I’m stumped and frustrated these days, increasingly unable to make sense out of a world that so lightly values intellect, yet raises entertainment to the rank of demi-God.
Once upon a time, actors and sports figures performed at the behest of kings. If they were judged to be worthy, they continued to perform. If they failed to meet the mark or satisfy the whim of the king, they were cast aside. These entertainers were not trendsetters, nor were they paid more than the king.
In my dream world, intelligence is valued over jump shots, home runs, face lifts and the latest Hollywood scandal. I can’t muster excitement over starlet belly button studs or who’s sleeping with whom.
One day last week, 76 Iraqis and seven Americans died in combat, Chicago was closed down by a devastating storm, and Anna Nicole Smith was found dead. The news coverage? 51% of all network "” radio and broadcast "” was devoted to Ms. Smith.
Excuse me, but why am I supposed to care? She was a Playboy bunny who married a rich old man who died shortly after their vows. She ended up in a legal battle over his money, her son died of an overdose and she’s got a disappearing baby that two or more men want to claim as it’s father.
Dysfunction raised to the level of normalcy.
Maybe I’m a dinosaur. Maybe I’m not trendy enough. So be it.
Truth is, I care more about the death of innocent children in war-torn parts of the world than the latest surgical procedure guaranteed to take years off a body. I care more about the extinction of species than an automobile that costs $250,000. I look toward the youth, those kids who walk with our future in their hands. Some are fine, hardworking with their heads on their shoulders. I bet they struggle every day against the power of peer group and media.
Look at their role models.
For the men, it’s sports figures who command stratospheric salaries, own fast cars, wear lots of jewelry and have hot chicks on their arms. These stars seem inclined to use illegal drugs, get arrested for violent crimes and somehow, never go to jail. Heroes. At what cost?
And for women? Stinky skinny is still in. Face-lifts can’t be done early enough, not to mention fake breasts, stuffed lips and unfurrowed brows. Clothing? Designers seem intent on putting out items that used to be in the domain of streetwalkers. Stars have become caricatures of the own beauty.
It strikes both ends. Little girls want to look like sexy grown-ups, and grown-ups want to look like little girls. Thank God there was Sears Toughskins for my boys to wear growing up. I’d hate to think that at an age when they should concentrate on play, they’d have been thinking about the name on their outfit.
Media, oh media. You have risen above our clear thinking. You reign apparent and dictate our tastes and our desires.
I think Southern California may suffer more than other parts of the country. Heck, the industry is here. We’re all about the “stage”, the magic of movies, which are anything but real.
Maybe it’s too much sunshine.
What has happened to our values? Where is our life purpose or sense of selves in this world?
In a recent lecture, Jim Lehrer, of PBS’s “The News Hour,” suggested a program of national service. This service would be mandatory for all citizens of the United States, and would not necessarily be military in nature. It would provide a way of connecting with one another while devoting a part of our lives to the country that bestows upon us our freedoms.
Maybe it could impart some values, beyond how much something costs.
I’m no innocent here. I have an Ipod, like vintage wines, and I drive a nice car. I live in a new house that has more space than I need. But I work it, this task to be more real, and I keep asking myself to do more.
I’ll finish on this note (and if you are a plastic surgeon or have just had surgery, forgive me ... you are all easy prey). Imagine the billable hours for vanity plastic surgery in all of Southern California for only one month. How many hungry people do you think those dollars might feed?