Man vs. Past

31 01 2008

New York City cabs, those of the autumnal revolts, have this ostensibly value-added back-of-front-seat TV system — the very thing that caused the revolt because it hosts a GPS system and allows credit-card payment in the cabs. Well, this TV channel (NY10) alters its programming with the frequency of Puritan orgies.

So, we get to watch quality NBC-backed drivel, heading uptown, downtown, crosstown, moving quickly, slowly and stopped and backwards. Lately, the TV’s been playing promos for the new series ‘Lipstick Jungle,’ starring Brooke Shields and two other eye nuggets as executives doing something empowering and then whining.   

It struck me that this animalistic, primal view of mankind is assuming a far more prominent stance in pop culture. That we’ve given up this stance of superiority to our fellow earth-creatures and accepted that we’re still tied to our primal roots through urges that we can’t seem to shake.

A co-worker of mine says that nothing’s changed, that any change that we see is just an apparition. He claims that because racism, sexism, they all still exist in society, it’s proof that nothing changes, we just find ways to cover it. Now, I don’t necessarily agree: slavery’s over, the gap in lifetime earnings between men and women is thinning, everybody can vote, etc. Things can change without changing completely — there’s a vast gray area in which change can articulate itself.

But what he’s saying does ring true to some degree.

Humans, evolved as we are and conscious of that evolution, spent the early part of modern history sure they were a higher, more noble species. Made on the Sixth Day, et cetera. The Church barbecued people for saying otherwise; God wouldn’t go out of his way to save a deer as much as he would to save Brother Monkolius, right?

But as science has won a greater footing, it’s undermined those assumptions. Obviously, Darwinism makes us more cognizant of our link to the past.

Now, we seem to be interested in retracing our steps on the evolutionary ladder, in distilling out those primal urges and proving to people that if human beings are at all special, it’s only for a tremendous cowardice and grand delusion. (Other things I don’t agree with) The new message is that if there’s anything that differentiates humans from their less evolved ancestors, it’s the capacity for deception and destruction.

Shows like Lipstick Jungle, Kid Nation, The Moment of Truth, Survivor, Cashmere Mafia, Desperate Housewives all seek through a variety of means to reduce people to their vile/embarrassing essences (even Kid Nation, that rancid example of exploitative faux-reality).

Is this what we’re in for now? Are we going to see shows cropping up in which every episode, a man and a chimp are asked to make different decisions and we get to vote on which one was more moral? That would be sweet.

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5 responses

31 01 2008
Drew

you honestly think slavery is over…don’t be so naive.

31 01 2008
Justin

Alone among the animals, [man] is dowered with the capacity to invent imaginary worlds, and he is always making himself unhappy by trying to move into them. Thus he underrates the world in which he actually lives, and so misses most of the fun that is in it. That world, I am convinced, could be materially improved, but even as it stands it is good enough to keep any reasonable man entertained for a lifetime. As for me, I roll out of my couch every morning with the most agreeable expectations. In the morning paper there is always massive and exhilarating evidence that the human race, despite its ages-long effort to imitate the seraphim, is still doomed to be irrevocably human, and in my morning mail I always get soothing proof that there are men left who are even worse asses than I am.

Henry Mencken
From Living Philosophies [1931, ed. by Will Durant], p.180

31 01 2008
Justin

Oh…and those animals are probably just as evolved as we are–they have evolved into something else.

The rats and cockroaches will succeed us.

But then again, what sort of jerk bets against his own team? It seems natural for a species to value itself over any other–it’s just that the hungry lion cannot be troubled by ideas of morality when he kills. Call it vile/embarrassing, but it is what it is.

31 01 2008
Scheity

Yanders, I’ve come to expect more from your responses than that.

As for Justin, a well-executed tandem.

2 02 2008
Drew

if you think i’m lying, here’s a study conducted by a berkley non-profit released a couple of years ago: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/forcedlabor/8/ and a news announcement about it: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/09/23_16691.shtml

lets also not forget that many, if not a majority, of the goods coming into America from China are slave-made.

Throughout history there has always been an elite class of people that have looked down upon the masses of society as nothing more than animals that need to be conditioned. In countries such as China as I just mentioned, it is ostensibly worse. It occurs in America as well, just not as conspicuous. TV shows, like the ones you refer to, remind us of how alone we should feel and that to succeed we need to defeat the person next to us. Reality TV is systematically destroying the idea of common strength we can generate as a group. If we are told that we are no better than animals, ignorance is cool, life-long debt is not a problem and education is waste of time, then elite class of people who control our society are making us there modern day slaves. We are beginning to live in a world not a whole lot unlike the medieval feudal system. We are all post-modern serfs.

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