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September 05, 2012

Speaking of Porn

The "Keepin' the Dream" calendar.

January's photo:

photo (12)

August's creepy blasphemy:

photo (13)

This actually does have to do with porn. Celebrity porn, I mean. A horrible Spectator Culture in which people spend far too much time thinking about their New Gods -- the gods of celebrity culture -- rather than their own lives.

I know this is going to be an intensely divisive thing to say but this is what really repels me about the Obama worship -- and the Same But Different worship of Ron Paul and, forgive me, Sarah Palin.

I don't say that every Ron Paul fan or every Sarah Palin fan has something they should be ashamed of. Promoting people we like -- especially if there's a political component to it, in as much as a politician you like could, in theory, advance your own political aspirations -- is normal and has been going on for as long as there's been a thing called "politics."

But there is, with these three figures particularly, sometimes a line that is crossed which I find both creepy and sad. When mere positive regard crosses over into an intense concern not about the figure's ability to advance one's own political agenda, but into primarily concern that that figure's life be as awesome as possible. When rooting for a politician ceases to be a rooting for one's own self interest -- in as much as a politician on the same wavelength will probably advance one's own interests -- and morphs into simply rooting for that politician himself.

My enjoyment of football declined rapidly when I felt silly about it-- when I realized I was, basically, rooting for millionaire sports-heroes, whose lives were already pretty awesome, to become even more awesome by winning that Super Bowl ring.

What's in it for me? How does my life improve if Eli Manning is finally recognized as among the true elite in the sport?

I'm pretty sure Eli Manning isn't going to begin his pre-game meditation tonight by thinking about me.

Identification with an athlete, celebrity, or politician is normal and probably unavoidable. But I do believe that it must be kept in check. There are people in one's life one is perfectly justified in rooting and praying for -- parents, children, spouse, close friends.

But Millionaire Strangers ought not be on that list. To the extent that Barack Obama matters, he should only matter as an avatar for policy changes and governance. To invest His Personhood with near-deity levels of worship is just wrong. It's an abasement of the self in favor of, essentially, rooting for Apollo to finally thwart his brother Ares.

When Obama came on the scene, the media called him an "aspirational figure." I already had a lot of problems with that formulation -- the first of which is that Obama didn't seem particularly accomplished to me. When selecting an "aspirational figure" -- a figure to aspire towards, a role model, a personal hero -- I imagined that the criteria should be stiffer than "graduated from law school" and "served as a little-noticed senator."

Still, at least if one is setting a figure up as a lodestone and attempting to better oneself by emulating that figure, that is normal and that has been going on for millennia.

But when the Self is wholly absent from this -- when the aspirational figure stops being a role model to aspire to (thus resulting in tangible betterment of the individual) and simply becomes someone to root for, like a Champion or, at worse, an actual Living God -- something is very wrong.

If an intense emotional connection to a figure cannot be explained by a self-interested justification -- i.e., "What I get in return for supporting this figure" -- then it seems to me that that emotional connection is being misdirected from the objects it should naturally attach -- spouse, children, parents, close friends, God, church. And yes, even Self.

It seems to turn natural sympathies and affiliations on their heads in favor of an attachment to a remote stranger.

Which seems to me to be quite poisonous to the spirit and the sense of self. We should each endeavor to be the Stars of our own lives. We should not make anyone -- not athletes, not presidents, not politicians, and for god's sakes not mere celebrities -- the Stars of our very own lives, the only lives we'll ever have.

Interactions with Strangers ought to be transactional. I do this for you, you do this for me. The urge towards protectiveness and benevolence for the sake of benevolence should be limited to family, friends, self, and God, and actual charity cases. When the element of the transactional disappears from a relationship with a stranger -- when it becomes one-sided, just loving on a remote figure -- something's gone wrong.

This to me is the Spectator Culture-- an almost sci-fi dystopia in which otherwise rational people trade away their own selves to root and cheer for Larger Than Life Avatars. Emotional energy is directed not towards useful purposes in one's own life, or for the benefit of the natural objects of one's intense affections, but towards simply rooting and cheering for pretty faces on gigantic television screens. As a hundred sci-fi stories and futurism articles have punned -- Circuits Maximus.

It is beyond question that the worst of this misdirection of the heart involves one Barack Hussein Obama. But the Spectator Culture is poisonous to the self in whatever form it takes.

From "Looker." A movie I've mentioned I like a whole heck of a lot.

Here's James Coburn as "John Reston," explaining his plan to manipulate people through the power of TV.

Television can control public opinion more effectively than armies of secret police, because television is entirely voluntary. The American government forces our children to attend school, but nobody forces them to watch T.V. Americans of all ages *submit* to television. Television is the American ideal. Persuasion without coercion. Nobody makes us watch. Who could have predicted that a *free* people would voluntarily spend one fifth of their lives sitting in front of a *box* with pictures? Fifteen years sitting in prison is punishment. But 15 years sitting in front of a television set is entertainment. And the average American now spends more than one and a half years of his life just watching television commercials. Fifty minutes, every day of his life, watching commercials. Now, that's power.

And yet the Internet has displaced TV as the king of Time Suck. Especially porn.

Just something to watch out for, is all.

This is my own personal thing-- I'm talking mostly to myself here, trying to lecture myself. What I'm trying to tell myself is that when you spend so much times seeking distractions from life you wind up with a lot of distractions and only a little bit of life.


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posted by Ace at 04:26 PM

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