Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Popular Culture and the Restless Ones

Dictionary definitions and scholarly quotes abound in chapter four of AGC&BSS, as Ken Myers establishes the framework of culture: its origin, nature, and attributes. He particularly addresses the causative agents and does not overlook the responses (manners and social habits) of those affected by these new social forces.

There was so much to digest that I was tempted to make a vocabulary list in order to remember all the people, places and things he mentioned. I still dont know what the old SCTV troupe is. (pg 63)

At any rate, I am a little perplexed with the idea that popular culture (per se) is new. I mean there has always been culture and there has always been a populace. Also, if the main question for addressing the liabilities of popular culture is how to spend one's time, then we all know that that question is as old as the hills. (pg 55)

In fact, I think that in the chapter's title, Myers is referring to someone as old as the hills: Augustine of Hippo (4th cent). That creature of popular culture who goofed off (pear tree incident) and wasted time (debauchery) until he was almost thirty years old. Remember his poem where the final line is -

Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you

Fast forward to the 16th century and meet the French skeptic, Montaigne, who agonized over people not paying enough time to God and worried that *variety always solaces, dissolves, and scatters. He's talking about distractions (in the culture) here.

Blaise Pascal (also French) in the 17th century identifies the same restlessness and blames it on the lack of religion in the culture. So, when Myers promotes the television as the modern entertainment appliance unlike any other, I just dont buy its uniqueness. I dont know what were the previous artifacts in the earlier centuries that distracted the populace, but I'm willing to bet there was something.

I suppose, however, that in the chapter title Myers could have been referring to the 1965 Christian film entitled Restless Ones

or the '80s rock band, Bad English, which had a song called The Restless Ones.

But I'm thinking restless means *without or apart from God* and am going with the Augustine reference.

What do you think?

Back to the issue at hand and the after-effects of the big, bad Industrial Revolution (18th - 19th cent) which allowed for unprecedented discretionary time and income, which in turn *forced* people to look for ways to relieve boredom.

Okay, I'll go along with the idea here that *empty people search for fulfilment in all the wrong places*.

Jump into the 20th century where Myers asserts that popular culture (over and above high and folk cultures) has been a more dominant force in the past 25 years (1963-1988), a veritable valium of the masses. He suggests that the search for diversion (recreation) has become more and more desperate and requires greater and greater levels of stimulation.

I concur.

In fact, the phrase *I'm bored* is one of my pet peeves.

So, I re-read the chapter in order to solidify my understanding of this quest for novelty and instant gratification. I think my upbringing provided me with a built-in line-of-defense for avoiding some of these negative manners and habits, but the best mode of maintaining my preference for the permanent things (Eliot/Lewis/Kirk) is teaching my children (or others). I never bought into the liberal parenting technique that they had the right to choose. (pg 69)

Ask them if we had a television and how we used it.

Or what radio station we listened to in the car.

Ah, what about the Internet, Cindy asks?

Yes, as early as 1990, we had dial-up (they were too young to use it then). Then we signed up for high-speed (maybe 2004), but with parental controls and guidelines on a desktop computer in a family-room-type study for educational purposes. Yeah, right!? (grin) Above all it was made clear that these appliances were luxuries, not necessities; tools, not gods (icons).

High-speed access fits right in with the final pages of the 20-page chapter in which Myers addresses our impatience. I confess I kept counting to see how many more pages I had to read.

Does instant access to information on the world-wide web contribute negatively to pop culture?

It makes me wonder how people felt about the phonebook or the Yellow Pages when they were first published? Was it too much information about a person or a business to make available to the masses? Wouldnt the details be used improperly? To borrow a phrase from a Facebook friend, were the Yellow Pages comparable to Faceplanting?

This entry is far too long for me to expect that anyone would read it in its entirety. But that's okay.

I'm not restless.

I'm not seeking instant gratification in the form of lots of comments.

I'm seeking wisdom.

I'm not primitive. That's why I own a computer.

I live in a time and place where God has placed me to serve Him.

Oh Lord, make me ever mindful of Your presence.


  1. Well, I read your post through to the end - twice!

    Very interesting take on culture - popular culture. Russell Kirk had a few things to say about that in his book America's British Culture.

    I think I agree with you that people have always found something to distract or entertain in whatever time and culture they're in. I think it's the nature we have. We seek something other than God to satisfy us. One could probably look back to Cain's line and see that popular culture has always been around - at least since the fall of man.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Laura.

    I noticed on your Facebook 25 things that you *love to read, but hate to write*

    Guess that's why your book reports are so short :)

    Again thanks for reading....and double thanks for all.the.way.to.then.end!

  3. Dana,
    I have read it all and I absolutely love to read what you are thinking because it is almost always challenging to me. I do believe that there is no new thing under the sun but I also think that we are in a time period when we have more tools available for our own destruction. In a way, the Internet seems to be the great leveler. It puts us in touch with ideas and perspectives we never would have run across otherwise. The Internet has even changed the way people write crossword puzzles. Now THAT bothers me.

    It seems to me that the problem with the Internet is the same as the television only more pervasive. They are tools of change just as the phonebook was and the auty-mobile. We still need the same wisdom that God has said is available to us, as always, only maybe those tools have a way of blinding us.

    Now I am going to be lazy because I need to be doing something else right now:

    What about the verses in Isaiah, I think, where it talks about men running to and fro seeking information? Could information be a curse rather than a blessing?

    And like you, I am just thinking not concluding.

  4. Do we have more tools in this time period... maybe, but we are self-destructive; the tools are incidental.

    Is the Internet a great leveler? percentage-wise no more so than the printing press IMHO

    Curse of Information - good chance that information is the problem, but only when it is digested without God's Enzyme (His Word)

    And we obviously need you to stimulate the discussion, to throw out some meat for us dogs to devour.

    Now that's *entertainment*

  5. Yes, and without the printing press, we may still be burning reformers, No? I agree, that the printing press was/is more significant than the Internet. I am sure the whole ball of wax is in God's hands for good and that maybe it separates the wheat from the chaff.