Reply All (WPWG) not only suggests taking a break from the Weight of It All, but explains how we manage to get by without pondering such things.
I laughed at the punchline, but it set me thinking about Neil Postman’s classic “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” which, in turn, leads me to think of the mud-spattered, toothless throngs watching a vulgar Punch-and-Judy show in some medieval marketplace, prior to their being sent off to fight some pointless war.
Or simply back to the fields to grub in the soil on behalf of the Lord of the Castle.
As the line from “Holy Grail” puts it
Must be a King.
How can you tell?
He hasn’t got shit all over him.
So I went and looked up the book, which Wikipedia (or whoever they stole it from) summarizes thusly:
Not only is the process much more insidious, but what really stunned me was realizing that the book was published in 1985, before the Internet had entered public life and when Lizzie’s ten thousand cable channels were really only a handful of distant broadcasters.
We’ve become much more adept at furnishing ourselves with pleasant, distracting soma.
Paul Noth notes that we’ve also become better at drawing a line between the Lord of the Castle and the aforementioned gormless peasants, Postman’s point being that we are complicit in our own oppression because we’d rather space out on “Dancing with the Stars” than kick back against the issues of the day.
Or even think about them.
He’s right: It might inspire revolution, or at least a better turnout at the polls, if Big Brother were actively oppressing us, but he doesn’t have to.
Even when we raise a concern, we’re easily fobbed off by empty gestures, as Arctic Circle (KFS) reminds us.
A different penguin, this one from First Dog on the Moon, presents a more aggressive pushback against the Lord of the Castle, though even Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, while acknowledging the need to ramp up the entertainment aspect of the argument, recognizes the futility of trying to get anyone to focus on important matters.
While Martin Rowson uses the IPCC Report to console us, on climate, on Ukraine, on everything, because we really, truly have been amusing ourselves to death, though, to be fair, it may take a couple more generations for the curtain to ring down on this farce.
But “Amusing Ourselves to Our Grandchildren’s Deaths” wouldn’t really be a snappy title for a book.
Besides, climate change is just kinda out there somewhere. Never mind the storms, the crop failures, the bizarre weather and other signs that it’s already here.
There are still ice caps on each end of the planet, for the moment, and, while there are people in Bangladesh living halfway up to their knees in the rising water, it hasn’t overwhelmed Manhattan.
Well, not since 2012 anyway, and we have done some stuff to maybe make it not so bad if it ever happened again and anyway how could it?
And the important question: If it did, would it knock out cable?
Juxtaposition of the Day
I’m encouraged by the number of cartoonists who take Markstein’s tack of shaming those who sit fat and happy, 5,000 miles from the death and destruction of Kyiv and complain about gas prices, but Margulies is not the only one using the price at the pump to blame Biden for making our lives miserable.
I’m even seeing cartoons insisting that sanctions are not enough, though they don’t seem to be drawn by anyone of military age. Perhaps those cartoonists have a son or daughter they’d like to contribute.
As noted before, when we had rationing during World War II, those who complained were scorned as unpatriotic, but, back in those days, being anti-fascist was considered a good thing in America, at least once the Germans had entered Poland.
Bearing in mind that we supplied arms to the combatants for two years before Japan forced us to enter the fray ourselves.
As it is, Bill Bramhall points out, we’ve got people today so addicted to pissing and moaning that even dropping the mandates isn’t stopping them from protesting the mandates.
After all the work of organizing a protest, it seems like a waste to get what they wanted anyway, and, besides, it’s only fair to note that, while 291,557 Americans died in World War II, only 985,914 have died of Covid.
I can’t help but think there was a time when “patriotism” meant more than waving a flag while you complained.
Back during the 50th Anniversary of World War II, instead of interviewing veterans of the war itself, I went over to the Senior Center and had lunch with people there. Some were veterans but, given the average age, most were women.
They spoke with nostalgia of life on the Home Front, and of their own experiences, of scrap iron drives, of women replacing men in the local paper mill, of getting together in extended family groups to pick wild berries and then pool their sugar rations to make jams and jellies, and of day-to-day things:
Granted, there wouldn’t have been a need for posters if people simply fell in line with the nation’s needs, but I didn’t hear any resentment. It’s also worth saying that these weren’t wealthy people, and growing some of your own food was probably something they’d have done anyway, but, still, nobody described it as hard times, as they might have if I’d asked them about the Depression.
No, they laughed and one-upped each story with yet another memory of how it had been, which brought more stories and more laughter over sacrifices that were accepted as part of what was and what had to be.
One major difference between then and now, however, was that, if they didn’t have someone overseas from their own family, they didn’t have to look far to see somebody who did.
They also shared more somber memories, of not knowing where fathers, brothers and husbands were stationed, and of mourning local boys who were not coming home, for several years before the day that the production line at the local paper mill shut down so the foreman could tell his women workers that their husbands were coming home.
Maybe that’s what it takes, to make people laugh over memories of bacon grease on toast and to look upon sacrifice with pride.