Thursday, April 12, 2007

I need a hero!

I’m in mourning today. All of America should be. Kurt Vonnegut died, at the age of 84. Vonnegut was brilliant. Sharp, biting, his satirical novels and short stories carved him a place in American pop culture, a culture he mocked. Slaughterhouse-Five is his best known work, but I remember him most for having the guts to go his own way, not give a damn what anyone else thought and shock people, not to be popular, but to make them sit up and pay attention to what’s going on in the world. To think for themselves for a change.

An iconoclast who was a POW during WWII, (you know, the big one?), he was against censorship, was for saving the planet (he once suggested writing on the wall of the Grand Canyon, "we probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," as a message to aliens who might landed there) and soul-growing society through diffuse art to block the increasing numbing of America through TV.

We need more folk heroes like Vonnegut. Folk heroes who stand for intelligent debate, shock us with their brilliant wit and crude humor and make us think for a change. Instead, we have shock jocks whose main goal is to increase their ratings and in the process, say cruel and racist things. I seriously doubt Vonnegut would have called the Rutgers female basketball players, “nappy-headed hos.”

The whole Imus debacle makes me wonder about the so-called dumbing down of America. A few months ago, Dh and I rented Idiocracy. The flick (Ethan Cohen co-wrote it with Mike Judge) was hilarious, and disturbing. It’s about the true dumbing down of America. In the movie, (spoiler alert!!) people in present-day America are intelligent and evolved. In the future, they’re dumber than shit. Honestly. That’s the only way to describe it. The mega corporation Brawndo manufactures a sports drink that people use for everything, from flushing their toilets to irrigating their crops, which is causing a food shortage and they don’t know WHY the crops won’t grow. The Brawndo advertising slogan is recited like we used to mumble Sunday School cathechism.

The movie left me disturbed because although it’s satire, you can see flecks of it here and there in today’s society. When American Idol is the number one show, and newspapers are struggling to breathe (look at the Tribune take-over, I have friends who work for Tribune papers) and people are more concerned with what happens to Anna Nicole’s rotting corpse than anything else, will Idocracy become our future? Are we becoming more passive as a nation, nodding like those head bobble dolls at everything thrown at us?

I sometimes wonder if it’s because we’re trying to do too much, cram too much, work too much, play too much and at the end of the day, we’re so freaking tired that shows like American Idol are all we can stand. I work at an emotionally draining day job. I also write romance novels at night. There's bills to pay, family health problems, birthdays, dogs to care for, you name it and I have two more books due this year. And sometimes I’m so exhausted all I want is mindless entertainment.

I too, am in danger of becoming a bobble doll. It’s times like that when I need a good kick in the brain and remind myself make the effort to reach for something better. It’s times like that when I find myself weeping for the demise of brilliance like Vonnegut. We need more folk heroes like him.


FerfeLaBat said...

I loved Vonnegut, but ... if you really dig deep into his work you'd see that he felt intelligence was wasted on humans. Which is why I loved Vonnegut.

Jen said...

R.I.P., Kurt Vonnegut. I admit I haven't read him, but I've heard of him, and what you've said about him makes him sound like my kind of guy. And I've felt similarly about the dumbing down of America.

I feel dumber than I used to be, in some ways, and admittedly, I was raised on TV. I think I've gotten some good things from TV, but it also has resulted in a lot of bad habits. I keep the TV on as "background noise," because I'm used to it, and it seems weird with it off in the daytime.

I have always been drawn to the talk shows that discussed more than the stuff you see on Jerry Springer (not that I didn't watch JS, but I haven't watched in years). I like some "for fun" topics, but for the most part, I like stories about violations of privacy, women's issues and other important things. I think that's saved me a bit from losing more of my intelligence.

I find American Idol boring. I did watch a couple of seasons, but I wasn't that into it. I think people who seek fame should work for it, the same as everyone else who's dreamed of being a star. Granted, not everyone has had to really work for it--some just got lucky--and there are people on AI who have genuinely been working towards their dream all along, but AI is like a game show, and even if you don't win the top prize, you can get famous.

I get so irritated at people who just don't care about things I feel are important, like animal suffering and hard-working people getting the shaft. Admittedly, there are issues others feel I should care about, but I feel overwhelmed by all the things that are important in this world, and I need to limit what I get involved in. But some of the things people are important are meaningless and even stupid. Some people won't talk about things because there's an "ick" factor for them, or they want to put their heads in the sand.

Vonnegut had a good idea with that Grand Canyon thing.

Bonnie Vanak said...

Ferfe, Vonnegut was someone who wasn't afraid to say what he thought, but what he had to say made YOU think. We need more like him.

Jen, keep caring about the things important to you. Because they ARE important!