- "We are in the process of creating what deserves
to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every
society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless
fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid
and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal."
- I don't know who coined the phrase "The end of the
world will be televised," but more and more, the hip pseudo-prophecy
is being fulfilled. Turn on your idiot box, and you won't see cities aflame
from nuclear bombs, or land masses submerged by killer tsunamis. I dare
say this is lamentable. At least the mega-death prophesied in the Bible
might have been quick and relatively painless. But the apocalypse unfolding
now is a slow mass death from preventable sickness.
- We are all sick and dying from brain to bones. And the
sickness spreads, because the afflicted believe they are perfectly healthy.
We wretch and hack and vomit all over each other, then we grin, oblivious,
and continue talking about sports. Lepers were better than us. At least
they had the decency to keep to themselves. Our lepers are everywhere
-- TV shows, movies, magazine covers, billboards -- and they don't know
how ugly they are, because the entire world tells them they're beautiful.
- The sickness we are dying from is the loss of all meaning.
In the United States, we don't care about anything good or meaningful
or lasting or life-affirming. We care about the pointless and ugly and
wretched and life-destroying.
- Inane exercises in inhuman cruelty are now a popular
form of American "entertainment." Turn your radio on, and you
might actually hear a human being die. It happened a few weeks ago on
a station in Sacramento. Some DJs designed a contest in which the participants
would try to drink the most water in a short period of time. The "prize":
a Nintendo Wii game system. One of the participants, a 28 year-old mother
and wife named Jennifer Strange, died from water intoxication after drinking
- According to several news reports, the DJs were warned
of the dangers by callers. One DJ responded: "They signed releases,
so we're not responsible. We're OK."
- Death as "entertainment" in radio is nothing
new. A couple of years ago, DJs in Portland, OR named "Marconi"
and "Tiny" played an audio clip of the beheading of Nicolas
Berg, playing music and cracking jokes over Berg's screaming and gurgling.
The DJs and their producer were immediately fired. But just a few months
later, "Marconi" landed a job as an on-air personality at another
(considerably more popular) Portland FM station.
- Most Americans will express indignation when told of
these incidents. But few recognize that the sickness revealed in these
stories is a collective sickness driving our culture into oblivion. This
sickness, programmed into our brains as easily as a computer virus, is
our shared obsession with the inane, moronic, grotesque and murderous.
- This weekend, a billion people will froth and rage over
the outcome of a football game. The Super Bowl -- huzzah! You might think
that our national obsession with professional sports is a harmless diversion
from the stresses of life. I'm sorry, but this is wrong. It's a symptom
of a staggering pandemic that is destroying lives and creating the apocalypse.
- If you watch the Super Bowl, it's not a problem. But
it's a major problem if you have never once questioned why the Super Bowl
is important to you. No one is BORN enamored with the sight of steroid-
riddled maniacs tackling each other and running with a ball. In fact,
no one can articulate a rational basis for an emotional investment in
any sporting event. We only care about such inanities because we are following
a collective illusion created and fueled by the media-driven culture.
- This is not a small matter. Every problem -- yes, EVERY
problem -- afflicting human beings is the result of erroneous cultural
programming. Do you think that anyone was born a suicide bomber, a terrorist,
a "holy warrior," or a murderer? If you believe that, I have
a newsflash for you, you arrogant prick: If you were born in a particular
region of the world at a particular time and EVERY person around you --
including your mother, your father, your spiritual counselors, your government
officials, and media personalities -- taught you to HATE a certain type
of person (Jews, Muslims, Christians, the Irish, the British, whoever),
you could not have shrugged off the conditioning and chosen a different
path. You, like I, could have easily been made a suicide bomber, a terrorist,
a holy warrior, a murderer.
- I'm not saying that people who watch the Super Bowl are
the moral equivalent of murderers and terrorists. I'm saying that OVERWHELMINGLY,
we have no idea why we think the way we think or do the things we do.
Consider how many young women in the U.S. are afflicted with the eating
disorder anorexia nervosa. It cannot be a coincience that American media
endlessly parade underweight actresses and models and declare them "beautiful."
Such examples of cultural conditioning making people insane are overabundant,
yet almost no one ever questions the tenability of his own opinions and
- Buddha taught that the source of all human suffering
is ignorance, but we are not ignorant. We are stupid -- too stupid, in
fact, to even choose what is constructive and meaningful over what is
obviously destructive and meaningless. But this is not entirely our fault;
"beauty is truth and truth is beauty," and the truth is hard
to see when you are being pummeled by ugliness. American Ugliness is
everywhere and in everything. It's in our hopelessly dumbed down public
schools, churning out one increasingly diminished generation after another;
it's in our chemically laced air, water, food and soft drinks, poisoning
our bodies and damaging our brains; it's in our rancid and spiritually
vacuous media that market murder and sadism as entertainment; it's in
our bought and sold "elected" officials who make life and death
decisions based on their own financial interests, and for whom "truth"
is just a matter of semantics; it's in our economy, which is guided by
the principles of "win at all costs" and "screw everyone
but me"; it's in our corrupted religions, which have been usurped
by political extremists and completely robbed of all spiritual meaning;
and it's in the mostrously hideous "cookie-cutter" architecture
that makes up endless American suburbs.
- We are drowning in meaninglessness, but contrary to popular
belief, the source of life's meaning is not a well-kept secret. It is
well- established through human testimony, and even supported by medical
science, that happiness and contentment can be found in family, friendship,
community, and the intangible beauties of art, literature, music, poetry,
architecture, and nature. Likewise, the ingredients of a physically healthy
life -- essential for any life to have meaning -- are not at all mysterious.
Everyone knows that a diet rich in raw, organic produce and grains is
preferable to a diet of meat, sugar, white bread, and other heavily processed
foods. But both meaning and health remain elusive for many of us, because
we are immersed in a culture that is totally meaningless and totally destructive.
- The favored pastime of Americans is not reading or exercise
or any activity that could be defined as healthy or good. Most Americans
spend their free time watching TV, and this habit is handed down from
parents to their children. The problem is not just that excessive TV viewing
leads to a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, heart disease, a loss of social
skills and friendships, and a breakdown of familial communications. A
perhaps even greater problem is the totally grotesque and fallacious "paradigm"
promoted on the vast majority of television programs.
- For years, the most talked about television show in the
U.S has been American Idol, the "reality" program devoted to
awarding the winner of a singing competition. Of course, everyone knows
that the hallmark of the show is the supposedly "humorous" insults
dispersed by the Idol judges. The only "moral" one can take
from the show is that superficially "talented" people deserve
to be revered, while the supposedly less talented should be shit on and
humiliated. I guess kindness and humility are useless when fame and fortune
seem so much more exciting.
- Other TV shows are equally distorted and perverse, from
sitcoms (with their sheer vapidity and formulaic "humor"), to
wildly inaccurate and brutally violent crime dramas, to cable "news"
broadcasts that are little more than glorified versions of Entertainment
- Given the prevalence of TV watching in America, it is
no wonder that so many of us are lonely and depressed. Indeed, chronic
loneliness is becoming a serious health problem for millions of Americans.
We see emerging the paradox of increasingly pervasive electronic "communication,"
and terrible social isolation for many of us. Perhaps our imaginary friends
on the tube aren't such good company after all.
- It is clear that meaning cannot be found in mainstream
American culture. In fact, meaning can only be found through the conscious
RESISTANCE of virtually every value and lifestyle trend that the culture
promotes. To do this, one must first acknowledge that most if not all
of his opinions and values might be completely invalid. Like it or not,
ALL of us are the products of cultural conditioning. This recognition
can be terrifying, but it is the first and most critical step toward freedom
- Take a moment and consider anything in your life that
seems to cause you pain. Say, for instance, you are troubled by an unrequited
love interest or the loss of a romantic relationship. Of course, this
feels terrible, but consider the pervasive cultural influences that have
PROGRAMMED you to believe that sex and romance are the be-all-end-all
of human existence. For your entire life, you have been bombarded by emotional
propaganda, including sentimental pop songs, Hollywood movies, romance
novels, and sexualized media, all promoting the idea that you will never
be happy unless you find your "one true love." If you are honest
with yourself, you'll see that your unhappiness is less the result of
a tragic event, and more an effect of cultural conditioning.
- We will never find meaning without the courage to confront
our programmed beliefs. I am not overstating when I say that WE MUST DO
THIS NOW TO SAVE OUR OWN LIVES. Without meaning, human life is reduced
to a futile search for random titillation. Those who know no meaning are
a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Meaning IS available
at every moment to everyone, but it does not exist in the world "out
there." It can only be discovered through a conscientious journey
into the vast and unknown depths of one's own heart.
- This prospect does not trouble me, nor should it trouble
you. To quote Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket: "I am in a world
of shit, yes. But I am alive, and I am not afraid."