I am by no means suggesting sensory deprivation ever will or ever can replace alcohol and drug use as antidotes to the rapacious banalities of modern life, only that occasionally filtering out the egregious idiocy of what is said in the political and cultural realm may add years to what’s left of your life: assuming longevity is your cup of tea, and it certainly isn’t everybody’s according to Hemingway, Mayakovsky, Mark Rothko, Primo Levi, Mishima, Henry de Montherlant, Sylvia Plath, Walter Benjamin, Kurt Cobain and other arguably prescient luminaries.
Outside of justifiable homicide there is little one can do when it comes to being assaulted at Trader Joe’s or the Arco station by the incessant, inane babble of cell phone use. However, ridding yourself of the likes of Rick Perry, Wolf Blitzer and every television entertainment correspondent or film reviewer, all financial news, and perhaps the cocktail waitress giving the weather (for every time she says high or low she has to remove an article of clothing) is as easy as closing your eyes and pressing your mitts against your ears.
It’s permissible and probably required to retain scorn for those who never bother to obtain, ingest and process news of the world, including political and cultural minutiae for their edification, as well as to behave as useful citizens, since the rest of us are forced to bang our heads against steel beams due to the godawfulness that from time to time results from participation in the democratic process by uninformed nincompoops.
Still, what to a point one can consider to be enlightening, beneficial and even self-improving can at another point resemble masochism. I’m talking about the fact that listening to most of what is said in the public square these days makes you feel as though you’re swimming in a vat of dead rats. From the Republican side of the equation frankly, the density of lies, irrationality and mendacity is a kind of poison gas killing off American civilization. Few commentators on television will actually tell you that, which contributes to the sense of unreality.
Indeed, everybody but them knows they’re crazy as bedbugs and stupid as hell, and the fact that this information isn’t appearing on billboards everywhere and on every newscast and on the ticker in Times Square on a 24 hour basis is a shockingly dystopian development in and of itself. We can’t fix roads, build schools, keep our students on par with those of other nations, have a healthy population, take care of the old and the sick or have an employed and secure middle-class because one party is on a Mission from Mars, and most of the rest work for donors and powerful lobbyists. C’est la vie.
Of course, culturally the country does still excel in bad taste and the lowest common denominator, which likewise will wash over you like the Love Canal if you look for comfort in popular entertainment today. If they re-make another Sixties or Seventies film or television show or concoct another comic book superhero movie God is going to destroy the earth by fire; or maybe do it by water again just to make a point about repeating yourself. High culture is little better, taken over by the academies and the large conglomerates, and largely devoid of soul, originality or talent.
If media waters down and adulterates their standards and their effectiveness any further we’d be better off writing on the walls of caves in hieroglyphics in order to pass along an accurate version of what is going on than we are now. And let’s remember, even with a reliable and competent press, this is a country fully capable of electing almost anybody (Three words: George W. Bush) and of doing almost any damn thing; so it should scare the hell out of everybody who isn’t one of the charlatans or one of the nuts that one of the Republican charlatans or nuts may end up running the country, along with a congress of similar macaroons.
Every once in a while you need to wash, rinse and spin dry your brain, and then repeat the process until the weekend has come to an end. Otherwise, cover your eyes and ears. Remember the words of Yeats: “The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober.”