Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Sign of the Time

What’s going on in this world? Whatever happened to serious discourse in our society? Was Paul Fussell right in his wildly reviled assessment of us as a nation in his otherwise acclaimed book “Bad or, the Dumbing of America?”

I thought of this the other evening when shooting the breeze with a group of friends the question of politics—what else?—came up. Now, I need to say at the outset that the subject of what I’m going to say is a delicate one, for at the core of it is this, my very blog, “The Power of Words.” I need to make sure that I don’t give the impression of being unable to take criticism. Believe me, as a translator and a writer I’m very much used to it.

But coming back to what is at issue. As I said, the conversation turned to politics, with the usual, rather too emphatic, points and counterpoints regarding Obama and the current mega debate about our calamitous health care system.

At some point, totally unintentionally on my part, my blog popped up in the conversation. Out of the blue one of my fellow breeze shooters said to me, “You know? You need to lighten your blog. Your subjects are too heavy. People don’t read this stuff. You bore them.”

I was surprised when others echoed this opinion. Now again, I didn’t take this as a referendum on my writing, for as I said criticism comes with the job. But what shocked me was the shallowness of the statement, expressed by one and sheepishly repeated by others. Essentially, it was said that an open and constructive discourse about our country’s problems is boring, it requires too much effort; that instead I should lighten my blog by writing about less serious topics. I suggested tabloid gossip, maybe pornography. I couldn’t distinguish the yeas from the nays so, not wanting to be unfair to anybody, I’ll leave it at that.

As to the above implied descent into shallowness, where many of us live in mediocrity, blind partisanship, denial, victims of our own gullibility, fleeced and gouged by a system gone wild, I say, Paul Fussell was right. We are witnessing the dumbing of America.

It’s a sign of our time.


  1. I do not believe that people find your subjects boring. I would argue that a majority of people perhaps do not engage in the same level of thinking that you come from. Personally, I enjoy reading what you write because your flare for writing presents your ideas in an interesting and educational manner.
    Yes, the health care issue is heavy, and many people do not understand it. I admit that I have many questions myself. To say it is boring is a cop out. Yes, thinking takes effort!
    Do not lighten your blog by writing about less serious issues. For people that are unenthusiastic about reading material related to serious issues let them go elsewhere.

  2. Shallowness? I would rather think that the comments were made in the spirit of fairness. To offer a more balanced view of a specific subject you can ask questions occasionally. For example, does anyone believe the public option will pass. If not, why? Are politics getting in the way of true reform? (Or is it "Is politics...") Are the special interests hammering away to defeat reform?
    The subject is not boring and your pieces are very well written. I think you would want a lively discussion with different points of view on your blog.

  3. It is quite refreshing to read a blog that dares to delve into the real world. I think that might be what some people avoid, reality. Sometimes I think America has gotten dumb and numb, because we fail to think and discuss the important realities and busy ourselves with running to the mall. Good blog.

  4. Wow, to have the opportunity to see the inside of a shrink's mind!
    Someone once said that mankind has reached the end of philosophy. The fact that so few delve into what many call the real world seems to prove this. It appears that the slow death of Man's inner world, his spiritual self––gradually being destroyed by science and technology––is setting us adrift in a vast universe not governed by our old assumed absolutes: truth vs false, black vs white, real vs unreal. Thus, what is real and what is unreal? Is it more rewarding to run to the mall and buy another electronic gadget than to read a book? And is it easier to find companionship in a structured organization than to develop it individually? Finally, is non–fiction writing more real than fiction writing?