Notes On Popular Culture

I just read the following headline: “11 things we learned from Harry and Meghan’s explosive interview.”

I have been inundated with headlines about this alleged interview between the quasi-royal nobodies for days now, and I have yet to see a single one that did not refer to the alleged interview as “explosive” or a “bombshell.” Could Oprah Winfrey, the onion-peeling billionaire queen of schmaltzy self-help whining, ever do anything explosive? (No obesity jokes please — that’s too obvious, so you score zero points for those.)

Secondly, and more to the point, I note how cheap knowledge apparently comes in this age of nihilistic relativism. I sincerely doubt that Harry Pothead of Windsor and Meghan “The Hollywood Wife” Markle know eleven things between them, let alone that they would be able to share any of them in an alleged interview with Oprah. I would be hard-pressed to name ten books in the history of philosophy from which we could reasonably claim to have learned eleven truths. And yet here are two self-promoting huckster celebrities supposedly teaching us more “things” than we can learn from Hegel’s Phenomenology. That must have been some alleged interview with the onion-peeling billionaire queen of schmaltzy self-help whining!

It is common today, ubiquitous in fact, for people to define their romantic relationships — new, ongoing, or broken — by way of sentimental association with pop songs. That is exactly the same as identifying or expressing your feelings and attachments through Hallmark greeting cards, except with the superadded distortion of artificial nostalgia. Trivial, mass-produced, profit-seeking sentimentality has become the tone-setter and “inspiration” of most loves and lives in our time. Is it any wonder that serial breakups, chronic immaturity, and general moral numbness have become the emotional pandemic of late modern man? There is always a new song to sing along to, a new “overwhelming desire” (i.e., ephemeral craving) to gratify, a new urge to wallow in the self-indulgent wistfulness or bitterness of a “lost love.” The world of modern relationships is peopled with so many bad actors playing minor roles in formulaic music videos they produce all day long in their own imaginations.

It is awards season again in America, that time of year when millions of people who pretend they are too cool to care about anything but themselves suddenly reveal their desperate emptiness by drooling over the ersatz glamour of a few dozen vulgar pop singers and B-movie actors. Today, the United States of America is “recovering” from five years of watching half of its electorate sell its soul to a moron’s personality cult by delivering itself wholesale into a quick-hardening clay of neo-Marxist soft despotism. But that does not stop America’s “too cool” population from caring deeply about pop singers and B actors — because in truth, all self-delusion aside, such enslavement to superficiality and idol worship is the very essence of “coolness.” To be cool is nothing but to live in a continuous fantasy of looking like someone else. What could be more slavish than that?

After all the theoretical examination and historical analysis, America’s fate, its sad final outcome, may be summarized this simply: She never outgrew her teenage pin-up idols and her pubescent need to be liked by the in-crowd. She never reached adulthood, and was therefore susceptible to moral manipulation and compromising exploitation as only an insecure teenager can be.

A final word for the rest of the world: Do not revel in this assessment of America’s demise, or worse yet gloat over it. For all her insurmountable immaturity and fatal weakness, she began with a better chance to grow up straight than any of the rest of us in the modern world; and truth be told, she advanced a little closer to mature adulthood than any of her peers. Her fall holds a lesson for the rest of the world, but it is by no means a comforting lesson.

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