

I'm not a detective, but I've watched enough YouTube interrogation videos to note that one tactic is to focus on unrelated specifics - “What color was the sky?” “Was it raining that day?” Then they go back a couple hours later: “Ok, so earlier you said it was mid day when this occurred, but now it sounds like its more in the afternoon when it was raining, is that correct?” The suspect shifts nervously.

Back-lit male silhouettes are always threatening.
I already know where they're heading: night, because, well, that's what TV and movies said. “What time?”


Always late.

Then the script gets more complicated. “I've got to protect my family.”

Notice this: when prompted for a specific within their constructed murder fantasy, they switch the focus of the narrative from “defending myself” to “protecting others” and I just cannot let that go. What is going on that causes that change? Why does prompting for increased fictional detail correlate with this??

I think it has something to do with setting oneself up as not only capable of but obliged to commit acts of nobility, or at least have your acts defined as noble. “I'm a good person!” goes the insulating koan.

The Inherent Value Proposition.

Appeals to the Second Amendment are cloaked appeals to divinity – it's a way the ego believes its convictions are perfectly rational.

The DVD collection (there's always shelves of them collecting dust – another dense psychology deserving of its own chapter) tends to over-represent a particular genre with certain thematic elements (the reluctant, noble, last resort use of horrific violence to restore an understandable order of things... at any cost.)

So, “daytime TV', by which I mean almost all television, as almost all of its been sanitized down to a pornographic representation of the mundane, is predicated on preserving (by way of claiming to celebrate) a particular set of social circumstances, i.e., the way they know things to be right now.

But that's just part of the fantasy. It's not just that the world will continue in a way that is perfectly understandable to them, but even more important – that their inherent value is so great their most tedious, secular activities (the preparing of food, for instance) are deserving of cultural elevation if not outright reward. Hence, the Facebook post: “I made dinner for the whole family!”

Check your voicemail – Chef Ramsey might have called.

Friday, August 1, 2014

On Israel, Palestine, and Endings

Preface: I know little of Israel, or Palestine. I know just slightly more about endings. This is where I stand today. Tomorrow I will learn something new and change my mind.

One facet of globalization is the spreading of a particular American behavior – the unwillingness to accept 'defeat'. Americans (generally speaking) are conditioned to re-attempt until a victory, however Pyrrhic, is won.

This manifests in my own life an an unwillingness to stop pretending that I'm going to be an economically sustainable entertainer at some point in the future and just get a day job already. It's really really hard to just let go of a decade's worth of work and effort(s). To accept it as a 'sunk cost' – a losing investment that will never pay off.

What do they say about compulsive gambling and investors that refuse to sell?

Winning brings its own difficulties. For one, it's never the payoff you hope – it's only enough to keep you wanting another win. “Hey, I just won a local songwriting competition! Justin Timberlake better watch out!” - the battle revelry of my fragile ego.

This is the conundrum of someone who's chosen to be defined by the battle and not the outcome – the trappings (layered reference!!) of a certain life are preferable to the unknown. What's the line about “..mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed?“

Whether accepting defeat or claiming victory, each of which are loaded with their own nuances, one is ultimately accepting an ending and a commitment to a new form of living.

In my myopic view (today), my sense is Israel cannot imagine a future in which they are not at war with “Hamas” or some enemy, they have become accustomed to this way of life. It gives them immediate meaning and purpose. No wonder nationalist tendencies run so deep.