Culture: January 2007 Archives

Tangents and another Confession


Er, thast last post was supposed to be a humorous blurb about what I watch on TV. It kind of got sidetracked. Ah, blogging...

Anyway, the other show I enjoy, and this is an even dirtier secret, is "Boston Legal." It's slime, through and through, but it also has William Shatner and James Spader.

Anyway, my real point I wanted to get to was that the last 7 minutes of last night's show were about the funniest thing I've seen on television in a decade.

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I watch "Scrubs"


Speaking of cultural decay (er.... like 5 posts down) - I confess that I watch "Scrubs."

If I were to flatter myself, I'd say that I wish to engage the culture, and a show such as "Scrubs" provides ample fodder for criticism.

That would be a lie, however. I watch it because it is just about the funniest thing on television (and it is definitely the funniest thing on broadcast TV after 10 PM in east central Illinois). It's the closest that a live-action sit-com that I've seen has ever come to the pacing and craziness of the Simpsons - and it's well-writted, well-acted and very well-cast.

That said, I do have one observation to make. Despite being a comedy, "Scrubs" treats medical issues very realistically. (I usually don't agree with their conclusions, but whatever, I'm not looking to them to form my conscience.) The one exception is abortion. I've seen them approach that issue twice, and both times it was treated extremely frivolously.

In one episode, JD, the main character on the show, has gotten another doctor pregnant, and they're considering abortion. That itself doesn't bother me. Art is supposed to imitate life, and for many young people whose intellectual formation has come from peer groups, institutional schools and MTV - that's what you're supposed to do. It's "responsible" to determine if you should have the baby at all. That's not my "worldview," as the kids say, but I can't deny it's a widespread and generally accepted point of view.

So fine, they sit down to decide whether to have the baby or kill it. They make a list of pros and cons, and the whole thing is unserious (con: "babies are sticky"). A talking statue of Jesus tells them not to do it, while female pal Jordan tells them all about her abortion and how it saved her life (Jordan's son Jack finds out about it somehow, my memory's kind of hazy, and ends up running around the hospital waiting room screamin "my mommy had an abortion"). In the end, our smart, responsible protagonist couple melts when they see JD's friend Turk's newborn and decides to go through with the pregnancy. To hell with rationality, in the end it's all emotions.

On second thought, it's interesting that their thoughts about abortion end when they see that what they're debating isn't a choice - it's a child. Sure, that's a pro-life bumper sticker message, but it's also true. That scene alone demonstrates why the ultra-sound is such a powerful weapon against abortion. When confronted with the reality of what the fetus actually is - a human being at a very early stage of development - it's hard not to choose life.

I don't think it was the intent of the writers to have a pro-life message; that's obvious from Jordan's story, which serves to establish abortion as a reasonable and sometimes necessary option. (Jordan's response to little Jack's waiting room abortion chant is a proud and unremorseful, "She sure did.") But sometimes the truth pokes through despite our efforts to reject it.

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The Myth of Self-Suffiency


Normally, I'm pretty cold to the notion of self-reliance, which is why the latest issue of In Character was disappointing, which is unusual for that fine journal.

However, one piece stands out: Bill McKibben's "Old MacDonald Had A Farmers’ Market."

Every culture has its pathologies, and ours is self-reliance. From some mix of our frontier past, our Little House on the Prairie heritage, our Thoreauvian desire for solitude, and our amazing wealth we’ve derived a level of independence never seen before on this round earth. We’ve built an economy where we need no one else; with a credit card, you can harvest the world’s bounty from the privacy of your room. And we’ve built a culture much the same — the dream houses those architects build, needless to say, come with a plasma screen in every room. As long as we can go on earning good money in our own tiny niche, we don’t need a helping hand from a soul — save, of course, from the invisible hand that cups us all in its benign grip.

There are a couple of problems with this fine scenario, of course. One is: we’re miserable. Reported levels of happiness and life-satisfaction are locked in long-term one-way declines, almost certainly because of this lack of connection. Does this sound subjective and airy? Find one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t belong to anything and convince them to join a church, a softball league, a bird-watching group. In the next year their mortality — the risk that they will die in the next year — falls by half.

It brings to mind the notion of interdependence, which is a very Catholic and catholic idea. Sociologically speaking, independence as just as undesirable as dependence. Instead, the ideal family/neighborhood/society structure would be one of voluntarily interdependence. Total dependence on the state or other individuals leads to sloth and envy, while total independence leads to greed and pride as well as a general disdain for others. Mutual interdependence, recognizing the truth that man flourishes in relationship to fellow man, leads to humility and charity.

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The Curmudgeon: local edition


Which is a bigger sign of cultural decay?

  1. Police officers with nothing better to do than file a 13 page report and make the state's attorney investigate a couple of college kids being rude, or

  2. Thieves breaking into a Salvation Army safe to steal $250.

It's a tough call, but I have to say it's the first case. Petty theft is ancient as property, but it takes a special kind of modern victimological psychology as well as a much too large bureacracy with not enough to for the police and county government to get dragged into an online flame war.

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from January 2007.

Culture: November 2006 is the previous archive.

Culture: April 2007 is the next archive.

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