What opinions have you held for longer than a three years? What opinions hold up even at family dinners or outside your environments?
Great, I’m sure they’re good ones. Really. But they’re the basic ones, easy ones, commitments to broad, general good.
But how many get hemmed or hawed into the middle when the moment fades?
The problem is we play ping-pong with opinions; the moment something crosses into the popular, it’s worth deriding again. People were excited about Barack Obama; can you even remember that, in our jaded present? The same will happen to Elizabeth Warren and about artists you haven’t even found yet. Everything new will become old, discarded as it’s absorbed.
Things are loved for their potential and freshness, not for their content.
Some of that is inevitable – time, after all, fades the new – but the half-life for thoughts and products creates a mandatory industry of reflective obsolescence. I got made fun of for having an iPhone 4 by a ten year old student because he knows what we all know: there is a new phone, with a new number, and that’s the one that counts.
This is crotchety, but I don’t begrudge progress or gains. I enjoy those benefits, even when I’m slow to adapt. The problem though is that speed of progress means our pop-culture involves a speedy process of newness, adaptation, boredom, backlash, cliche backlash, and backlash to backlash as the ultimate statement and the ironic or faux-sincere adaptation of the original as a symbol, not as its self in a way that makes the owner of the backlash-to-backlash opinion smarter than you.
It’s a rough equation but plug pop culture experiences in and see if they fit.
You see that happen. America, after all, loves an underdog, and with the internet, thought becomes a sport that cycles quickly. Opinions are hopped on and off quickly- when a critical mass hits, what was once cool becomes guache and guache becomes cool. Ugly sweaters are in! Pumpkin Spice Lattes are basic! Wait, now saying “basic!” is basic! And bad! We love pumpkin spice again! But not too much!
It can get exhausting.
I still don’t like Michael Vick.
Remember? He fought dogs, killed the dogs, served prison time, and is back in the NFL as a starting quarterback.
That should be a kind of slam-dunk opinion, but, weirdly, it’s been rotated out of the common experience. Narratives about Vick’s “comeback” to a starting job and his “overcoming” hardships have turned the story on its head. He’s served his time, people say, there‘s a racial element, a classist element, and so many elements that who’s to say who’s right, you know? Maybe for judging we’re just as bad as someone who, say confessed to personally killing two dogs, one by hanging.
Feel free to read the whole case, if you have an hour to devote to feeling bad.
I’m bringing this up because there’s an uncomfortable trend towards obstruction. The basic truth, after all, is so basic; it’s cooler, more interesting, more intriguing to cloud the issue. You get no points for saying the plain fact that dogfighting is bad as hell; you get far more points for pivoting on the issue and claiming your own intellectual property in a tangent. What about cultural expectations of athletes? What about “serving your time?” Shouldn’t we hear both sides? All three sides? Twenty sides, weighed equally, until the facts are reduced to a fraction of the story?
It’s tough. The world is, in fact, complicated. Sides do, in fact, need to be weighed. And there’s enough truth in the asides about class, culture and race to deserve consideration of a larger context. But there are facts, morals that we should be held accountable to.
Aren’t you tired of the gray?
Yes, Michael Vick served his time in prison. Remember? He committed an actual, serious and violent crime. Yes, it derailed his $130 Million dollar football contract, but is that the morality we want to keep up with? The “too big to fail” pity that extends invincibility to the successful doesn’t work for banks and it doesn’t work for people either.
Michael Vick has more money than either you I will ever see in our lives. The man will be okay.
What if he wasn’t famous? What if some guy was running a dogfighting ring – would you be that reluctant to hold a grudge? I’ve heard powerful and interesting arguments about race, culture, and relative morality, and even the concept of “paying debts” and all the broader evils in the world that we ignore.
But, in a vacuum; who are we to hem and haw the obvious into something else?
What if the simple answer is the right one?