Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What We Must Sometimes Do For Money

It's not that it's not important to catalogue all the strange things that arise in our culture that contest our life-giving Christian teachings. Nor is it the case that journalism is easy, small-minded, unintelligent,  not respectable. Yet every now and then I am assigned a story that just humiliates me.

Picture it. I have spent a decade-and-a-half in university, acquiring four degrees. I have written thousands of pages on difficult things; read tens, probably hundreds, of thousands of pages on difficult things; devoted so much time thinking my way through the problem of coordinating an ancient faith with the contemporary world, and so on. And today I have to write about a cartoon character that is gay.

I have to write about a series of sketches timed to appear with an audio track (that is what a cartoon character is) that is to be spoken of under the appellation 'gay.' In fact, the sketches are of a Viking who is 'gay.'

The culture war comes in by the fact that this is a children's movie which - depending upon which side of the fence you sit - is either going to corrupt or enlighten our children through normalizing homosexuality. Considering the sociological and ethical ramifications of such things on a culture is worthy of an intellectual's attention, certainly, but you can't get into that kind of thing in a 500-word news article. The point of journalism, I am told, is simply to record things for people to draw their own conclusions. But this doesn't change the fact that I have to write about a cartoon character from a movie that I would never watch regardless, because I am 39 and stupid cartoon movies hold no interest for me.

Additionally, I am a 39-year-old intellectual who likes to think about spiritual and philosophical matters, not talking dragons and singing Vikings, or whatever the case may be. It's not that cartoons are the problem per se - I would throw in the humiliating category every movie made with Sarah Jessica Parker in it. But, and rightly so, children's cartoons are not interesting to me.

I am not wrong to feel this way. My hero, St. Augustine, condemned such trivial pursuits as going to the shows, plays and contests of the amphitheater; all the philosophers recommended a life devoted to serious thought. I try not to waste too much time. I am not the most serious-minded person on God's green earth. I like watching TV, more than I ought. But I have limits. Not even at 16 would I condescend to watch Beverley Hills 90210, for instance; the idea of the Kardashians and Jersey Shore enrages me, even though I have no idea what these shows are actually about. Though I think I can figure out their essential premises.

But as I age, and I hope, get more serious - in the Pauline sense of the word (cf. 1 Thess 4:11, 5:6) - our culture becomes less and less so. There is something seriously disturbing about - and I hesitate to use the phrase because Al Gore stole it and put it to an inauthentic use - our society's 'assault on reason.' I would use Benedict's 'dictatorship of relativism' here, but because it is an expression so familiar to many of you, you might not be apt to think about what it really means... Perhaps Nietzsche put it best when he opposed the Apollonian and Dionysian perspectives. (There is a phrase, 'Age of Aquarius', which I think means what N. meant by Dionysian, but I am not 100% certain about this.) In a nutshell, N. associated the rationalistic perspective of Socrates with the god of light, Apollo, which he said replaced the prior and more natural Dionysian type of life, the life of feeling. I do not believe, however, that if he were alive today, he would be happy with the return to Dionysus he urged. Often, we are disappointed when things work out the way we had hoped. Christianity reinforced the Apollonian life N. decried. Thus, contrary to the misinformed critique of the atheists, an attack on Christianity is an attack on reason.

Back to the sketches with the timed audio track of the same-sex Viking. Sure it is simply Hollywood demagoguery at its finest: no one there considered in a serious manner whether normalizing homosexuality would actually be a positive thing. I always draw lines between Marxism and homosexualism: Marx had no real reason to believe that his ideas would actually pan out, nor did Lenin, Stalin, or Mao. They could not have, because they didn't pan out. Do millions of people believe and do stupid things without sober reflection? Yes, they do. Marxists did - they slaughtered millions upon millions of people on a whim; and now, on a whim, homosexualists are attempting normalize something that has never been considered normal. Well, movie people are doing it for money, but it's the same kind of shortsightedness.

So now I have to devote my PhD. brain, the brain that has attempted to improve itself through thousands of hours devoted to the writings of all the greatest theologians and philosophers in the history of the world, to some sketches of a Viking that people are calling gay. Thanks a lot.

Just to point out some things though:

Vikings did not know about this concept 'homosexuality.'

Of course, neither were there any dragons.

And, though I have not actually, nor will I ever actually, see this movie, I doubt the gay Viking engages in much that was typical of the Norsemen: pillage, plunder, rape. But, that's cool, let's call him a Viking anyway, seeing how we are just pulling things out of thin air now. But make sure he has the helmet with the horns, because that is quintessential.

Okay, now I feel a bit better and am ready to take stupid things seriously.

I never know quite how to begin a story like these:

Cartoon Viking Comes out of the Closet?

Another Brave Drawing Comes out?

Gay Sketches Have Dignity too?


A friends read the above and emailed me this. It does a lot to explicate my point.

 I read your most recent blog post (about the "gay" "viking").  I can appreciate the frustration of having your intellectual formation and then having to deal with this nonsense.  But I think there is another way to look at this: There are a number of reasons the "gay rights" movement has been successful, but here are just two:

1. They have managed to very effectively use the media
2. Catholics have not been able to articulate a coherent and persuasive response 

We need guys with PhD's writing about the gay viking so that an intelligent response can be heard.  As you note in your post, it is insidious because it starts with the deformation of the child.  Thus all the more important is the response to such a seemingly-innocent-yet-vile program. You recognize the dangers in such a video, but I hope that you also recognize the capacity that you have to respond in an intelligent way.  Many Catholics/people in general need to hear well articulated and persuasive and thought out and rooted-in-the great-tradition responses to these things.  If we leave this type of battle to amateurs, we are doomed.

Thanks, friend, you always seem to be able to encourage me to keep going!

1 comment:

  1. To make you feel a little better, you are not alone to use your Ph.D. brain on rather trivial pursuits - my Harvard Law brain is being used to change diapers, make snacks and teach kindergarten at home :-) My time to think and ponder (and I consider myself an intellectual brain by nature) is extremely limited, mostly to late nights and very early mornings. To keep myself sane I have started a blog, and I occasionally write an article here and there. But the bulk of my day, as the mom of young kids, is definitely on the level of cartoons. I am not complaining, as I do it willingly - I could go back to work anytime, but I could never do that to my happy children who get to be with their mommy all day. On the other hand, I won't deny that it is a sacrifice, and sometimes my brain feels starved. That's the price I pay, but it is worth it - and my blog has actually made a huge difference for me already, as I am able to get out my thoughts and participate in the social debate a bit, and it feels cathartic.