Short-Lived Enthusiasm

Relaxing in Indolence

When confronted with unpleasantness, one generally would prefer to avoid it; this is not good or bad, it is merely an instinct. Given the present turmoil in this nation, it is not surprising that most citizens would prefer to avoid confronting it. What has become most distressing is the avenues of escape that are being used. Television has long been a vacuous, fatuous, and frequently pointless medium, but the nonsense that is hawked as "entertainment" today is almost sinister in its stupidity.  One would not have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine that while the content is mindless, that the intent is not. Millions of Americans spend time discussing the goings-on of these awful "reality shows", debating the qualities of American Idol hopefuls. This program never features contestants who are musicians or composers, they are merely people who want to be "stars", judged by an absurd, unqualified panel of has-beens and never-weres. While I'm sure that some of the contestants are gifted and talented performers, the show presents these glorified karaoke singers as the future of entertainment. While this prospect is frightening as further aggravating the current deplorable state of popular music, the game-show concept is reminiscent of the quiz-show scandal of the late 1950's. Seemingly, every American who had a TV in 1957, eagerly watched the notorious "Twenty-One", especially fixed on the progress of Columbia University professor, Charles Van Doren as he amassed over $135,000.00 and been featured on the cover of Time Magazine. By 1959, the public had learned that the shows had been rigged with pre-arranged outcomes, but the producers protested that they provided "entertainment" and that no one had really been hurt. While American Idol may not be rigged or pre-arranged, it is a grotesque parody of talent and the voice of the public. The sad fact is that all of this asinine "entertainment', while an innocent diversion, is also an undermining virus if taken in such doses. The concept of "reality" becomes a contrived distortion, created and controlled by those in power. In 1846, Søren Kierkegaard described such a scenario in The Present Age:

The present age is essentially a sensible, reflecting age, devoid of passion, flaring up in superficial, short-lived enthusiasm and prudentially relaxing in indolence. ...For leveling to take place, a phantom must first be raised, the spirit of leveling, a monstrous abstraction, an all-encompassing something that is nothing, a mirage—and this phantom is the public....

I am not averse to escapism, in fact I regularly indulge in it, but it is more than my "tastes" that are assaulted by this flavor of entertainment.  Sure, we don't need to be constantly confronted with this war and the the innumerable geo-political problems, but aren't there more constructive outlets? Are we forever sentenced to "an all-encompassing something that is nothing"?