The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Monday, July 7, 2008

Oh, THAT Paradox

I have not posted for a bit, so I think it’s time for an update. Since I don’t have anything worthwhile to post, I’ll just give a grumpy but pointless spiel about a particular email forward that keeps being sent my way.

I have learned to hate email forwards. Partially because I tend to see the same ones over and over again (and yet, the people sending them think that they are somehow the first one to do so), but mostly because if they are almost always either A) either rather obvious statements listed and presented as if they are profound observations when they are little more than saccharine or overly-nostalgic trash when not statements of the mind-blowingly obvious, or B) they are half-wit claims and observations made by someone who is a complete fucking idiot, but presented in a way that implies that the complete fucking idiot is delusional enough to believe that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow foolish.

A good example of this is the “Paradox of our Time” forward, which various members of my family keep sending my way. It is astounding in that it is both obvious statements listed and presented as if they are profound observations when they are little more than saccharine and overly-nostalgic trash and simultaneously half-wit claims and observations made by someone who is a complete fucking idiot, but presented in a way that implies that the complete fucking idiot is delusional enough to believe that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow foolish. And, to top it off, it keeps being mis-attributed to George Carlin (if you see this particular forward, it lately has been making the rounds with a picture of ol’ George attached – the fact that Carlin hasn’t been striking out with fury from the grave at this is about as much proof that there is no afterlife as any reasonable person could need).

For those of you who have been lucky enough to avoid this particular piece of glurge (as the folks at call it), I’m about to shatter your innocence by exposing you to a small portion of the insipid thing.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees
but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more
problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

Okay, so, to start off:

Taller buildings but shorter tempers: Other than the common “oh, things were so different before everything changed” moaning about how much better the past was, where the hell does this claim come from?

Wider Freeways but narrower viewpoints: Yep, narrower viewpoints in the past. Mind you, lynching is frowned upon these days, we accept that, hey, maybe gay people aren’t inherently evil, and your Italian neighbors probably are not members of an organized crime family. But, it’s the present, and nto the golden past, so, hey, we must have narrower viewpoints.

Spend more but have less, buy more but enjoy less: Actually, we have more, that’s the problem. If we enjoy it less, and here I think that the author may actually have stumbled onto an observation that isn’t idiotic, it’s because we have become so bloated on consumption that we are failing to appreciate what we have in favor of gaining more.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too
little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our
possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and
hate too often.

Drink too much? Rates of alcohol consumption are quite low currently compared to much of history. Smoke too much? Same story.

Spend to recklessly – yep, that one is true, but also rather obvious.

Laugh too little? By whose count? If anything, we as a population appear to turn to entertainment even when we should be taking in some rather important and serious matters. Consider, how many people can name the entire cast of “Friends?” Right, now, how many of those people can name three Supreme Court Justices?

Laughing too little? No. Thinking to little? Yes, but I’m not convinced that that’s anything new.

Drive too fast? Probably, but, again, rather obvious.

Get too angry? Well it depends on what we’re getting angry about. There are things out there that should have us in a fury, but about which we are apathetic.

Stay up to late and get up too tired? By whose account, exactly?

Read too little? Yep, but giving the inanity of this list, I suspect that the author is among the guilty on this claim. Same for watching T.V. too much.

Pray to seldom? Let me get this straight, someone is upset because not enough of us are offering supplication to imaginary beings? We don’t pray too seldom, in fact, quite the contrary. Reflect too seldom, yes. Pray too seldom? Definitely not.

Multiplied our possessions but reduced our values: Ummm, weren’t we just told that we spend more and get less? A little proof reading of the list for consistency might be useful. As for reducing our values – yeah, we have problems, but, again, I’d point out that lynchings are not longer commonplace, and I think that counts for something. More of the rose-colored nostalgia filling in for a grasp of history.

And it just sort of continues on like that, painting the present as a wasteland and the past as a golden field of wisdom and love. The reality, of course, is that, things have been thoroughly screwed up throughout history. Some things have gotten worse, certainly, but some have gotten better. And, thanks to people who actually study the world around us and don’t waste time harkening back to a non-existent golden past, there is a chance of things actually improving. Of course, if there are enough half-wits like the email writer, then these improvements will not come to pass.

Oh, one last paragraph in the forward always strikes me as hilariously stupid:

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the
stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time
when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Pardon me, but isn’t it more than just a mite bit arrogant for some half-wit with a propensity towards grand pronouncements based on sappy sayings and common prejudices towards the present to label their own deal “insight” and try to guilt you into passing it on, as if it will somehow improve the world when all it will really do is annoy your friends and relatives?

The real paradox of our time is that someone can be educated enough to use a computer, and yet still think that emails that range from sappy to stupid to offensive are somehow insightful.

Still, at least it’s better than the “I’m a Bad American” forward – which is nothing but a loud announcement of how proud the author is to be a bigoted, racist, superstitious, empty-headed asshole. For some reason, that one also gets attributed to George Carlin, even though it’s obvious to anyone who knows anything about Carlin that it ain’t him.

Okay, next time I’ll try to write something interesting and/or useful instead of just ranting about email forwards.

1 comment:

Kay said...

I have actually ranted about this as well but not nearly as well (or as verbosely). So, since I am lazy, I will just say that I agree with you and then because I am a shameless self promoter, I will paste in a bit of my own rant on the subject.

If you send me an email ranting about something (anything) I have to decide why you sent it to me before I know how or if to respond. Did you send it to entertain? (Did I find it funny or offensive?) Did you send it to inform (Well, okay, thanks for the info.) Did you send it to incite an emotional response? (This is kind of like poking the bear, be careful) Did you send it to start a discussion? (Are you mature enough to discuss this in a rational way? Am I?)

Most of my blog readers, email correspondences, friends, family, co workers, random people n the street, have a vague idea of where I stand on the spectrum in regards to politics or religious views. I think it is safe to say that have a vague idea of where my friends and family members stand as well.

So… if you send me something heralding with frantic Chicken Little-like proclamations regarding something that falls into the political or religious fields, you need to be prepared that I am going to respond. And if you aren’t able to deal with that, if you don’t want my opinions, if you are hoping that your sensationalist pandering is going to change my mind, if you are testing my “goodness” as defined by you… then you need to NOT -- send me this crap at all.