"We were vain and ignorant nor knew
that when we stabbed thy heart
it was our own real hearts we slew." -- Oscar Wilde
It's interesting when ideas that have been floating around in the ether and in your head start to pop up in the collective conversation. I read with great interest this morning Arianna's blog post, "Shakespeare, The Bible, and America's shift into a Punitive Society." First, I loved the whole idea of "be caught trying," which is so indicative of our times -- in these crucial times -- of far too much: moving around the pieces on the board but getting nowhere. Of 'looking busy' and doing nothing. To satisfy what? Our opinion of these people, or is it to further lull us into a false sense of security that at least someone is "trying?" In these days, we can no longer afford to play any more performances of the "Emperor's New Clothes" the truth is, those in power are completely naked and the question is -- now, what are they going to do... keep pretending no one can really see them? To me the real tragedy in the whole idea of 'be caught trying' is the willingness to care more about 'how things look' than the truth of where we stand, and what we are really doing, or not doing, about it. There are too many lives and families and futures at stake. Without an action of care and compassion we will continue to be a soul-sick nation, that will continue to deteriorate. For God's sake, what else is it going to take? How much more bad news in every aspect of our life, in every corner of the world? Our global fever is spiking -- and I'm not just talking about global warming.
Which brings me to part in her blog about the prevailing 'punitive' attitude she brings up. That, in particular, is the idea that has been bubbling up to the surface as of late and it is definitely worth exploring as we all take a good, hard look at what our personal attitude is in that regard, and also what it might be in the psyche of those we are continually electing into power. If you haven't seen Lauren Zalaznick's TED talk on, "The Conscience of Television" watch it. It's fascinating to me -- a TV baby -- how television tells part of the story of my life. How I felt, what I thought... influencing me all along the way. By the time I was old enough to pick up a remote, I was hooked, and there is no doubt that television tells the story of our conscience as a whole, both influencing AND reflecting.
When Lauren got to the part of her talk where she gets into the era where "humor" is replaced by "judgment" in her charts... I was transfixed. For a long time it has been niggling at me as to what it is we like so much about reality shows. Watching with glee other people fight and fall and fail and reveal their basest selves. I figured it had to do with the pleasure we seem to derive, especially when we are down -- collectively or individually -- from watching others struggle. But what I hadn't taken into consideration was the judgment aspect of "voting" someone in or out, or off the island, the power hungry saliva dripping from our mouths as we control the outcome. That observation is brilliant and so very true. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, when asked about all the misinformation being spread about her, she responded with a philosophical quote in Latin, "mors tua vita mea est" which translates, "your death is my life." Somehow, we win if they lose. Or in Jackie's words -- if they die, SO THAT WE might live.
The thought had already jokingly crossed my mind (but maybe it's more of a reality than I can imagine) that we just might have a new show in the not to distant future where a simple thumbs up or down -- throws someone to the lions. And we all watch from the comfort of our living rooms. And cheer, just like in the old days. And what I'm most afraid of is that we'll like it too much. Arianna's blog reminded me of another parable from the bible, this one from Jesus. Basically Jesus tells the story of man who owes a great deal of money to a very important wealthy man. He goes before this man and falls at his feet crying for mercy as he does not have the money to pay him back. The man takes pity on him, and forgives him his debt. Shortly thereafter this very same, freshly forgiven debtor comes across a man who owes him money -- a much smaller debt mind you -- who begs him for a shred of grace -- and he shows him no mercy at all, insisting he pay him back every penny. It's very clear that this is a sure-fire way to get on Jesus' bad side, clearly he does not dig this side of our human nature at all. Well, it's thousands of years later, and, as many are pointing out, these huge companies that have gotten massive bail-outs are too often unwilling to show any mercy themselves. Our ruthlessness and greed are destroying us. I think we all need to wrestle with these ideas and about how we can assure a more equitable and evolved way of treating one another as human beings. And it might not be a bad idea to continually check our own taste for blood.