Yes, I realize I’m not supposed to risk offending my audience (if any), or my potential audience (if any). But some ideas are more important than my success (if any), so although proselytizing isn’t likely to win me friends or fans, I’m not sure I’d be very happy with myself if I didn’t disgorge the lump of disgust that’s set up shop in my gullet.
Although there is nothing new or profound in this observation, I find it deeply discouraging that the great majority of the shows on television (and the music on the radio) exist for a single reason: to create or increase wealth. There is little (if any) interest in art or truth or ideas or any of those slippery concepts that demand of the audience something more than somnolent complacency. These shows sell themselves the way our politicians do: by giving people precisely what they have been conditioned to think they want, by manipulating them like marionettes, by making them feel good (about themselves, their reliable little worlds, life’s intrinsic fairness, etc.), or excited (when they’ve allowed their own lives to become empty and dull), or smart (I knew he did it) or by misdirecting them just enough to make them lose track of the fact that there’s not a hint of truth or logic in this reprocessed lard and then satisfying them with what appears to be a clever surprise but which is really just a desperate attempt to keep them awake and drooling through the commercials, sometimes by frightening them so they can feel their hearts beat (I’m alive!) and then be comforted by the knowledge that their lives aren’t nearly that scary, by making the ingestion of their recycled swill easy and familiar and as momentarily satisfying as a dozen cocaine-encrusted, opium-filled donuts.
And the music is produced with the same lofty goal, the guilty parties rarely placing a timid, pedicured toe outside the accepted boundaries, adding thin synthetic noise to the same pedestrian chord progressions, rudimentary rhythms and juvenile melodies, repeating the same dull clichés over and over again until it’s all we want to hear, all we can hear, telling the same stories and pulling the same strings so often that are unable to make sense of anything else, so droningly often that we’ve lost the intellectual and emotional muscles required to process and appreciate anything honest, real, or, heaven forfend, complex or challenging, until we are no longer actively ingesting; we are being force-fed, and we, now as pliable and acquiescent as fresh corpses, are allowing it. And worst of all we are passing it on like a genetic flaw.
I won’t claim that all the malefactors responsible for the fabrication of this skull-Drano are aware that they are sugaring our brains to the point of numbness and atrophy. Some of them may simply be blank-eyed, drug-addled products of the same conditioning they are now purveying, but it doesn’t really matter. If we, as allegedly sentient adults, are weary of thinking, have given up the desire to learn, grow, work, struggle, experience, because life is just too damned hard or we’re too busy or too tired and it requires too much of us, it is still criminally irresponsible to deprive our children of life’s potential richness, richness of thought, of experience, of feeling.
I will avoid the potential discomfort of judging my own work in the light of these beliefs, but I can state with a clear conscience that my desire, at least, is to create something true and valuable. If the results fail to meet that objective, it’s not because my motivation is suspect; it is because I’m just not good enough.
But I am trying, and that’s a start. At least I hope it is.