A TV person's critique

I have, on the rare occasion that i've watched television, been fairly impressed with the show "Win Ben Stein's Money". It has struck me as being quite a bit harder to win than most quiz games, and at the same time providing much less of a payoff. So, when Mr. Stein wrote a critique of US - and by extension, North American - progress and innovation, i felt it was worth a read. (via, of course, MeFi) Mr. Stein hits so many of my hot-button issues right on the head that i don't really know where to start. I think that the best thing i could suggest would be to read the article, because there's really very little there that i can disagree with. Amongst the points made, however, a few of them stand out from the pack.

Number three, referring to the culture of blame and litigation that is growing in the western world, is one such. Nowhere is the lack of self-responsibility more clearly visible than in the knee-jerk response of "I'll sue!" that greets any mistake on anyone's part. When someone's child chokes on a piece of a toy, sue the toymaker. When someone slips and falls in a parking lot, sue the business that owns the lot. Whenever anyone's happiness is impinged in any way by anyone richer than they are, well, sue, of course! What better response could there be?! At some point, there has to be responsibility on the part of the individual. At least as i see it.

Number seven. This one hits closest to home of all of the points. For all of my economic misanthropism and general distaste for the other practices, this one is the flaw that - in my opinion - runs deepest into the heart of America (please note that, from where i sit, America includes Canada). More and more, our heroes and idols are not men and women of science, of wit, of literary acumen, or intelligence. Our heroes are athletes and fictitious criminals, and our idols are actors and models. As the culture of beauty waxes, the place of intellect in society has waned. I know this better than most, having been on the receiving end of that disdain for most of my younger life. I've seen, and received, abuse simply for being smarter than those around me, as if it were some critical failing in me that led my 'peers' to hate me. And i know i'm not alone. Until this is changed, there's not much hope for our culture, i'm afraid...

Number twelve will be the last one i focus my attention on, though i recommend a look at 10 as well. The issue Mr. Stein looks at in this comment is religion, and the way that it is held up as equal to science - as though it would be somehow 'unfair' not to do so. This is certainly something about which i have strong feelings, but not, i think, the main thrust of the argument. What the real issue is here is that our society, under the guise of inclusiveness, has begun treating all positions as equal - discouraging any kind of differentiation between perspectives in terms of value and rightness - and therefore rendering all positions equally meaningless. As i discussed with a close friend just yesterday, and as i believe very firmly, if you refuse to acknowledge that there is anything that has any less value, you - by extension - acknowledge that nothing has more value either, and thus nothing has any value at all, since the word 'value' has then been stripped of its meaning. If there is no 'down', and thus no 'up', what purpose striving?

Bear in mind, it's not like i have solutions for these problems. But i think that talking about them is at least more likely to provoke thought on the subject than just hoping that someone else will solve them, or worse, ignoring them. Please, read this article, and give some thought to it.

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