August 7, 2012

"Gore Vidal’s Fan Club": A Commentary on Our Culture?

Andrew Ferguson has written a terrific commentary in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard on the recent passing of Gore Vidal, a noted essayist, novelist and playwright. Vidal was one of those people embraced by the culturati and fawned over by people who want to be known for knowing people embraced by the culturati. You get my point. Ferguson's piece also serves as a commentary on the general practice by our society of ignoring massive flaws in personality, morals, ethics, principles or just plain lack of goodness so long as the person receiving the pass is funny, is outrageous enough, or is in the habit of 'courageously pushing the boundaries' in his or her line of work. Being especially good looking assuredly scores extra points and if one is known to score lots of their own points on or off the field, so much the better in the public eye. 

We regularly say we mean to teach our children how to be good people and how to live good lives and we definitely hear the outcry when an elected official or one of the one-percenters gets caught in an especially compromising position. But we only need to 'follow the money' (literally and figuratively) to see what people really value: paying obscene ticket prices to watch professional athletes who off-the-field lead anything but exemplary lives; spending millions at the box office to watch actors portray (and often actually live as) characters we would not want our children to emulate; or vote and re-vote for officials who show little real interest in or commitment to the long-term viability of our nation. Examples from Hollywood, professional sports, our financial sector and certainly our political class are so numerous as to be comical. 

I guess it's somewhat like the national drug problem. We take steps to hunt down the kingpins who produce and distribute the drugs that devastate swathes of our society but one can't help but observe that the kingpins wouldn't be kingpins were it not for the marketplace clamoring for their product. So long as the undesirable is lauded, rewarded and adulated it will displace what is supposedly desirable every time. 

I know the first step to combatting this is education in the home. The second step, much more difficult than the first, is honesty in our public spaces. I'm less confident we'll see much progress here; it's been a problem for man since our creation. Still, the noblest fights are those undertaken against daunting odds for the greatest of purposes.

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