Okay, okay…first off, I have to say that I was completely bored when I did it. Boredom should be considered the equivalent of temporary insanity…the things that it can make one do is astounding. It forces us to grasp at any fleeting thing in order to pass the time. It forces us to perform life experiments that carry the risk of unending humiliation should they ever be discovered. It forces us to watch (gasp!) Fear Factor.
I know, I know…there really are no excuses for it. But I did it. I’m not happy about it. I watched people precariously perch on top of a yellow car that had been hoisted several stories into the air in the rain at an angle, attempting to get flags that had been tied onto either end of it. Two of them gave up entirely. One screwed up his arm pretty bad as he fell. And, of course there was a winner. The winner walked away with $50,000 because fear was “not a factor” for him.
(Applause, gasp, realize what I just watched, become horrified, repent in an overly religious way….)
The guy that went before the winner, though…the one who screwed up his arm…was talking all kinds of smack before he went up. Constantly talking about how no one was there to be friends, and that all of their encouragement to each other was fake (moments earlier, the others had been yelling encouragement to him while he screamed like a girl tied down in a pit full of rats that were biting his fingers and crawling up his crotch). They were there for the money. Nothing else. No camaraderie. Just money.
All about the money.
And so goes our culture. And so goes the source of my personal frustration. Like anybody else, I can think of a lot of things that I could do with $50,000. But I wouldn’t do anything to get it. I certainly wouldn’t let rats crawl around my stuff. But, the insanity of these contestants aside (there’s a thin line between courage and stupidity), I’m disturbed at the philosophy behind this show.
The philosophy is that we, as a society, would do nearly anything for money. Or, more importantly, that we have to do things for money. Things we don’t like. Even things we hate. Because we have to pay the rent. We also have to pay for things that we should never have to pay for (like healthcare), and we’re forced to pay for things that should be nothing short of illegal (like insurance). And, of course, we are the nation of debt…the debt that has screwed up our economy as badly as this guy screwed up his arm, the debt that holds us captive to our credit cards and education loans (education: something else that should be free).
Because of this, most of us don’t have the freedom to do what we love. Men who love their families and want desperately to spend more time with them can’t because they have to sell their souls to earn a decent lifestyle. Single mothers who desperately want an education beyond high school can’t get it because they’re forced to wait tables at IHOP or answer the phone as an administrative assistant who is paid far below what she’s worth.
Because of this, artists can’t create because they lock up in fear that they won’t be able to sell enough to eat. Musicians are prisoners of their record companies who could care less about artistic integrity as long as their pockets are deeply padded. Poets wonder what they’re going to eat tonight because a magazine only paid them $150 for four poems.
Because of this, politicians…well, don’t even get me started on politicians.
The rise of impressionist art was, according to many scholars, triggered by the angst that man feels arising from a de-humanizing society that reduces us to numbers and skills. This angst continues to plague us as we realize that standards continue to invert, as we realize that we are a prisoner to a culture that demands 60-hour work weeks for a salary of $30,000 a year.
So, college students give blood over and over because they need the money to pay for a privilege called education. People who love to create force themselves into a jungle called the office in order to make it. Adults climb on top of yellow cars and let rats crawl up…well, I don’t want to keep repeating…
Can’t we see the desperation we’ve driven ourselves to? Can’t we see how suicidal we’ve made ourselves? No wonder shrinks and therapists make such a great living.
No wonder we’re all unhappy with our lives, and feel like we’re treading water without a direction or purpose.
No wonder spirituality is forced to the bottom, along with other critical aspects of humanity like artistic expression.
No wonder we’ve created a need for attorneys and insurance agents and counselors, so we slave away, exacerbating the problems in our own lives to pay them to contribute to our problems.
No wonder we think God is dead.
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