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.