Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Decline of Civilization, Part II

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers--"Room At The Top" (mp3)
Lisa Germano--"All Around The World" (mp3)

There's a great scene in the movie, Being There, where a randy Shirley McLaine is so turned on by Peter Seller's character that she completely misinterprets him. She's trying to get him into bed, but he is a simpleton, a gardner working at the White House, who has been mistaken as a genius of few words, and whose few words are dictating national policy. Shirley McLaine's character, of course, is intoxicated by the apparent power Sellers' Chauncy Gardner has. All Chauncy Gardner really likes to do, though, is to watch tv. And so, when he declares, in response to her advances and while staring at the television, "I like to watch, Eve," she takes this as a sexual preference of his and masturbates in front of him, to her own satisfaction, while he continues to watch tv.

Here's what most people like to do: watch.

That's it.

Far be it from me to extrapolate from the small, small sample of this blog, but I do think I notice a pattern that the more provocative a post Billy or I put up, the less likely it is to get a response. I can almost picture people squirming in their chairs. Does he really believe that?

I'm also basing this opinion on work and fantasy football message boards and everything else that leaves me convinced that's what people like to do (and not do). They like to watch to see what others will do or say. They'd rather hear an impersonation than try one. They'd rather acknowledge someone else's letter to the editor than write one. They like to stay out of the spotlight. They like to see and to report on the train wreck, but they don't want to be on the train. Oddly, it's not only a safe position, but it also can put them completely in the center, maybe moreso than the actors themselves. They can make an entire social career out of relating the crazy things that other people have done.

In this political season, however, there is an enlarged subset, and that is those who bravely speak their mind on the "comments" section below various political blogs, using clever nicknames. Using the moniker "Thomas Paine" or "flowergurl," one can safely say the most outrageous or offensive or ridiculous things and all that will come back in return will be attacks against a false front. I doubt any of these pseudonymed posters ever even go back to see what others have said in response. It's guerilla warfare for the timid. I guess the authors of the Federalist Papers knew what they were doing, eh?

Still, I'm saddened to see so many of my countrymen sidelined in ways large and small. And I, unfortunately, share their passive fear and inactivity. Consider the brilliant challenge, "What issue or situation would it take to get you out in the street protesting?" I am as befuddled as everyone else while searching for an answer. Sometimes I feel all high and mighty because I don't waste as much time watching television as most other people I know, but I'm not sure I can claim anything better.

Let's face it. We live in a time when "putting ourselves out there" is just too great a risk. This is a problem in everything from relationships to blogs to message boards. And those are situations involving friends and intimates. God forbid we should be that person standing on the corner of Georgia and 3rd holding an Obama sign and waving at passing cars and showing our positions for all the world to see. No, we're the ones in the cars that pass, and maybe if we don't recognize anyone around us, we'll honk in support. But mostly, we just like to watch.

"Room At The Top" is from the Tom Petty cd, Echo, and "Around The World" is from the Lisa Germano cd, Happiness. Both are availabe at Itunes.


Jed said...

But think of everything that Chauncy caused to happen by watching and saying very little.

John said...

Is this your way of throwing down the gauntlet, cause if it is, I'll try to pick it up with a guest blog soon.

Bob said...

Blog me, baby!

Jarrod Myrick said...

i was on a message board with hardened horseracing handicappers for
almost two years until this june or july--we got into some knockdown dragouts but nothing like a true flame war until obama began to look like he had such a good chance.

masks slipped. around the same time on another board i'm on--a war and peace board--i'm one of maybe five or six libs--it started getting rough.

then i found this piece from polisci researcher at institute for
advanced study in wapo recommending
all peanut gallery opinion be labeled with full legal name--changed game for me. feel much more willing to throw whatever
comes to mind i feel's relevant wherever. danielle allen:


how ugly's it gettin for phil down there?