Hyping the apocalypse
I don't watch pro football. To me it is boring, brutal, and an opiate of the masses, replacing religion for millions of people. I grew up loving the game, and one of my father's best friends played center for the Chicago Bears. He was a colorful character, played college ball at Notre Dame, and in mythical "Irish" Catholic fashion, had a family of nine children. Their back yard had no grass.
My dad played quarterback for legendary Chicago high school power Mount Carmel. My own football career was a tad less exalted, but I played.
After Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus professional football became redundant and uninteresting, and it looked to me that it had to become increasingly violent and hystericized (a new word I just invented).
Mentioning pro football hype seems itself to be boring and redundant, but it makes for a perfect metaphor for our times. The NFL is a business, and now generates billions of dollars in revenue. Fan interest is critical, and hype is necessary to keep them at a high level of excitement about the game.
The same can be said for TV in general, and for our pop culture, dominated as it is by our various forms of electronic media.
And, sad to say, for our economic system. I could take any industry as an example. The pharmaceutical industry will do. It's not enough to generate new medicines to cure or mitigate disease. People have to be "pitched," to be made excited about the promise of new drugs. Men are now plagued with "erectile dysfunction," in what used to be a normal part of aging. Women are offered new "cures" for obesity. Statin drugs, of which I have some serious negative experience, are promoted as necessary treatments for cholesterol.
It goes on and on. In order to stay in business the pharmaceutical companies have to generate ever greater revenues. Many, if not most, of the drugs they sell have serious side effects, which can themselves cause great harm. That doesn't slow them down a bit. The need for growth requires a multi-faceted approach that includes paying elected officials for legislation they propose (campaign donations), paying doctors with golf vacations, money, free samples, restaurant meals, etc., and funding compliant university research.
And multimedia advertising, especially on television, hyping it with a combination of fear-mongering and great promise. If you have erectile dysfunction you aren't quite a man. In a mixed media of hype, some of the ads show groups of men watching pro football, implying the man watching pro football who has "ED" is faking it, not a real man.
There is no hype for eating a good diet, getting plenty of exercise, meditating and doing other practices like hatha yoga, tai chi, qigong, herbs, dietary supplements, and living a good life. Or avoiding motorcycles, which make men impotent, in one of the more amusing ironies of modern times.
Another product that is hyped more than any other is politics. Thanks to the emergence of the blowhard punditocracy, we now have a public forum of ideas that focuses on character assassination, fear-mongering, fake issues like the "ground zero mosque," lying, and, of course, hype.
Our economy is collapsing. We have an infinite growth economic system on a finite planet. Our system of reward and taxation is biased toward the already wealthy. Our productive system is destroying the ecosystem. Our political system is, in effect, a mafia, where the various actors are either controlled by payoffs from bankers and corporations, or appointed by those who are.
We have just had a shameful election, where an estimated four billion dollars was spent by the various candidates for office, or by their proxies. With that amount of money spent, it is safe to say that the election was bought, and bought by the rich. It is also safe to say that because the election was bought by the rich, the problems of our economy will not be solved, that things will get worse, and that they will get worse faster than before.
At some point reality will set in drastically. The weather disturbances we have been experiencing will get worse. The depletion and pollution of the oceans will get worse. The extinction of species will get worse. Unemployment will get worse. Our government will continue its aggressive interventions in other countries, apparently with "Iran" and "Yemen" being the next targets.
The synergy of these factors spells collapse. Sooner than we would believe could happen. I have long seen this coming. We don't have a forum of ideas that includes facing reality, so our paid-for intelligentsia will continue talking about side issues, non-issues and fake issues. I wonder what the NFL pregame shows will be like when it all comes down. One thing can be said for sure: Erectile dysfunction isn't going to matter much, except as a metaphor.
I received a copy of True Enough in the mail yesterday, a "premium" for renewing my subscription to Salon. It is subtitled "Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society." It's a variation of the theme of this post.
Here's a tune for the times.
Click here for some Gale Sayers highlights. Here's some footage of Dick Butkus. Though he single-handedly raised the level of brutality in pro football, he was a pure athlete. I saw him play in his senior year a the University of Illinois when they played Minnesota. Butkus played center on offense as well as middle linebacker on defense. He opened holes three players wide. It was pretty unbelievable. Here's a pretty good highlights video of both players.
Wikipedia needs money:
Update, January 30, 2010: Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 15:03 ET
The NFL: An indictment of America goes into greater depth about our national obsession with football.