Pausing the Reality Show


?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I stumbled upon on Seth Godin’s blog today. Reality is not a show. He blames what he calls the “punditocracy” for turning life into a game and issues into drama “with winners and losers, villains and heroes and most of all, black and white issues” for their own profit.

From politics to natural disasters and even things like poverty and technology, everything is presented or spun into an “us and against them” reality show, suggests Godin.

Polarization is big business. Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and others on both sides of the ideological divide are pundit business machines. Certainly the liberal gamesters have been a little slower to capitalize on the opportunities that black and white buffoonery provides, but they are coming around. It seems we are becoming more polarized as a society, if politics is any indicator. Has the aisle between the two political parties ever been wider?

At the same time, we do not seem to need much political urging or pontifical force to line up like solders on one side or the other on the issues of the day. The Treyvon Martin case is a prime example. The ink was not dry on the presses when people began to convict or exonerate George Zimmerman in a flood of pontification. Social media allows us to declare our stances almost instantaneously on any issue, national or local. Innocent until proven guilty lost this game, as it usually seems to do in these dramas. Letting the wheels of justice do their things does not seem to fit comfortably into our thought processes.

Android phones must be better than iPhones, or iPhones must be better than Android phones. We do not seem to tolerate uncertainty or inbetweens. Why is that?

Ironically, we hold up tolerance as the ideal to which polite and learned people aspire (or at least that is the standard that we demand of those who disagree with us).

I wonder if we have lost the ability to concentrate on anything long enough to reserve judgment.

I remember watching MTV when it was still Music Television and feeling perplexed by the rapidly changing images in every music video. I could not latch on to anything. It moved too fast. Those music videos of the ’90’s seemed to be a reflection of the way society was going at the time, and continues to go. I am not sure that is the way we want it. Or is that just the way “the media” wants to package it to us? Politicians give us “sound bites” and phrases. Social media allows us to communicate in snippets with Twitter as the extreme example. Email has replaced letters, and texting is preferred to email. Each evolution in technology is tending toward shorter, more truncated, communication.

I think these things are related to the polarization of our society. We are somewhat like lemmings in this reality show life (not that lemmings are anything like what we have been told). We do not want to dwell for long in between; we want to rush to our destination, decision, judgment, adulthood. Maybe that is a reaction to the speed at which information and life comes at us. Maybe it is because we have lost the ability to focus and to hold things in tension.

We act as if each of us is the captain of our own certainty, and we dare not lose grasp of it. In our lives today, every silence is filled with sound, every pause is a transition, every moment is filled with activity. We must latch onto judgment lest we be carried away and lost in the dizzy array of thoughts, images and information whizzing past us like the strobe light scenes of an MTV video.

In this tendency to gravitate quickly to the poles, we lose compassion, understanding and relation. We are drawn into the game and lose the nuance of real-life difficult decisions. In Seth Godin’s words, we “turn pathos into ratings” and make just about everyone “the other”. I am afraid in this process we are losing the sticky interconnectedness that binds us all together in this journey called life. Seth suggests that Facebook “likes” should be replaced with hugs – a little human relation to bridge our different perceptions and viewpoints.

In reality, we are all winners and losers, good guys and bad guys. People are complex. We are not easily reducible to a black/white images. We do ourselves, our neighbors and our world an injustice when we rush to conclusions and judgments. We need space in our existence. We need stillness in our lives. We need to let things percolate in the inbetweens.

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