IMG_0569
Blog powered by Typepad

« Me, myself, and the I-thought | Main | Guest post: Did Leibniz anticipate an information-based reality? »

Comments

Catastrophe shows us the hollowness of a society mostly stripped of the old-fashioned qualities that once made life tolerable.

It is the inevitable result of materialism.

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.”

Victor Frankl
“If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.

“I became acquainted with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment; or as the Nazi liked to say, ‘of Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers [emphasis added].”

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/04/video-john-lennox-on-problem-of-evil_7.html


Dennis Prager

I asked Samuel Oliner, "Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?"

Without hesitation, he said, "a Polish priest."

Czeslaw Milosz

“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.”


An interesting post, Michael. I have not seen this programme, but I think I recognise what you mean as it is something I have picked up on some TV programmes here in the UK.

Of course, moral emptiness per se is not new to literature, films or TV series. But even in the hardest boiled varieties (something like Martin Scorsese’s mafia film ‘Goodfella’s’ comes to mind), for me there is at least an implied larger, moral background. Not necessarily of the over simplistic ‘goodies’ winning through and the ‘baddies’ getting their just deserts variety, but nonetheless a sense that the violence, chaos and perversity of the behaviour on display forms part of a larger picture.

In the case of ‘Goodfella’s’, the central (and wholly unheroic) character, Henry Hill, survives. But the sheer banality and wastefulness of his existence, consequential to his way of life, comes through clearly as the film progresses.

On the other hand, in ‘Catastrophe’ as you describe it, Michael, it sounds as if a ‘complete cosmos’ is in effect presented. Yes, there are moral nods to climate change (which, by the way, I personally think is important; but I appreciate here looks solely to be flagged up superficially and mechanistically as the liberal flavour of the month). Overall, however, the picture painted is loveless, petty, shallow, and (worst of all) closed off from anything larger. A portrait of hell perhaps?

Is this a consequence of the growing secularisation of our societies? Or is it just bad TV? An interesting question!

Michael, So it's a show about urban Democrats.

You make a powerful observation,"I don't think they set out to do that at all. I think they did it this way because this really is life for them and for the people they know."

I live in a rural small town (albeit a college town) and I've been working from home for a large company for the past for years. I go through culture shock every time I go to corporate HQ in Hartford, CT because it is exactly as you describe the show. Especially when we go out for dinner/drinks after the meetings. I just don't get how people can live that way.

And here's the thing, I don't think they *can* live that way. Hence all of the craziness busting out at the seems that we see in the news every day.

I did some work a while ago related to financials/cost drivers for our behavioral health section (I work in healthcare insurance). Roughly 30% of our members - and it's a national company with millions of members - are on anti-depressive type medication. Mental health hospitalizations are on the rise sharply as are substance abuse dry-outs and related therapy. A lot of this treatment is for members' dependent children age 12 - 21. How can so many children and young adults be clinically depressed and severely abusing substances? Something, clearly, is missing in our society. I think you accurately point to what that is.

I also think there is a lot of cowardice involved; mostly of a moral sort. Too many people seem unable to speak to reality and defer to artificiality created by politicians and media outlets like CNN. For example, a crazy white dude writes a racist manifesto and shoots black people in a church. He's a racist terrorist, a member of a larger hate movement, and there's a hysteria to erase a large chunk of American history - removing Confederate flags, statues, etc.

A crazy black guy writes a racist (white hating) manifesto and in it references a larger black movement and shoots some white people live on TV and....crickets in the liberal media. We won't talk about his motive.

So we have transparent, therefore unsustainable, divisive social engineering on top of a lack of values, spiritually and connection to nature; all leading to a warped cynicism.

This won't end well.

I should add that another aspect of the cowardice is the fear of getting "hurt". If you hide your soul in a loveless, unfeeling, cynical suit of rusty armor and you subordinate your thoughts to what is officially approved by certified experts, then, as the "theory" goes, you'll never be wrong or wronged.

Thank You Michael for pointing out something that I've often mentioned to my wife. That is, what we view on television or in movies (or even read in books) is simply the perspective of the writers themselves or what they want is to see, not necessarily the actual reality of things. Many people don't have the capacity of an independent view to be able to sort this out, and are thereby influenced by these perceptions without regard to what should be determining their own true values.

Maybe they aren't eating enough walnuts.

The real catastrophe will be the coming stock market crash (get out now!), followed by the bond market crash, followed by the real estate crash, followed by the economic crash, followed by a crash in international trade, followed by a social crash, followed by political chaos. And that's just the beginning.

On the other hand, Rossi got a US patent for his cold fusion gadget on the 25th.

Sorry to so quickly off topic, but I thought people here would be interested in this article concerning a recent study that has demonstrated that the results of a large number of Social Psychology studies have not proved to be reproducible:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/28/psychology-experiments-failing-replication-test-findings-science

Many who follow and post here know much more about psi experiments, and their associated protocols, than I do. It seems to me from this article, however, that mainstream psychology’s reaction to these findings is far more indulgent than its criticisms of parapsychology – notwithstanding that (if my understanding is correct) the latter often deploys more rigorous scientific protocols!

" I think they did it this way because this really is life for them and for the people they know."

Michael, I think you need to get out more.
What you describe in the above is par for the course with regard to modern, middle-class affluent living - although I will admit it's probably more typical of America. But the Brits will soon catch up.

"Not that I'm endorsing homeopathy or walnut diets"

And why were you so keen to distance yourself from any suggestion that you might subscribe to either, or both, of those practices, our Michael? ;)

"What you describe in the above is par for the course with regard to modern, middle-class affluent living"- Julie

That's my point. The characters reflect the hollowness of modern society, at least as lived by the "elites" (who are, broadly speaking, modern middle-class affluent persons).

"it's probably more typical of America. But the Brits will soon catch up."

It's set in London, and co-created by Irish comedienne Sharon Horgan. Most of the characters are British.

"And why were you so keen to distance yourself from any suggestion that you might subscribe to either, or both, of those practices, our Michael?"

Because I don't subscribe to them. But I try not to be rude about it.

"Or is it just bad TV?" - Simon

No, it's good TV. I said it was smart and funny, and it accurately reflects a big segment of our modern world.

"And that's just the beginning." - Roger

After economic collapse, political instability, and social chaos ... there's still more? What happens next, the zombie apocalypse? A rain of fire? President Trump?

Andrew Paquette had trouble posting a comment, so I'm posting it for him. Andrew writes:

Your post is among my favorites from the years I've been reading your site. It is primarily because I have noticed the same thing and feel the same way about it, but rarely ever (if ever) have seen the sentiment expressed elsewhere. As I may have mentioned to you earlier, I worked in Hollywood from 1996-2003 as a VFX artist and art director. During that time I either had no social life or didn't enjoy the little bit of social contact I had because the attributes you describe from the "Catastrophe" cast applied to almost everyone I met, no matter how nice they were in other ways. Then I moved to Arizona and from 2005-2006 got in the habit of attending church with my family. I didn't agree with all the material, but the people were genuinely interested in 'serious' subjects and also had an unsuppressed confidence in the power of positive thinking and action. There was no sarcasm, ridicule, or mockery and it was great.

Until then, I hadn't realized how depressing and stressful Hollywood was--and why. There are exceptions, but I didn't meet many, nor do I see many examples in the offerings from Hollywood. An exception are is the library of Pixar films, all of which are quite serious, particularly the newest one, 'Inside out'.

"It's set in London, and co-created by Irish comedienne Sharon Horgan. Most of the characters are British."

Thank you, Michael, that helps put matters into perspective for those of us who don't subscribe to Amazon TV. That aside, my assumption was based on some of the American sit-coms we get over here in the UK. But I'm still perplexed as to why you think this portrayal is in anyway surprising.

Thinking about it a little more, I'd say that what strikes me the most about Catastrophe is the absence of love. Our two heroes, Rob and Sharon, are not in love; they are getting married purely for convenience, after a series of drunken hookups that resulted in pregnancy. The most they will say about each other is that they enjoy all the sex they're having.

There is also no discernible love between them and their parents or between them and their siblings or between them and their friends.

Even the decision to carry the baby to term rather than get an abortion is based on something other than love; Sharon, at age 40, thinks this is her last chance to have a child, and apparently she feels she wants one in order to fill a void in her life.

It's a loveless universe, and that's what makes it so bleak.

And yes, I think it does reflect the real lives of countless millions of people, and helps to explain the rise in antidepressants, neuroses, and general angst. And yes, materialism as an all-encompassing worldview does seem to be the primary cause, helped along by the fraying of family ties, disintegration of neighborhoods, and rise of social media as a substitute for face-to-face encounters.

Ther other notable thing, closely related, is the absence of joy. No one ever seems really happy. The nearest anybody gets to happiness is the fleeting pleasure of sexual release. And there is the pseudo-happiness of being pleased at someone else's misfortune. Actual joy is not part of their lives. I can't imagine any of the people experiencing pure happiness while singing or dancing or even listening to music. They are too busy being cynical, angst-ridden, pissed off, envious, snarky, and "clever."

It's a world where everybody is clever and no one is wise. And I think that for a certain large and influential portion of society, this is very much like the real world today,.

"I'm still perplexed as to why you think this portrayal is in anyway surprising"

It surprises me because of how honest it is, and how depressing. The people I know are not like this. But then, I moved out of the city to a small town, and I avoid the circles these characters move in.

Yes, now I get you! The reason why I remain so close to my animals, and to nature in general, is because contact with the kind of culture you describe makes me ill - yes, literally.

There's a kind of energy sap from being around such people. And were it not for my country lifestyle, and the animals that share my life, then almost nothing would seem worthwhile.

I would add that I'm now in the process of closing down a group that I started many years ago called Atticus. It was intended to be a place to discuss exactly the kind of issue you raise here. Its home was within YahooGroups - before it was moved to facebook.

It has only just recently occurred to me that my involvement with facebook led me away from that initiative. It seemed so much easier just to discuss the more light and fluffy aspects of life.

I now know what attracted me to your blog, Michael. More power to your elbow!

Kudos Michael,
You have provided some very insightful comments about some parts of Western Culture. I think that what is portrayed in American or Americanized films reflects a social milieu of East Coast and West Cost America specifically of people indoctrinated in belief systems common in New York City and Los Angeles. There is a large number of people in the heartland of the U.S. (the silent majority) that finds these New York and West Coast behaviors foreign to the daily life they live.

I have been watching a Netflix series called "Grace and Frankie" which I believe is very entertaining but it so obviously portrays a California/American lifestyle of profanity, sex and indiscriminate hook-ups, drug use, alcoholism, divorce, homosexuality and superficiality all woven into a story about two super rich couples in a way that makes it all seem not only normal but desirable. I think the series could have some promise but only because of the Lily Tomlin character 'Frankie' who seems to have a little more depth of character and values than the other major characters played by Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. I cringe to think that people in other countries might believe that this series represents life of the majority of American families.

Hollywood casting seems so phony to me. The characters don't seem like people I know. The casting of Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as long-time closet homosexuals who come out in their 70s is almost laughable. It seems beyond belief to me that these old men would have a sexual relationship. I don't think even the actors can stand kissing each other they are so mismatched. Apparently being a big-name 'star' is all it takes to get parts in American films. In my opinion Martin Sheen has no talent as an actor and he can't even deliver his lines in a believable way.

I am so glad that Netflix has foreign films. They are so much better than American films---even when they are bad. My favorites include films from France, Spain, Italy, India and a few from China. (Chinese sub-titles move too fast for me to read.) Sorry I can't include British films in my preference list. As I mentioned before, the Indian film 'Water' is one of the best films I have seem. I even enjoy the Bollywood films for their color, energy, absence of vulgarity, and interesting story-lines. - AOD

This emptiness and alienation is manifesting in a lot of ways in our society. Banksy's creepy "Dismaland" is a prime example of the decadence of modern popular culture, especially so-called "art".

http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisoncaporimo/creepy-creepy#.bp0Zj8qV7a

Clever and creative, but emotionally dark, an expression of the current wave of existential despair and nihilism filtering down from the materialist intelligentsia to the upper middle-class masses. It's a big dose of this decadence, seen especially in so-called "art", "music", and TV and movie entertainment. The "zeitgeist" of the world depicted in Hollywood movies seems to be vastly darker today than in the 60's, 70's and even the 80's.

Modern popular culture seems to be rotten to the core. Perhaps the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism is in part a reaction to this. Like Boko Haram - "Western education is forbidden".

This seems like the presentation of a false dilemma, or so I'm seeing in the comments section.

I've not found much appreciation for big ideas in traditional communities, whether in America or India. And yeah there is some love and community but only if you conform to their values.

Really, I think the time has come for a new path, one that doesn't give in to scientism or religious delusion. Let's not forget the bigotries and ignorance coming from past religions is what fuels the anger, fear, and bitterness of the materialist cults (who aren't completely wrong when critiquing said faiths).

Time for an intervention, Michael. The real catastrophe is that you've spent five hours of your life watching this. And that despite everything you've said about it, you can still somehow get your mouth to form the words: it's good TV.

The fact that the show is "accurate" is not close to being redemptive. A photograph of a piece of shit is accurate. Does that make it worth staring at?

Why not talk about TV that's worthwhile? Because that's the *good* part of your post—you've made very clear what's missing in a show like this, and what we need to look for. And for that reason, I really do appreciate it.

OK—now this is gonna get snickers from the audience. I've been watching Ghost Whisperer over the past few weeks. It's about a woman who helps earthbound spirits cross over.

Yeah—it's often silly. Not great art, for sure, and I'm certainly not mentioning it because it's one of my favorite series ever. Far from it.

But, in contrast to Catastrophe (what a perfect name), it makes me feel *good* to talk about it.

What this series has going for it are main characters who are passionate about helping others. The lead's husband is a paramedic for the fire department. How's that for a refreshing change?

Each story focuses on character development—what these lost ones need in order to move into the Light. Into love.

And what they need, invariably, is to resolve still-remaining conflicts or misunderstandings with the living. In some way, they want to help loved ones cope with their passing. A powerful theme.

Sure—there's a lot of time wasted on silly paranormal weirdness that's supposed to be scary. And Jennifer Love Hewitt is a bit obvious about displaying her very generous breasts. (Actually, I don't mind that so much.)

But I'm usually tearing up by the last scene or two in which forgiveness, understanding and tenderness predominate.

There are lots of reasons critics will mock a show like this. But I'll take sentimental over cynical any day.

"The real catastrophe is that you've spent five hours of your life watching this." - Bruce

Only two and a half hours. The episodes are a half hour each.

"And that despite everything you've said about it, you can still somehow get your mouth to form the words: it's good TV."

It's well made and some of the writing is sharp. I don't particularly like it, but I would say it's good. Not as crazy-good as the critical hype would suggest, but a more-than-respectable piece of work. That said, I don't plan to watch it again.

Michael said:

"I don't particularly like it, but I would say it's good."

This is why I could never be a professional critic of any art form. For me, calling something good or bad seems a waste of time. All I really feel comfortable saying is—I like this. (Or I don't).

Now that's fun. And it's why I enjoyed writing that little piece about Ghost Whisperer.

I just realized: maybe this explains why I prefer reading Netflix viewers' reviews, as opposed to gauging the worth of a movie by what the professionals say.

Amateurs are less hesitant to insert their feelings into their reviews, rather than trying to being objective—whatever "objective" means!

I'm with you Bruce. I enjoy Ghost Whisperer too. Yes indeed the casting helps but the language, themes and message are on the wholesome side. I think it is a well-done show. - AOD

Wait...This show isn't based on any sample, it's just a show. I think it's weird to think of some random comedy show on Amazon as reflecting the truth of any group.

I could just as easily criticize small religious communities thanks to the Duggar family and that guy molesting his sisters, but that is at least based in reality even if its still bad sampling.

Michael said:

"Only two and a half hours. The episodes are a half hour each."

OK. I take back half of what I said.

Seriously, though, as I look at my comment again, it may be a bit heavy-handed. And your post did end up saying something really meaningful.

AOD said:

"I enjoy Ghost Whisperer too."

Glad I'm not alone.

Or in the language of the show: you can *see* me!

"And that's just the beginning." - Roger

"After economic collapse, political instability, and social chaos ... there's still more? What happens next, the zombie apocalypse? A rain of fire? President Trump?" — MP

To end on a lighter note, I should have said instead, "And wait--there's more," echoing those infomercials that tossed in extras like a set of knives at the end. (Anyway, please everyone get out of investments and into cash.)

"No, it's good TV"

Maybe this at last partially explains, Michael, why it depressed you so much. A sloppier piece of work could have been more easily dismissed.

"I should add that another aspect of the cowardice is the fear of getting "hurt"."

Agreed, No-one. For me fear lies at much of the heart of inauthenticity. Yes, there are times when it is prudent to conform (or at least keep our heads down). But without constant care we can easily end up stuck in your "suit of rusty armour"

The current spate of self righteous social media flash-mobs jumping on any alleged instance of inappropriate or politically incorrect behaviour/statements I find especially depressing in this regard. It sometimes feels as if we are back in the middle ages!

I enjoyed this post, Michael! You may be surprised to find I'm largely sympathetic. Allow me to explain by bouncing off the excellent words of other commenters:

AOD wrote,

|| I think that what is portrayed in American or Americanized films reflects a social milieu of East Coast and West Cost America specifically of people indoctrinated in belief systems common in New York City and Los Angeles.||

Precisely. The attitude you described reminded me of New York, where I have spent a considerable amount of time, as my best friend lives there. I love NY, by the way, and I get along great with the people there.

But I would also say there is an attitude that tends to sit on people like a bit of rust on steel: "too cool for school." Instead of being earnest and believer-y, you need to be the opposite; otherwise, holding heartfelt opinions opens one up to, shudder, being wrong! And that's not stylish.

I think the show extrapolates from this pose to something more sinister and extreme, since that makes for good television. (I haven't seen it, but based on what you said.)


SPatel wrote,

||Let's not forget the bigotries and ignorance coming from past religions is what fuels the anger, fear, and bitterness of the materialist cults (who aren't completely wrong when critiquing said faiths).||

Right. You are going to get a backlash of "too cool for school" and a sneering at "values" when the values themselves are compromised. I was walking the other day past a children's book section, and I see Joel Osteen's face peeking out of the cover with a big ****-eating grin, and I thought, "Wow, this a-hole just sells to everyone." He's a grifter, pure and simple, and a cheesy one at that, turning the message of Jesus into one big sales pitch. Anyone with a brain will have to resist mightily any impulse to run 180° from such a "Christian" aesthetic.

I remember Karl Rove describing Obama, before he was elected, as this guy in the corner of the party sipping a martini and looking down on everyone. Although I don't think that really applied well to Obama (whose manner is nevertheless flawed in other ways), I still got what he meant. You yourself used the term "elite," and that gets bandied about a lot in Conservative circles. It refers of course to educated Liberals with that "too cool for school attitude."

The critique is not totally off the mark. But the conceit of those using the term "elite" is that they themselves are not deserving of criticism, when in fact they are. A lot of Americans today who think they are espousing "values" and what God intended are in fact espousing terrible values and a very corrupt version of Christianity indeed. To make all this worse, the aesthetic is laughable. The Republican candidates are all very unhip white male idiots (with the exception of Carly, who is an unhip white female idiot). They don't walnuts up the ass, 'cause they've all already got sticks up the ass!

But there is something that both sides have in common: they are inauthentic. They are just trying to fit in with their respective crowds, and it seems they often forget that it all really is a pose that arises from the particular crowd.

There *is* a third way: really think for yourself and act on your convictions.

Bruce wrote,

||I just realized: maybe this explains why I prefer reading Netflix viewers' reviews, as opposed to gauging the worth of a movie by what the professionals say.

Amateurs are less hesitant to insert their feelings into their reviews, rather than trying to being objective—whatever "objective" means!||

I agree. Critics often have to be "journalistic" at the expense of plain speaking. They have to be a bit distant from the material and often come off as being "too cool for school" themselves.


Bruce also wrote,

||OK. I take back half of what I said.||

LOL!

"The Republican candidates are all very unhip white male idiots (with the exception of Carly, who is an unhip white female idiot)." - Matt

Hey, waitaminute. How about Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? None are WASPs. In fact, amusingly, the GOP field offers far more ethnic and racial diversity than the Democratic field, which is limited to three white people, two of whom are senior citizens. (If Biden gets in, there'll be four white people, three of whom are seniors.)

Don't want to sidetrack the discussion; just thought I'd put that out there.

"This show isn't based on any sample, it's just a show." - SPatel

Art, or even popular art/entertainment, is never based on a sample. It's not science. But it still reflects its world.

"I think it's weird to think of some random comedy show on Amazon as reflecting the truth of any group."

But it's not random. The show has generated incredible buzz and critical hype, so it clearly resonates with a lot of people (the self-styled elites), who see themselves in it.

Art can reflect the view of the artist and the consumer of art. There's a lot of art that resonates with people about small town hypocrisy and seedy underbellies in supposedly happy religious communities (see every gay kid who tried to commit suicide or was disowned by their family).

That I can point to something real like the Duggar family's adultery & molestation while you point to a fictional TV program shows the flaw in this argument of making conjectures based on art.

We're supposed to be better about evidence than the materialist fanatics, not worse.

I think the difference is that people who watch the show about the Duggars presumably do not relate to them. They look down on them and take pleasure in feeling superior. But people who watch Catastrophe do seem to relate to the characters.

Still, in the end it's only a TV show, so you may have a point.

Don't get me wrong - the other extreme that a materialist world view is better & correct is terrible, justifying ideas about no intrinsic morality, no intrinsic rights, and no freedom.

From my reading of history no major figure who has fought for freedom & human rights in the past (and likely present) thought of these aspects of the Good being mere contextual obligations existing only due to biological robots wired a certain way.

That the Left has put so much trust in a paradigm that suggests the annihilation of value is not comforting, anymore than the Right's own betrayals of humanity.

||Hey, waitaminute. How about Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz? None are WASPs.||

Yes, you're right, though I had not really taken Carson and Jindal seriously as candidates. But I don't take Carly seriously either, so perhaps that's not an excuse. :)

As for Rubio and Cruz... "unhip white male idiots" still applies. ;)


||In fact, amusingly, the GOP field offers far more ethnic and racial diversity than the Democratic field, which is limited to three white people, two of whom are senior citizens. (If Biden gets in, there'll be four white people, three of whom are seniors.)||

Hillary, Bernie, and who is the third?

It's a bit of a facile comparison, since the incumbent is a Democrat and not that many people are getting into the fray. Perhaps, based on the upcoming DC Comics movie, we can simply label the Repubican field "The Suicide Squad"...

Thanks Michael, I am watching the show which is on free to air TV in Australia. Before your post I had mixed emotions about the show but it is quite amusing. It can be seen to paint a bleak picture of modern life but you only have to watch the nightly news to feel very bleak about that. At least the guy wants to marry her rather than run away and there is no violence in the show. I think capitolism is creating our materialistic and uncaring society but I don't know that religion is the answer. I don't know what is really the answer so why not reflect the bleakness of it all through our TV shows. It is pretty bleak out there. I used to enjoy Star Trek, it gave me a sense of hope that we could evolve to a better and more hopeful world. I wonder what the implications of contact with an Alien intelligence would be? Or some absolute proof of a non material existence, which despite all that I read on your blog and on Sceptiko, I cannot feel sure about. If I could I would feel much more hopeful. Hope is what is lacking in our society.

"Hillary, Bernie, and who is the third?" - Matt

Biden would be the third senior citizen, if he runs. He's 72.

Or if you're asking who is the third Dem candidate now, it's Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland. He, at least, is a relatively young 52.

Regarding the candidates' hipness, we've had nearly eight years of the supposedly hip Obama. I'm ready for someone as unhip as possible.

I don't think this "dismalism" is anything new, it's always been around. In every job I've ever had, there's always been a group of these kind of people, and they always somehow manage to run the show with their negativity, tantrums, gossiping, back-stabbing, etc.

The more I think of it, the more Emmanuel Swedenborg, and Anthony Borgia with "Life in the World Unseen," were onto something. These negative types always band together and actually ENJOY negativity and mean-spiritness. In the afterlife, I wouldn't doubt that they will be together, not because they have to, because they want to. And interacting with this type, I can feel their THING a mile away. It's a real kind of energy with this kind of person, and I think it's wrong to think it's associated only with certain kinds of groups, it's everywhere.

Is there anyone in the Republican field who is even a contender for rationality and skepticism?

I care nothing for Jindal even as an Indian. He comes across to me as a buffoon, and a religiously deluded one at that.

I don't really want to get into a political argument. From past experience I've found that it's best to keep this blog as nonpolitical as possible. I just wanted to correct the factually wrong claim that all the GOP candidates are white males (except Carly).

@Kathleen: M Scott Peck wrote a book about the very culture you outline. It's called 'In Heaven as on Earth'. It makes for very interesting reading.

Doug - ||....I don't know what is really the answer so why not reflect the bleakness of it all through our TV shows. It is pretty bleak out there.||

Here's a short glimpse of just a portion of the huge and endlessly growing negative side of life, an immense weight of suffering, as it comes to mind in no particular order:

Wars, riots, Islamic terrorism, ISIS, car and truck bombs, rape, decapitation, hordes of refugees who have lost everything, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, corrupt congress, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, water pollution, air pollution, food pollution, drugs, cartels, human trafficking, slavery, starvation, violence in the streets - robbery, murder, people killing family members, church members, theater attendees, diseases - flesh eating bacteria, parasites, AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's, debilitated and miserable elderly rotting in nursing homes, computer hackers and scammers, homelessness, no jobs, foreclosures, religious persecution, and so on seemingly ad infinitum.

Sure, this is only one side of life, but it seems to be required to turn a blind eye to it in order to maintain a positive upbeat attitude. It is very hard to do this with the constant information deluge from the TV media and internet.

Maybe another way of looking at the prevalence of existential despair and angst in current TV shows like Catastrophe (and True Detective, for instance) is that such shows are just a symptom of people "growing up" and finally seeing the world - the appalling human condition - for what it really is. And once this change in consciousness has happened we can't ever go home again. Maybe "decadence" is actually at least in part the inevitable loss of naivete and comfortable illusions about the world.

Yes, Julie, I read that, also his "People of the Lie." He was an exceptionally insightful man.

Doubter, despite how things may appear, there is statistically less war than ever. And, I don't know if you're an American, but at least in the U.S., the crime rate is lower than it's ever been in decades. (You won't hear this much in the media because it's not very exciting.) Why does everyone think the world is going to end tomorrow? Yeah, ISIS is bad, but doesn't anyone remember WW II? Or how about hanging-and-quartering? There's a lot of very bad things out there, but in many ways people have become kinder and more just.

@Kathleen: Dave Barry said that life for kids (or anyway boys) is kinder than it used to be. His sons have never been bullied, for instance. Probably it's kinder for girls too.

@Kathleen: Oddly enough, I came across 'People of the Lie' by chance at a time when I was trying to understand and to deal with some very difficult and perverse people. I explained me exactly what they were about and, I believe, prevented my suffering a great deal more psychological damage than I did. I believe there's a phenomenon called 'The Library Angel' and I believe that angel has followed me all my life.

Michael, I just want to say that the verdict is in: I'm a hypocrite.

After giving you a hard time for wasting your time on Catastrophe, last night I watched a 100% piece of trash on Lifetime TV in its entirety. (One of those movies where the lead lets someone into their life who seems perfect, but we know from the start is pure evil).

I watching this knowing, the whole time, that nothing meaningful or even very entertaining was likely to happen. But just to pass some time.

Not a great commentary on my life.

Anyway, it feels good to come clean. And I take back the remaining half of what I said. :)

Doubter wrote his list. OK, I'm going to go one for one on this:

Wars: WWII and the Holocaust 150 million dead

riots: Throughout the 1960s

Islamic terrorism: Thuggee cult

ISIS: Barbary pirates

car and truck bombs: Duke Ferdinand assassinated

rape: highway brigands in UK

decapitation: French revolution

hordes of refugees who have lost everything: Fall of Vietnam

Iraq: British colonialism

Syria: End of British colonialism

Iran: Parthia

Hezbollah: IRA

corrupt congress: Roman senate

hurricanes: shipwrecks

tornadoes: collapsing poorly designed railway bridges

earthquakes: Lisbon, 1755

floods: bell bottoms

volcanoes: Pompey

water pollution: cholera

air pollution: heating (your own house) with coal

food pollution: food adulteration

drugs: opium dens

cartels: Prohibition

human trafficking: white slavery

slavery: US slavery

starvation: Irish potato famine

violence in the streets: gladiatorial combat

robbery: Whitechapel

murder: Ed Gein

people killing family members: Lizzie Borden

church members: Tammy Fay Baker

theater attendees: Abraham Lincoln

diseases: consumption

flesh eating bacteria: leprosy

parasites: lice

AIDS: syphilis

cancer: Scorpio

Alzheimer's: dotage

debilitated and miserable elderly rotting in nursing homes: the same but without the nursing homes

computer hackers and scammers: confidence men

homelessness: street urchins

no jobs: The Great Depression

foreclosures: Savings and Loan Crisis

religious persecution: 30 Years War'

---

I've had this discussion with Michael on Facebook. However bad you think things are now, they were infinitely worse in WWII. People slaughtering each other without limit.

It's true we're in a period of great malaise. I would say that we're in a Yin period in which not much can happen, and people hate it. Even though a lot of things are much, much better than they used to be, people remember the past fondly because they remember the Yang times. For example, WWII was in a Yang period, even though it was highly negative.

Further, I think we've grown up and have stopped pretending that solutions are just around the corner. In the past, we had an infantile view of our leaders and thought they could and would get us out of anything. Now we don't. We can see that no one has any answers right now. It's a painful realization, but we're better off for it.

Bruce
We all need some 'down time'. I remember after taking finals in collage I went to a movie called Barbarella with Jane Fonda. It was such a relief watching something I didn't have to think about. - AOD

@Doubter: You forgot the skyrocketing heroin addiction and overdose rate. (A narcotics cop was quoted in the WaPo as saying, "Bring back the crack epidemic.")

@ Matt

Bell bottoms? You're saying the way I dressed in 1970 was civilization's low point?

Here's another downer, Doubter: The crime rate started rising sharply 12-18 months ago, according to WaPo.

Matt - As you point out, it's true that there were really never any "good old days". The experience of the very large portion of humanity not blessed by having been born in the right time and place and to the right parents has always been wretched. I'm not convinced that things are actually better now for the majority than in past times. At least in former times the whole Western system was not threatened by collapse due to the multiple interrelated effects of technology and runaway population growth.

And even for those fortunate enough to have been born in one of the prosperous Western countries, the basic human condition inherently still has a lot of badness and quiet desperation. So it seems to me that it is at least arguable that existential despair, cynicism, alienation, selfishness and antinatalism are just rational responses to finally clearly seeing the reality of a world that "we" as adult humans certainly would not choose to come into. Maybe this is an inherent part of the "decadence" of cultural maturity.

For a knowledgable person to have an upbeat cheerful attitude toward life would seem to require either an act of faith, a spiritual experience that unfortunately can't really be transferred to anybody else, a special neurological organization and neurotransmitter balance, or a combination of all of these. Like I commented earlier, maybe the scriptwriters and enthusiastic audiences of "Catastrophe" and other similar TV dramas shouldn't be blamed for anything other than coming into a mature perception of a very bleak world. At least that's one way to look at it.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)