Monday, October 27, 2014

From the Files of Secularism 101: Yep, What You Need is More Self-Assertion

Yes, lyrics get stuck in your head. And those drafters of those jingles called pop songs came up with this gem:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely

I know, you think the next line will be something like this:

And that was great 
because meekness is my fate
and I use it on every date.

But no, you are wrong - that's not how the song goes. It is - believe it or not  - a song about encouraging, yes, encouraging, people to assert themselves, contrary to the governing rule of our culture, articulated by that phrase that young people can't stop quoting, 

"I am young in years and you are old; Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think. "I thought age should speak, And increased years should teach wisdom. (Job 32:6-7)

Kids love Job! Man, I wish they would stop quoting this phrase in all those Disney movies! It's so been done! Disney movie after Disney movie about how young people love to listen to their elders, and thereby thrive.
Oh, shut up about Job, Twitter!

But, no, as I've suggested, this rebel-siren has come up with something different. For once, finally, someone is encouraging young people to stand up for themselves. She believes there is another way. She believes that we must even roar, as it were. 

And no one need worry that with so many people roaring there will be too many chefs spoiling the broth, too many chiefs and not enough Indians. No, I think what our society needs is to hear from our young people. They have the gift in freshness, of inexperience, of naivete even, which is precisely what these times require. Old people have been listened to way too much, put up such a tall pedestal that it's just ridiculous. I say, for once, let's listen to people not weighted down by too much knowledge and experience, and leave the bloody old people alone in their old-age homes so they can get some peace and quiet for a change!

And then I talked to my mom and she had this totally downer thing to say:

Not my mom, but what's the difference -
all old people are like this, all the time.
Colin, have you ever noticed that pop songs always encourage people to do exactly what they want to do, that they always tell people to follow the path of least resistance, which is, after all, what 'going with your feelings' is?

She went on and on, quoting song after song, referencing movie after movie, pointing out what she thought were examples of this.

"Imagine a song that said 'obey your parents when they tell you to act responsibly, think about your future, not to drink too much, stop spending your money on yourself'."

I was like, "Yeah, imagine, how the Black Eyed Peas Song, "I Gotta Feeling" would go. Instead of saying:

Tonight's the night
Let's live it up
I got my money
Let's spend it up

Go out and smash it
Like Oh My God
Jump off that sofa
Let's get get OFF

I know that we'll have a ball
If we get down
And go out
And just loose it all

In my mom's world it would say something like this:

Tonight's the night
Let's help someone
I got my money
Let's help someone

Go out and help
Thanks, dear God,
Jump off that sofa,
Let's get, get helpful

I know we'll spread some joy
If we stop thinking about ourselves
Find someone 
to treat with love

Now, how lame would that be! It doesn't even rhyme! And, aren't there enough songs like this anyway? 

She ended off our conversation this way, "Josh..."


"Right, Colin. Listen Colin, why do you think pop culture urges self-assertion rather than meekness? is it because one is objectively better? Well, in themselves neither is better, if we understand them as polar-opposites, that is to say, one is about giving in and the other about not giving in to the other. Of course, that's not how Aquinas would define meekness. (My Baptist mother is always quoting St. Thomas!) But anyway, just for argument's sake, let's just say that that's what those two words mean and those are your two options in life - to give in or to not give in to another. Why is not giving in always trumpeted?"

"Well, a lot of these songs are by women, so is it feminism?"

"You have a degree, right?"

"Mom! I have more than one degree and you know that."

"You know how to distinguish causes and effect, right? If so, feminism is a product of modernity just as these songs are. And more than anything, modern culture is a capitalistic culture where everything is about selling."

Aha, now I had her. "Now you are the one who is mistaken: confusing accidents and essences."

"Am I?" she grinned through her caked-on red lipstick. "What is democracy and why did Aristotle not like it?"

"Cuz the masses are not..."

"Cuz the masses are not..." she interrupted me in the snottiest tone. "And you see the links between our materialistic culture and democracy?"

"But what does that have to do with the songs?"

"Songs are not meant for your entertainment. They are meant to sell you something."

"That's unduly cynical!" I said, stomping out of the room.

1 comment:

  1. That new coffee shop is inspiring some interesting writing, and fictitious mothers?