The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Letting it all hang out, sideways sort of

We live today in a tell—all—let—everything—hang—out society, a society that believes that keeping certain things to oneself is psychologically unsound for the individual and for society as well, and therefore the best thing to do when confronted with personal matters you would rather not discuss with anyone is, counterintuitively enough, to discuss then with damn near everyone you can think of. I should blame Sigmund Freud for this, but I don’t, not really. He merely theorized that discussing your innermost thoughts and emotions with a medical professional would help his patients understand why they were so miserable; he never promised anyone that spilling their guts to him would make them permanently happy—it would only relieve the misery of existence for a short time, in much the same way as a priest granting absolution after a sinner’s confession understands that the sinner will need to come back and get relief for the sins he will commit during the following week. It may not make you happy, but you will know why you’re not happy. 

No, I blame Phil Donahue and his principal acolyte, Oprah Winfrey, for the current obsession with knowing more about people that we really care to know, and, of course, I blame Philo Farnsworth for inventing television in the first place, which gave Donahue and Winfrey the platform they needed to display their emotional basket cases to an unsuspecting world. I suppose, given the popularity of the format that Donahue and Winfrey pioneered, that I am in a minority about this, but I would just as soon not know who is copulating with whom or to discuss reproductive biology, my own or someone else’s, with complete strangers. I do not inflict unwanted confidences on other people and I should like some reciprocation from them, but I know better than to expect it. I realize that this reluctance is an anachronism in this day and age, a cultural artifact of an Irish Catholic childhood that has no place in the modern world, but there’s nothing I can do about it at this point. I am what I am, said Popeye the Sailor Man, and if it’s good enough for Popeye, it’s good enough for me.

I wonder when we here in this our Great Republic began treating the most intimate aspects of our private lives as fodder for mass entertainment and the stuff of everyday conversation. You may not credit this, but once upon a time here in this our Great Republic the only people who would talk about such things in public were the mentally ill. But the mentally ill have a reason for their tell-all mania: they are, in fact, maniacal. They are nuts, clinically, psychologically, one hundred percent by a doctor who went to medical school and everything certified bonkers. The rest of us, however, don’t have that excuse. So why do we keep displaying our psychic quirks in public?  The question remains a Rosicrucian mystery to me and all the evidence points to the question staying that way. I suppose people keep doing this sort of thing because emotional caterwauling makes them happy and it makes other people happy to watch them roll around in their psychic traumas. There is something more than a little gruesome about all of this, I think, but as I appear to be the only one who thinks so, I must endure what I cannot stop. It all seems horribly unfair to me, but I don’t think anyone cares what I think of all this one way or the other. Ah well, what can you do?

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  • At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My childhood was nothing like "Irish Catholic", but I'm in perfect agreement with you. We were told to be modest in public, which referred not only to pour appearance, but to things coming out of our mouths as well. There is even a proverb in Russian: "Я" - последняя буква алфавита ["Ya" - is the last letter in the alphabet]. {"Ya" is at the same time a letter and means "I", just like "I" in English - but it is literally the last letter in the alphabet}.

    What's more, I remember 2-3 months after arriving in US, when being prepped for American English in the immigration agency, we were trained in typical dialog.
    "When you're asked "How are you?" you should not assume that now's the time to relay the range of sensations you experienced yesterday in dentist's chair. Simply say "Fine, thank you" and reciprocate"!

    An outdated instruction, to my deep regrets.

  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said…

    You are totally not wrong. I tend to relate this rise of "reality shows" to the lack of ideas for movies that became a Hollywood malady some years ago and made the movie moguls running around like mad in search for original scenarios. So, in lieu of new ideas turning personal guts out in public works as a surrogate of good plot, probably. Why I've totally stopped watching TV.


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