by Brad Nelson
I am a freak, a fool, and just sometimes plain naive. But I have this strange thought that there is more to life than marketing, self-interest, self-promotion, and the accumulation of “hits” or “likes.”
If I had a neighbor, I would want him to be Jonah Goldberg. Here’s a man who is intelligent, funny, articulate, and from all accounts, a very nice guy. And yet, watching him these past couple of years at National Review Online, he’s morphing into a David Frum-ish sort of character.
Everyone has an opinion, but Jonah’s opinions of late have often been odd, to say the least. He’s driven many times off the conservative reservation, but the two that stand out most were his flimsy rationale for gay marriage (his Sesame Street-ish argument of “One of these things is not like the other”) and his recent post in which he says that the “ratchet effect” of Big Government is a myth.
Jonah has always appealed to me for his wit, wisdom, and good sense of humor. But what is becoming of this man? What infection is it that turns very sharp people into ideological ninnies?
Well, a man certainly has a right to change his mind on issues. But the train of bizarre opinions these last couple years from him is so long and constant that it begs an explanation. And a friend of mine the other day I think came up with it. He’s no longer Jonah Goldberg. He’s Jonah, Inc. That is, he has tailored his message to the market (or the market he desires) rather than (as any good conservative must these days) ask that the market listen to and be changed by him.
Believe me, when I started this site I had no illusions about being “Brad, Inc.” and still don’t. One of the things I have come to terms with (well, mostly) is just how outside of mainstream culture I am. I am the lone man standing on the shore waving in alarm while watching the “settled consensus” Titanic of public opinion head towards the iceberg. I’m not preparing a vast “I told you so” when the time comes. It’s just that the momentum of that great ship, even if it wanted to stop, cannot stop, and most people who are swimming in this fishbowl of our culture cannot see the water they are swimming in.
And, really, describing that water has always been the job of the poet, the prognosticator, or just the curmudgeon. And as they say, no one erects statues to critics. So I have no illusions of being the online equivalent of Miley Cyrus, writing and gyrating in a proverbial naked fashion that will soon land me (or one of my excellent cohorts here) on whatever is the writer’s equivalent of Saturday Night Live. This is surely so because, in truth, we are at the point now were mere mild truth-telling is scorned.
So perhaps I can understand Jonah becoming Jonah Inc. But I don’t have to like it.
Put this in the department of petty complaints. But doesn’t anyone use their damn turn signals anymore? With all this talk of a culture of narcissism by Glenn and other fine writers, I can’t help thinking that this is the explanation for why someone can’t be bothered for even this small bit of civilized action. Are these the same people who throw trash out the window? And am I the only one seeing an increase in this?
One of the oddest developments in our culture is the plethora of tattoos. And I’m not talking about the small, somewhat tasteful, heart on the upper buttocks. I’m talking full-body stuff, or nearly so.
This is truly an odd development indeed. It’s part of human nature (or at least part of mass-marketed pop culture) for fads to run through the masses. I remember in high school (or was it junior high?) taking part in one of the dumbest fashion fads. It was so dumb that it made even platform shoes look sane. I’m talking about bell-bottom pants. (They don’t look so bad on the chick, but guys used to wear them too, including me.) In retrospect, that had to have been someone fashion designer’s practical joke.
But the pants came and went. My legs are still here, able and willing to slip into a pair of 501 Levis — or something else, should the desire occur. But tattoos, by their very nature, are permanent. Who in their right mind would want to adorn their bodies with graffiti that — and I’ll be kind — might not be of the quality even to grace the pages of a comic book?
If someone in the 70’s would have stitched bell-bottomed pants directly onto their skin, I wouldn’t have followed. As much as bell-bottomed pants seemed like a good idea at the time, I doubt I would have ever followed any fad that involved permanently sowing the flared bottoms onto my calfs. And yet that’s exactly what the fad of tattoos entails.
Or is it just a fad? Our culture has done some really stupid stuff of late. But most people understand the different between changing fashions and permanent ink. I have another theory about all this, one which you may take or leave. But I think some of this is an attempt to quite literally escape one’s own skin.
You can’t be young these days and not have been inundated by the propaganda that white people are bad and “people of color” are good. People almost apologize these days for being white. That’s how bad it’s gotten. And some subcultures have gotten the message so well that they will actually act-out in a self-evidently destructive way and call getting an education “acting white.”
The demonization of white America has been non-stop. You can’t escape it in movies, TV, radio, the state education system, or the media. It’s an idea that is reinforced at every turn, often subtly but often blatantly. And that’s not to say that only white people are getting tattoos. But I do think that what is subconsciously in the minds of many white yutes is to escape their own skin color. By covering their bodies with drawings they can look “ethnic” or “tribal.” They can turn themselves into the more sympathetic class of “people of color.”
If you have a better explanation for this bizarre behavior, I’m all ears . . . ears that have neither been dyed or pierced, by the way. • (2762 views)