Atheists often speak triumphantly of changeability and malleability as being that which distinguishes science from Christianity, a statement which the credulous are all too eager to imbibe. But the reality is that both have fundamental principles upon which all other activities and the inferences of each depend and which do not change. The former takes its principles (which must be taken on faith) and uses them to navigate the natural world, whereas the latter uses the truth (also taken on faith) to navigate the universe of morality. As is the case with many of the most cherished arguments of the ‘new’ atheists, the comparison is a false one. It’s akin to someone faulting Euclidean geometry for not being ‘malleable.’ The axioms thereof cannot be proven. The best that can be done is to validate that there is merit in them.
The centralization of power at any of the state, federal, or global levels has three primary effects which play into the apathy and pride of man:
- Decisions are made by others, which frees us from having to remove our gaze from whatever is currently entertaining us.
- When the decisions are bad, we will blame others. When the decisions are correct, we will congratulate ourselves.
- We can champion causes which do not impact our comfort or our pocketbooks directly, if at all, thereby presenting the sheen of morality without any of the requisite personal cost which comes with true morality.
It’s a fitting cultural commentary upon the shallowness, apathy, and moral vacuity of our day that Google has an entire site dedicated to a veritable tsunami of perversions, while D-Day, an historical event which should engender actual, and justified pride has nothing, absolutely nothing of such scale or breadth to commemorate it.
Great little minds claim right to act the wrong.
— Child Harold, John Clare
Google’s recent paean to homosexuality, a host of other perversions, and abnegations of reality in an elaborate ‘doodle‘ was brought to the forefront of my mind when I considered that on D-Day there was no commensurate recognition of, let alone tribute, from Google to the actual sacrifice and true bravery of those such as Tom Rice who stormed the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago, and this moved me to reflect that in the relatively short span of three or so decades, that which the Fourth Estate and their cohorts in corporate America desire us to cherish as a culture are as foreign to me as the worldview of a Stalin or Mao, and equally bereft of worth.
Indeed, even a few moments of reflection upon what was being celebrated in our news sources in the 1980’s and what is being celebrated now will lead all sober-minded people to do the same as Hamlet’s father who, upon considering his own character as contrasted with Hamlet’s uncle, exclaimed “what a falling off was there!” Certainly, unlike Hamlet’s father, the 80’s could not possibly be held up as a paradigm of virtue, far from it: the groundwork for the final assaults upon reality and morality had already been built and reinforced prior to that decade as attacks upon marriage and family, and the murder of the unborn bear ample witness. The ‘mental health experts’ (the same ones who tell us today that it’s ‘healthy’ for children to experiment with transvestism) informed us via the ‘science’ of psychology that children didn’t need both parents, and that point in fact, mothers alone sufficed because ‘research’ had demonstrated that fathers were superfluous. Therefore, while it is certainly true that all of this was just another step in the downward direction of a journey which had begun decades prior, it is also true that as the rotting fruits of moral indifference, ignorance, and self-absorption have accumulated, so has the magnitude of our velocity towards dissolution.
The opportunistic moves made by the homosexuals and others within the rapidly crowded pavilion of perversions since that time bring to mind the manner in which the atheistic, socialist Nazis, upon seeing that the United States and Christendom did nothing when the atheistic, socialist regime of Stalin and Co. systematically murdered tens of millions of their own people, believed that when they unleashed their murderous plans upon Europe, they could count upon that same apathy and moral paralysis.Due to the lack of freedom of the press in the Soviet Union, coupled with the fact that it, at that time, was considerably behind the West in terms of organization and record keeping, it’s well … Continue reading History demonstrates that Hitler was wrong, partly because the United States and the West (rightly or wrongly) viewed the Soviet Union as backwards and more Asiatic than Occidental, but also because there was at that time the requisite bond of Christian beliefs (if not practices) yet remaining between the United States and the West to recognize that there is such a thing as an inviolable moral standard which must hold sway that represents the highest ideals imaginableThe teachings of Christ, i.e. Christianity., and that good and evil are abstractions only to the foolish.
In like fashion, the homosexuals and other deviants took their cue from observing how the American public moved seamlessly, and with nary a complaint, from the nuclear family, to nuclear war upon the family. The campaign to remake the image of the United States into a congeries of moral contradictions where the specimens of morbidity, once relegated to the darkest recesses of the human mind and habitat, now parade across our screens, in our schools, in our libraries, and in our streets, has been absolutely and unequivocally victorious, where we must bear in mind that ‘victory,’ a word which generally connotes the triumph of good over evil, or the attainment of that which is excellent and worthy, is being abused in this context. But this triumph has not been a victory of truth, nor intellect, nor history, nor morality: the teeming masses, the bourgeois, were utterly prostrate before the media blitzkrieg waged in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ ever began. It is akin to the tank-drivers who killed the unarmed Chinese dissidents in Tiananmen Square patting themselves upon the back for crushing their opposition.The death toll remains unknown to this day, for the same reasons we don’t know the death tolls within that other socialist paradise, the Soviet Union. James Russell Lowell stated that “the idol is the measure of the worshipper,” and with companies like Google and many, many others choosing who and what we are to idolize, we are increasingly a people who feast upon garbage.
All that being said, Google has the freedom to decide what it will ‘doodle’ and what it won’t, but we must bear in mind that Google and other companies would not give such short shrift to events which actually merit our accolades and admiration, nor, more importantly, fete and lionize that which is repellent in history, to humanity, and to God, if we the demos didn’t acquiesce to it with our dollars and our moral lethargy.
Some may protest that because Google ‘honored’ Memorial Day with a doodle, it is therefore conceivable that it’s unfair to characterize them as being remiss in acknowledging the great events and accomplishments that are decidedly American which warrant our praise. In response, I make the following observations upon the two doodles we are here considering:
- Memorial Day Doodle
- It was drab, cheap, and elicited much confusion among those who saw it. It amounted to a grayscale rendition of their logo, a feat of artistry and skill which can be achieved with a single click within just about any image-editing software.
- It is obvious that this was done, not out of love or admiration for those who have given their lives for worthy ideals, but rather out of opportunism and social obligation, for if Google had ignored both Memorial Day and D-Day (at least for the time being), then they could be called to account unequivocally.
- By paying the bare modicum of lip service to Memorial Day, they have in essence, done ‘just enough’ and have thereby proleptically closed the door on any negative press or feedback which they might receive. Dr. Johnson’s observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” comes to mind here.
- And hence, a D-Day doodle would have been ‘too much.’
- Shame Doodle
- This garish encomium in celebration of shame (for indeed the beliefs and actions are shameful)Richard Weaver, in Ideas Have Consequences observed that “all education is learning to name rightly.” As we are no longer capable of naming rightly, it’s hard to argue that we are … Continue reading was elaborate almost to the point of tedium, and left no one confused as to its message, nor that Google is a strong endorser of it.
- It is obvious that this was done, not out of social obligation, but out of a different breed of opportunism coupled with an idolization and admiration for a movement which has nothing to be proud of, all driven by a socialist bastion of bastardized ideas with little to no foundation in history, reason, nor experience.
- With their gushing enthusiasm and lachrymose relating of the carefully-edited and bowdlerized key moments in the history of this shameful movement towards anarchy, Google has demonstrated that in the pursuit of the adoration of the pathological, ‘too much’ is never enough.
In juxtaposing these two doodles, it’s hard not to conclude that if there is such a thing as ‘damning with faint praise’, then the Memorial Day doodle certainly qualifies. Hence, it is indeed a fitting cultural commentary upon the shallowness, apathy, and moral vacuity of our day that Google hosts a dedicated site (pride.google), and has funded and endorsed yet another dedicated site (stonewallforever.org) with a $1 million dollar grant (announced here with all undue pomp and circumstance two years ago), all of which are committed to a veritable parade of depravities, while an event such as D-Day that should engender actual, and justified pride has nothing, absolutely nothing of such commitment, scale, or breadth to commemorate it.
In composing this entry, I re-read Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s Memorial Day speech given in 1884. I also read (and listened to) Eisenhower’s D-Day speech. As I read and listened, I was struck with how hollow, impoverished, and meretricious the battle cries of the shame movement appear when compared with the words of true heroism, for the former is pathologically self-centered while the latter inheres the beauty of other-centeredness, and so it then becomes crystal clear why holidays like Memorial Day and historical events like D-Day are unsung by the enemies of light. The words spoken upon these events represent humanity at its best, striving for the highest ideals, and fighting against darkness, and because they do so, because the comparison is so stark, they must be suppressed, de-emphasized, and eventually wiped from our collective consciousness by degrees at first, and then with the increased vigor which we have been seeing, an inclination that is latent in the hearts of all who recognize their aberration, know that it is loathsome, but pursue it nonetheless. This tendency towards the hatred and envy of superiority, of the good, lurks within the heart of democracy for the quite simple reason that it lurks within the human heart. That this connection and tendency is neither revelatory nor recent, but has instead been well-documented and understood by past generations will be amply attested to by the following excerpts from a variety of authors:
The demand for equality has two sources; one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But the other source is the hatred of superiority.
–C. S. Lewis, Democratic Education
When democracy is taken from its proper place and is allowed to fill the entire horizon, it produces an envious hatred not only of all distinction but even of all difference. The ensuing distortion conceals its very purpose, which is to keep natural inequalities from obtruding in the one area where equality has intelligible function. The reason we consent to treat men as equals in this area of activity is that we know they are not equals in other areas. The fanatical democrat insists upon making them equal in all departments, regardless of the type of activity and vocation.
–Richard Weaver, The Image of Culture
A permanent feature of democracy, always and everywhere, is a tendency to suppress the claims of any kind of superiority, conventional or natural, essentially by denying that there is superiority, particularly with respect to ruling. … Elitism is the catch-all epithet expressing our disapproval of the proud and the desire to be first. But, unsupported and excoriated, this part of the soul lives on, dwelling underground, receiving no sublimating education.
–Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
If the people are ever won over to hostility to such ideals, it is only because they are cheated by demagogues who tell them that if all the flowers of civilization were destroyed its fruits would become more abundant. A greater share of happiness, people think, would fall to their lot could they destroy everything beyond their own possible possessions. But they are made thus envious and ignoble only by a deception: what they really desire is an ideal good for themselves which they are told they may secure by depriving others of their preeminence. Their hope is always to enjoy perfect satisfaction themselves;
–George Santayana, The Poetry of Barbarism
The following thoughts, the first from Holmes and the second from Eisenhower, point to that which is highest, what is best in human endeavor, faith, sacrifice, and duty, the last of which is unheard of in the howls of the vandals who rove unhinged throughout our society at every level. Unsurprisingly, the God and the world view invoked throughout both of the following was not the pantheistic conception, nor the panentheistic, nor the polytheistic, nor the Muslim, nor the deistic conception, nor was it the rejection of God, but it was in fact the God as revealed in the Holy Bible of Christianity, a point made abundantly clear by Russell Kirk in The Roots of American Order: namely that the United States and the West are products of the moral order which Christianity brought, for if men’s souls be not ordered, there can be no hope for an ordered society.
“So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly.”
“But the men, not less, perhaps even more, characteristic of New England, were the Puritans of our day. For the Puritan still lives in New England, thank God! and will live there so long as New England lives and keeps her old renown. New England is not dead yet. She still is mother of a race of conquerors–stern men, little given to the expression of their feelings, sometimes careless of their graces, but fertile, tenacious, and knowing only duty.”
“There is one who on this day is always present on my mind. He entered the army at nineteen, a second lieutenant. In the Wilderness, already at the head of his regiment, he fell, using the moment that was left him of life to give all of his little fortune to his soldiers. I saw him in camp, on the march, in action. I crossed debatable land with him when we were rejoining the Army together. I observed him in every kind of duty, and never in all the time I knew him did I see him fail to choose that alternative of conduct which was most disagreeable to himself. He was indeed a Puritan in all his virtues, without the Puritan austerity; for, when duty was at an end, he who had been the master and leader became the chosen companion in every pleasure that a man might honestly enjoy. His few surviving companions will never forget the awful spectacle of his advance alone with his company in the streets of Fredericksburg.”
“All that the world has a right to know has been told by a beloved friend in a book wherein friendship has found no need to exaggerate facts that speak for themselves. I knew him, and I may even say I knew him well; yet, until that book appeared, I had not known the governing motive of his soul. I had admired him as a hero. When I read, I learned to revere him as a saint. His strength was not in honor alone, but in religion; and those who do not share his creed must see that it was on the wings of religious faith that he mounted above even valiant deeds into an empyrean of ideal life.”
–Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Memorial Day 1884
“You are about to embark upon the great crusade…I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle…Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of All-mighty God upon this great and noble undertaking”
–Dwight D. Eisenhower, D-Day 1944
As even a casual perusal of the following will make manifestly clear, the clarion call of this degenerate movement is not duty to others, but the love of self, not of sacrifice for others, but of sacrificing everything but the self in the name of whichever perversion one has chosen to perpetuate, and of making those of us with normal proclivities bend and warp what is real to fit the varied perverse narratives. It is ironic that an ideology that has been built upon the idea of ‘self love,’ engenders so much self hate that its adherents are willing to undergo the most barbaric butcheries imaginable in order to remake what actually is into what is actually worshiped (think gender ‘reassignment’ surgeries here). For the other members within this hall of shame, the difference is one of degrees, not kind. While it is certainly true that all of this should invoke great pity in our hearts, it is certainly just as true that it should not be condoned.
“Love yourself, whatever makes you different, and use it to make you stand out. Mine is my voice and the fact that I’m gay: well, the fact that I’m flamboyantly gay.” –Ross Matthews
“All of us who are openly gay are living and writing the history of our movement. We are no more – and no less – heroic than the suffragists and abolitionists of the 19th century” –Tammy Baldwin
“Gender transition in its many forms is simply another kind of motion. I lived in a body-mind assigned female at birth and made peace with it as a girl, a tomboy, a dyke, a queer woman, a butch. But uncovering my desire to transition—to live as a genderqueer, a female-to-male transgender person, a white guy—challenged everything I thought I knew about self-acceptance and love.” –Elizabeth Clare (transvestite)
“Everybody’s journey is individual. You don’t know with whom you’re going to fall in love. … If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.” –James Baldwin
“By the time I set foot in Thailand, I knew there could be nothing worse than living another day with a penis dangling between my legs…Self-definition and self-determination is about the many varied decisions that we make to compose and journey toward ourselves, about the audacity and strength to proclaim, create, and evolve into who we know ourselves to be.” –Charles Mock (transvestite)
“Here was a neighborhood and a community where I could begin to love myself more and hate myself less, where I finally felt accepted, where I didn’t have to hide or pretend, where I could fully be me and find others like me.” –Erich Nagler
“I would say [it’s] like the Kinsey scale with sexuality from zero to six, where zero is exclusively heterosexual and six is exclusively homosexual. I think that gender’s similar where you know if one is female and six is male I’m probably a four. Gender can exist on a spectrum.” –Courtney Act
When one has considered these words from the two perspectives presented above, one is led ineluctably to the conclusion that they are as far from one another as the East is from the West, and that the twain shall never meetThe Ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling.. It is apparent to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear how pale and empty the motivating ideas of the shame movement appear in contrast to the transcendent ideals which have animated and nourished the Western tradition, and hence, as we have become a society that calls evil good, and good evil, that puts darkness for light, and light for darkness, it makes perfect sense that the Memorial Day doodle would be drained of all color, and that D-Day would be ignored. How terrible and tragic, that these poor souls, laden with desires and habits inimical to God and to nature, instead of being instructed, admonished, and encouraged to look outward to the light, are instead encouraged through the dialectic of despair to look ever further downward into the heart of darkness that lies within.
Notes and References
|↑1||Due to the lack of freedom of the press in the Soviet Union, coupled with the fact that it, at that time, was considerably behind the West in terms of organization and record keeping, it’s well on nigh impossible to obtain accurate records, but some estimate that under that atheistic regime, in the Ukraine alone four-million human beings were systematically starved to death.|
|↑2||The teachings of Christ, i.e. Christianity.|
|↑3||The death toll remains unknown to this day, for the same reasons we don’t know the death tolls within that other socialist paradise, the Soviet Union.|
|↑4||Nope. On the doodle page we see front and center, a huge thanks given to storycorps.org. Who are they, what are they about you might ask? According to Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, it works “to preserve the personal histories of gay people who lived before Stonewall and to make their voices a permanent part of American history, preserved at the Library of Congress.” The homepage greets us with “He would sit and tell us what it was like to be gay in 1890.” and “Stonewall Outloud.” At least one of the featured veterans in the doodle is homosexual. Like the perversions it advocates, Google apparently just can’t help itself.|
|↑5||Richard Weaver, in Ideas Have Consequences observed that “all education is learning to name rightly.” As we are no longer capable of naming rightly, it’s hard to argue that we are an educated society.|
|↑6||The Ballad of East and West, Rudyard Kipling.|
‘Accepting’ Christ is quite different than recognizing who He is and who you are.
Rather, recognize that you are a sinner in desperate need of salvation. Recognize that without Christ, you are irrevocably lost. Recognize that the blood of the Lamb of God is your only hope for redemption. Recognize. For there is a world of difference between recognizing that without Christ you will spend an eternity in hell separated from God and every good thing you’ve enjoyed in your life, and ‘accepting’ the gift of salvation. While it is indeed true that salvation is a gift which can neither be earned, nor purchased, nor merited due to one’s innate wonderfulness, it is also true that salvation entails more than one sticking one’s hands out to grasp at a gift and to then go on about one’s life as one pleases, neither acknowledging nor thanking the gift giver. When, as a culture, we speak of ‘accepting’ this gift of salvation, it’s akin to characterizing Christ as a peddler hawking His salvation wares in the marketplace of the many roads to heaven. “Will you accept Me, accept My gift to you?” He asks. “No,” you reply confidently, “I will neither accept You nor what You offer. I believe there’s a better deal out there for me.” Christ, cap in hand with His head bowed at your lack of acceptance of Him, resolves to make the offer more tantalizing for his next potential customer. No. Christ made it abundantly clear that He is the only way, the only path (John 14:6).
In contrast, to recognize Christ as your savior connotes that you have come to a realization, that you have come to a knowledge (and an acknowledgement), that the truth of something that you had not realized previously has now become clear to you. Further, because Christ says of Himself that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father, in recognizing Christ as your savior, you are in essence recognizing the sovereignty of God the Father (John 14:9) over not only your own life, but over the entirety of the created universe (Isaiah 46:9–10). It means also that you have come to the realization that you are (or have been) in rebellion against the sovereign ruler of the universe (Romans 3:23). If you refuse to recognize these truths, then you are in rebellion, not unlike a subject living within a kingdom refusing to acknowledge the sovereign of that land would be considered to be a rebel and an enemy. In the lowly kingdoms of the earth, one cannot live within a kingdom and yet refuse to recognize the sovereign of that kingdom: one cannot choose to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ such sovereignty, for such a rejection is a dear offense which warrants dear penalties. How much more true and weighty will this principle be for the ruler of all (Isaiah 40:15), the creator of all (Colossians 1:16)? A little more? Infinitely more?
A perusal of the pertinent definitions of both ‘accept’ and ‘recognize’ from the OED should make manifest the distinction between these two verbs:
- To take or receive (a thing offered) willingly, or with consenting mind; to receive (a thing or person) with favour or approval, e.g. to receive as a prospective husband. Also, to take or receive with patience or resignation, to tolerate.
- To receive as sufficient or adequate; hence, to admit, agree to, believe
- To acknowledge by admission, confession, or avowal; to admit (to oneself or another)
- To acknowledge by special notice, approval or sanction; to treat as valid, as having existence or as entitled to consideration; to take notice of (a thing or person) in some way
- To perceive clearly, realize.
Is it any wonder that ‘consent’ and ‘tolerate,’ those magical words which can be cast to mean everything and anything, so long as they serve to unlock doors to societal sanction of deviancies and perversions galore, have been smuggled into our lingua franca ‘twixt God and man of the good news of the Gospel of Grace? Is it not anathema to imagine that sinners and rebels could ever be in a position to ‘tolerate’ the Son of the Lord of Hosts or that a lot such as us would need to ‘consent’ to His presence and rule? As is abundantly obvious from the above, while there may be a hint of overlap between ’accept’ and ‘recognize,’ the similarities are superficial whereas the differences are antipodal. So again, please, don’t ‘accept’ Christ as your savior: articulate salvation in such a manner as befits the Savior’s ineffable majesty and authority.
There has never been a time in human experience where ready, global access to the news has been more pervasive. Not only do our radios continually adumbrate a caricature of the sum total of human experience, but there are dedicated news channels, print newspapers (yes, people still read them), Google News, and countless other means by which we can keep ‘up to date’ on all the goings-on of our effectively anonymous fellow travelers in this life. For all of the seemingly infinite variety of content, one would be hard-put to argue with any success that the news is generally uplifting in its content and presentation. In point of fact, it is exactly the opposite and the mass of negative and depressing content can be broken into two broad categories: that which deals with the propensity of human wickedness and that which deals with the generality of human suffering. Positive or uplifting news is so rare as to be practically anomalous. Why then, do we relish our time with the news so?
Immersing ourselves in the news generates multiple palliative effects, the chief of which is that the news presents to us a means whereby we can gaze unremittingly upon the failings of others rather than confronting our own failings. For the vast majority of us, the poor souls who are marched across our television screens, our computers, and our newspapers in a macabre parade of human suffering are far ‘worse’ than we are. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves, either explicitly, or what is far more common, implicitly. This is a prime reason why personages such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Adolf Hitler are so prominent within our collective consciousness: they serve as the ultimate litmus test against which we can gauge our own deeds, whether by our action, or by our inaction. No matter what we’ve done, are doing, or are not doing that we should be doing, we can always rifle through the Rolodex in our minds and pick them out as being much worse than we think ourselves to be.
In weighing the scales of our goodness against the evils we see, we are ineluctably drawn into the judgment of our fellow man, an activity which can be so very gratifying, especially when we are lax in our duty to judge ourselves. I almost said that it ‘satisfies’ our need to judge, but I don’t think it satisfies anything, just as recreational drugs don’t ultimately satisfy the true need which they are merely acting as a diversion from. If even a few minutes are spent perusing the comments section attached to any news item which involves a sensational crime committed against another, a fairly steady progression of comments that speak of nothing but disdain, disgust, and hatred for the perpetrator will be manifested within hours of the report. Well, not nothing but; there’s usually a heavy dose of those who speak of their incredulity about how one human being could behave so terribly, or those who state that they would never commit such an act themselves. The perpetrators are judged to be not worthy of human companionship, sympathy, or love, because in essence, they’re not really human at all. They are simply monsters which have no soul and which should have rightly been killed prior to birth.
Another effect of the news is that it acts as a salve to our conscience, and we are therefore, in some measure, unburdened. We all know that when a weight has been lifted from our shoulders either physically, mentally, or spiritually, that there is a concomitant sense of relief, in fact a good feeling that comes, even if nothing that could be explicitly interpreted as positive has happened. When the negative is removed, that is counted as a net positive, and hence, when we see proof positive before our very eyes of how much better we are than another, we actually end up feeling pretty good about ourselves by comparison.
There is also the good feeling that invariably goes with diligently keeping up with all the latest, and this provides no shortage of opportunity to congratulate ourselves that we’re doing what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing. i.e. every good citizen keeps up on the news, if one is not up on the news they’re not informed, not interested in the world, etc. “Hey, did you hear about horrible event X? No? Why ever not?!” Keeping ‘up’ on the news has become so ingrained in our culture, that if you happen to state that you neither read the newspaper, nor watch the news on TV, you are regarded as some sort of curio or relic from an age past. To be clear: I am not here speaking of ignoring the truly important events which rarely come to the fore of the news, I’m speaking of shunning the daily avalanche of irrelevancy with which we allow ourselves to be saturated on an almost hourly basis.
Furthermore, as we recline on the couch, sit at our desk, or recline in an EZ chair, with rare exception, there is no action required on our part as we passively imbibe the news, and this goes hand in hand with our tendency to be rather apathetic, or to put it more directly: uncaring for our fellow man. Occasionally, we may engage in limited discourse with a companion about the news item and nod our heads in agreement regarding the horror that is before us, but other than that, the faces and lives which we see materialize and just as quickly fade, have nothing to do with ours, and like all media, are consumed and discarded in an endless cycle of self-absorption. Rarely, we may pause for a moment or two to reflect upon the victim, and benignly commiserate with them, but the next news item is perhaps juicier than the present one, and so the thought passes.
In his book An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis made a keen observation regarding the almost sole media of his day, i.e. print, that reading the news was the lowest form of reading possible, and of those who do:
They never, uncompelled, read anything that is not narrative. I do not mean that they all read fiction. The most unliterary reader of all sticks to ‘the news.’ He reads daily, with unwearied relish, how, in some place he has never seen, under circumstances which never become quite clear, someone he doesn’t know has married, rescued, robbed, raped, or murdered someone else he doesn’t know. But this makes no essential difference between him and the class next above—those who read the lowest kinds of fiction. He wants to read about the same events as they. The difference is that, like Shakespeare’s Mopsa, he wants to ‘be sure they are true.’ This is because he is so very unliterary that he can hardly think of invention as a legitimate, or even a possible activity.
As reading is largely dead in this generation, I think it’s fair (if not awkward) to refer to those who mainly ‘stick to the news’ as the most ‘unliterary’ of media consumers, no matter what the particular medium may be. Those who mainly ‘stick to the entertainment’ are not much better off, and shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory for preferring to watch the latest network sensation over the news. I say ‘no matter what the particular medium may be’ because of the very human tendency that no matter how overwhelming the evidence may be, no matter how convincing or convicting the argument may be, and no matter how applicable and analogous an example may be, if there’s the least chance of evading serious thought or the least bit of culpability, the stock response will be to find the smallest point of contention which doesn’t precisely fit, and thereby reject the entire argument. The tapestry of life is not so simple as to be able to indiscriminately subject it to the semantics of propositional calculus. So, whether we are speaking of reading the print news or being immersed in it via 3D glasses, the Lewis’ diagnosis sticks, and it sticks well because at its core it has nothing to do with the news in and of itself, or the medium by which it is delivered, it deals with our human nature.
In large part, the news also acts to bolster the stereotypes that all of us carry. Rarely does ‘the news’ shake up or challenge our conceptions about people with whom we are unfamiliar or places we have not visited. We desire comfort, not only physically, but, perhaps even more strongly, intellectually and spiritually. The news provides the latter in abundance. So much so that we have a surfeit of material from which we can choose to reinforce almost any uncritical belief we hold. Most things which deviate from our conceptions about the norm are to be shunned for the plain and simple fact that when our preconceptions or biases are challenged, our pride rears up and demands action. Action which takes effort, a commitment to truth, and a willingness to change. Why not just avoid the ordeal altogether and change the channel? Because of the homogeneity of material and views presented, this drastic step is required only on rare occasion.
The other broad category of the news alluded to at the outset is that which deals with human suffering sans intent: suffering caused by accident, natural disaster, disease etc. In the absence of forces which serve to pervert or squash it, most of us, when presented with something (regardless of the medium) that portrays a human being who has suffered as a result of one of these, feels something within which can only be described as compassion. While it doesn’t have the personal touch of the other category previously discussed, the effects are just as inimical, albeit in an opposing sense.
G. K. Chesterton, in his essay The Vote and the House, presents one of his usual cogent arguments in consideration of the impact that habituation to anomalies has upon us:
And this for a reason that any one at all acquainted with human nature can see for himself. All injustice begins in the mind. And anomalies accustom the mind to the idea of unreason and untruth. Suppose I had by some prehistoric law the power of forcing every man in Battersea to nod his head three times before he got out of bed. The practical politicians might say that this power was a harmless anomaly; that it was not a grievance. It could do my subjects no harm; it could do me no good. The people of Battersea, they would say, might safely submit to it. But the people of Battersea could not safely submit to it, for all that. If I had nodded their heads for them for fifty years I could cut off their heads for them at the end of it with immeasurably greater ease. For there would have permanently sunk into every man’s mind the notion that it was a natural thing for me to have a fantastic and irrational power. They would have grown accustomed to insanity.
In our day-to-day lives, accidents of nature, accidents of carelessness, etc. are anomalous. In the presentation of world-wide events, they are not. We witness, at the minimum, every day, the worst that the natural world can throw at mankind, the worst that poor planning or execution wreaks in a person’s life, and the worst that disease can do. Many of these events we would never have been conscious of if not for mass communication: disasters that only occur in certain climates, cultural (and by proxy, technological) manifestations that lead to disaster, and diseases that afflict one in a million, if not one hundred million.
Analogously, we have all heard of the battle-fatigued medics who become inured to the death and misery which surrounds them, or the hardy souls who have witnessed and survived the horrors of living in a region torn asunder by cycles of war which seem to have no end and take it all in stride. Surgeons and doctors whose life mission is working with terminally ill people become desensitized to the death of their patients, for if they didn’t, they would constantly be encumbered by grief. So one anomaly is substituted for another. These are sweeping generalizations to be sure, but in the main, they hold. People in such situations are certainly to be forgiven for a certain ‘lack of humanity,’ although, I hesitate to use such a phrase because of its condemnatory tone, and I also think that it would be inhuman not to be deeply affected and changed to some extent by such experiences.
Aristotle stated that the reason we enjoy tragedies is because the evocation of pity and fear serves to purge these emotions and hence it is ultimately pleasurable (cathartic) to us. The real-life tragedies which we silently, anonymously, and passively witness via the media serve a very similar purpose, but with an insidious side-effect. There are not many people who watch the news with unfettered relish who would be willing to admit that they enjoy seeing other people suffer. But, if these tragedies are not enjoyed per se, and they don’t serve some purpose to us or others, then why do we return to drink from these poisoned wells again and again? It certainly isn’t because it’s important to be informed and up-to-date about the vast majority of these events.
Aristotle’s perspicacity about literary tragedy lends itself to this as well. Just as the dramatization of fictional events serves to temporarily alleviate us of certain emotions, so do the events transpiring around the world serve a similar function. The difference between the two is subtle, and open to philosophical debate, but the core difference between the two is rather prosaic: the former is recognized as having its basis in fiction, and the latter in reality. So in consideration of the motives behind our fondness for watching them, the two are very similar. However, in the case of the latter, there is no suspension of belief which takes place and hence, the insidious side-effect mentioned is that there is a necessary detachment which takes place, all in the absence of an actual manifestation in our lives or community. Hence, while the battlefield medic’s ‘inhumanity’ arises from a need to survive, our inhumanity arises from our addiction to the purgation of emotions. In short, we become callous to real suffering to the point where things that would properly bring forth strong visceral reactions, manage only a sigh and a resignation. And it is here that the inimical effects bring forth their worst fruit: by being accustomed to switching off suffering and misery, we tend not to react as we should towards events that actually are occurring around us and which we could have some positive impact upon.
The West is mired in apathy. Even our most ‘heroic’ efforts for ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality’ are anemic utterances shrouded in concern for others when the reality is they serve only to keep alive the dream that our own comforts and life choices won’t be disturbed in the least. Until we understand that the time wasted on the media in general, and the news in particular is much more than a simple waste of time, and that it is effectively rotting us from the core out, we will continue to grow in our lack of utility to our fellow man and such a people will evoke no fear in the hearts of their enemies.