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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Living in the Moment

I've mentioned before that we have this natural tendency to think that all things have been as they are today. Oh, not all things, perhaps. We know of improvements. We wisely eliminated laws that prevented interracial marriage. That sort of thing. But, for the most part, the way people are today is the way they have always been. You can see this in movies. A war movie made during the 40's does not have the same sense as a war movie made during the 60's and 70's. The former offers stirring patriotism and unswerving respect for the fighting man. The latter offers cynical disgust for the fighter and expects constant evil from anyone involved. Movies made in the earlier decades of the art reflected good and evil and honored good and despised evil while movies made today blur good and evil and make you wonder if there is such a thing. A western made in the decade of the 50's with its attendant 50's morality won't reflect the same kind of cowboy that a western made in the 90's. Interestingly, if you take a movie like Eastwood's 1992 western, Unforgiven, the characters have adopted the same moral codes of the 1990's along with their use of modern obscenity. The viewpoint is clearly, "If this is the way we are, this is the way we have always been."

This is a shortsighted perspective. Even without subscribing to Darwin's "Evolution", societies evolve, cultures shift, and ethics change. Suggesting that it has ever been thus would simply be foolish. And surely, when the whole question is asked, "Are you saying that it has ever been thus?", we would give it a thought and realize that we know better. So what should we do?

We live in a media-driven world. Our political views are largely sound bites. Our news is mostly comprised of paragraph-long stories in rapid fire delivery. We are not allowed a long view or the opportunity to examine all the data and come to a well-thought-out conclusion. We live in the now. We live in the moment. We need to reconsider.

Our current mode of living is primarily the snapshot rather than the video. We see scenes of life and draw conclusions from them rather than watching the entire video and getting the flavor and panorama of the situation. We operate largely on the instant rather than the long term. We want sound bite rather than context.

This doesn't work very well. It doesn't offer a view of reality, but rather the carefully scripted vision of the horse with blinders. We're told where to look and what to see and naturally draw conclusions based on that narrow vision. It might be politics. It happens both on the liberal and the conservative sides, both from the Democrats and the Republicans, both from the New York Times and Fox News. They're all telling us, "Look here!" without allowing us a view of all sides. But it's not merely politics. Oh, it is surely politics, but not merely politics. It is in economics and religion, science and medicine, psychology and morality. We all are being told "Look here and don't look there." We're all fed snapshots without seeing the videos. We're all eating up the sound bites while starving from the nutrition of the full story. We're all under the impression that "What is now has always been", not because it's true or even vaguely true, but because we don't think about it. That, in fact, is the problem, isn't it? We don't think about it. We're just "living in the moment". That's touted as a good thing. I'm not so sure it is.


Anonymous said...

“ They're all telling us, ‘Look here!’ without allowing us a view of all sides.”

The Chinese, and maybe the Koreans too, make it known to the Japanese now and then that they ought not withhold from their history classes the atrocities committed on the continent by the Japanese leading up to World War II. Lately I’ve been stretching my mind back to my school days to try to remember if many of the negatives of my own country got much mention in history class. I remember these were discussed:

Jim Crow laws
Women’s lack of a right to vote
Teapot Dome scandal
Forced settlement of Native Americans
Tammany Hall political corruption

So all in all I would say public education in the USA does a reasonable job of not covering up the warts. By now Watergate is surely being discussed—it was a current event in my day. The regrettable dishonesty of the US military regarding Pat Tillman’s death maybe should be brought up in class as well, I don’t know. Last night at the Costco next to Scottsdale Airport I bought a book titled ‘Profiles in Folly’ which ought to fill in some gaps in my knowledge of said warts.

Stan said...

Depends on where you hear it. I remember many of my history classes gave me glowing reports of American history. Then came the high school history class that assured me that nothing at all about America was worth keeping. Still seems like we're going to get the prejudice of the speaker rather than all sides.

Marshall Art said...

This is true. To speak of our shortcomings as a nation is not out of bounds. But to focus on them as the beginning and end of our history should be. I would say the same for focusing ONLY on the good.

The Tillman story, while regrettable to say the least, is really insignificant in the grand scope of American history.

As to movies, I agree to some extent. Old movies, many of which I really love, often smooth over rough spots. At the same time, graphic depictions of gunshot wounds and bad language are often overdone.

I remember Deadwood on HBO. I thought it was an enjoyable series, but I couldn't help but wonder just how many of the many profanities were in use at the time. The same with the Spartacus series on Starz, which, while also enjoyable, seems to go out of its way to include obscene language and sexually graphic scenes. Yeah, I get it. It was a decadent time. Enough already! And do we need a homosexual subplot every season? I don't think so.

Finally, I LOVED Unforgiven!

Stan said...

I choose, out of my magnanimous heart, to forgive you for loving Unforgiven.

Dan Trabue said...

I remember Deadwood on HBO. I thought it was an enjoyable series, but I couldn't help but wonder just how many of the many profanities were in use at the time.

Just as a funny aside, I heard that the Deadwood producers really wanted to stick to reality and have faithful reproduction of the language of the day, but when it came to cursing, some of the common cursing of the day (and it really was offensive then) were "consarn it!" and "what in tarnation?!" and "dagnabit!" and they were using this language, but the actors ended up sounding like Yosemite Sam, so they went ahead and substituted modern cuss word instead.

Don't know if that's true, it's just something I heard, but thought it was funny.

Stan said...


I looked it up. While some of today's words were around, they had very little of the same language then as now. "Blamed" was a euphemism for "damned". ("That blamed idiot!") Polite people referred to chicken bosoms because "breast" was not used in polite company. "Blazes" referenced hell or the devil. ("Well, then, you can go to blazes!") "Cussed" meant "cursed" and was a popular swear word in those days. ("You're a cussed fool!") "Dad" referenced God, so that "dad-blamed" ... well, you can put the two together and see what was intended. The "F" word was actually used back then, but never in public, never in print, and always as a reference to a sex act (as opposed to its common usage today as just about any part of speech you wish ... and that without meaning). While the use of taboo words has always existed, the words have changed even if today's world thinks otherwise.