Friday Flotsam: Oscars Slap at the Everyman, Core Values, and More

1. My latest post went up on The Everyman earlier this week, this one talking about the Oscars slap. I take it as another sign that the social framework is breaking down:

For my own part, I think the incident raises some interesting points.

First, let’s have no illusions about Will Smith’s personal life, which is as repulsive as anyone’s out there. If this is a grand romantic gesture, it is so only in the abstract. But credit where credit is due; taken in the abstract I’m all in favor of a man decking some idiot for insulting his wife, no matter how many people are watching. This is what is called social violence: not designed to injure, but to enforce norms and boundaries in an unmistakable way. It’s a very useful thing and I think it’s a defect of our own society that we don’t allow a place for it.

That said, I also can’t help but deplore that we’ve reached the point where the elite of Hollywood are striking and swearing at each other on live camera. Can you imagine John Wayne decking Bob Hope live on stage for a tasteless joke? Of course not, because Hope would never have made such a joke in the first place, and Duke would have had enough class and authority to chastise him without resorting to violence if he had.

As I say, social violence is perfectly acceptable, but the thing is that when it becomes necessary, it’s a mark of ill-breeding on one or both sides. The man employing it is expressing either “I perceive that this creature is so devoid of understanding that he would not feel anything less than a blow,” or “I myself have no other means of making my displeasure truly felt,” or both.

Overall, my response is an odd mixture of approval and disapproval: I’m in favor of a man employing social violence to defend his wife in the abstract and feel I must give him credit for it, however repulsive his personal life. But I also deplore that such a thing should be done at what is after all supposed to be a prestigious event—though I’m aware than any genuine prestige has long since departed from it… which is itself part of the problem.

However, what strikes me most of all here is simply the fact that he broke the rules of decorum so completely and let a burst of actual honest emotion shine through in a sea of phoniness. A raw, real human being for one minute emerges from behind the mask of smiling fakery.

Read the rest here.

2. On the topic of social violence, you know we look askance these days at nuns with rulers or fathers with a switch from times gone by, when children were expected to be smacked when they got out of line. We’re even more appalled that it was applied to ‘subordinate people’, like the native people in European colonies, or lower classes back home.

I am going to court a little controversy here and submit that there’s nothing inherently wrong with such practices (individual cases being another matter, of course). Norms and boundaries must be enforced, else they mean nothing. The enforcement must take the form of some kind of deterrent or consequence for violation. This must be something that will be felt, understood, and clearly linked with the violation.

For adults or people who already have a degree of stake in the social process, this can take the form of a rebuke, a snub, or other purely social consequences. But what about people who will not or cannot feel such things, who have little or no stake in social approval? A smack or a blow – one unlikely to do any damage, but able to be felt – is the most immediate, obvious, and universally comprehensible consequence.

Because the consequence otherwise could conceivably be that the most troublesome members of society – the flippant, the vulgar, the sociopathic, and generally the ones who are most likely to step out of bounds – are also the ones who are least able to be restrained or rebuked by anything short of the law.

Which is not to say it’s always the only or best option in such cases, or that it’s always appropriate, but that I do think it ought to be an option.

3. If you’re a long-term reader, you’ve probably noticed things look a little different around here. I’m trying a different template, having been frustrated by certain limitations on the old one. Well, those frustrations have been corrected, but newer ones introduced, so we might have to run through a few more changes in the future. Expect some visual and functional fluctuations going forward, but hopefully nothing too serious.

4. I was looking up another company today and I checked out their core values. Reading through them, I suddenly realized that they were almost identical to the ones my current company uses…which in turn are equally similar to the ones their biggest rival uses. I’m beginning to suspect that all companies have the same ‘core values’, to whit:

-“People are our greatest asset”
-Continuous improvement
-Committed to excellence

You might get some that replace one or two with a slightly different value – like, ‘communication’ might be replaced with ‘collaboration’ or ‘fun’ – or you might have a few more tacked on, or one split in to two or two combined into one, but unless there is a specific cultural identity to the company – e.g. that it’s a specifically Christian organization or something – they all generally amount to the same thing. The only difference is in what they’re called.

I find that rather funny.

5. On that note, when trying to distinguish oneself, one really has to take actual values into account. My thought when I see around work in ‘rebellious’ or ‘non-conformist’ clothes or hairstyles is generally just “why would you do that to yourself?” or, when I’m in a grouchier mood, “Congratulations; you’re special. Now enjoy looking hideous.”

Break the ‘norm’ all you like (not that most of these things aren’t norms in their own right), but kindly try to at least do a good job while you’re at it.

This rule applies to art and storytelling as well, by the way.

6. Honestly, my impression is that a lot of people today are utterly miserable and are papering it over with superficial enthusiasm and entertainment. Ugliness – deliberate, aggressive ugliness – seems to me an expression of some kind of deep-seated pain and self-revulsion.

This is also part of Wokeness, I believe; simply the fact that so many people are in pain they don’t understand and can’t fix, so they cast about for someone to blame, something to be angry about, something to channel that rage into. And of course, this same effect contributed to the Imposition; that attitude of ‘bad people are causing my suffering! We have to stamp them out, force them to do better. Then my pain will stop. Then I won’t be so afraid….’

7. Holy Week approaches. Personally, I feel that once again I’ve not made a particularly successful Lent, but there is still time to end on a high note. And given that Holy Week is such a major demarcation line in the year, this would probably be a good time to begin any programs of personal reform or habit change you’ve been contemplating. You can offer the tribulations of the transition period as a penance and then think of it as a renewal as you move on past Easter.

Regardless, pray, pray, pray! Make a firm final penance and a great celebration at the end of it! For a new dawn is come upon us and our renewal is at hand.

2 thoughts on “Friday Flotsam: Oscars Slap at the Everyman, Core Values, and More

  1. Yes, I noticed the weird squashed look of the header a couple days ago. Also that I had to scroll all through the post to get to the previous one, which I thought was rather annoying in comparison with the prior setup. Apart from that, I don’t think I have any strong opinions one way or the other.

    Regarding your Everyman piece, I just want to say that I really respect your knack for saying the extremely obvious thing that no-one else does. That the root cause of mass shootings must be sought in the period after which they began to occur; that acts of penance have the virtue of making one accustomed to emotional hardship; that happy people in happy societies don’t assault each other on live television at major awards shows – these are the sorts of bracing doses of basic common sense that one can’t always find elsewhere, but that always repay being found. So thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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