Friday, May 03, 2019

Requiring Pop Culture

Soraya Roberts at Longreads has a frustrating article When Did Pop Culture Become Homework? She verges on understanding what she is talking about. She notices that E.D. Hirsch wrote about having a common cultural language in the 1980s, and declares him mostly wrong.  She then bemoans that Hirsch's ideas, his insistence we should all have common items to reference, have now descended to requiring popular culture in order to converse with our fellow-citizens, and thinks this is the same thing but just as wrong. 

It's not the same thing. It is what the protectors of Western Civ have always warned us about.  If you do not have good culture, you will have bad culture. When we abandon the culture that has nurtured us for generations, we do not get some wonderful open area where we are all free to choose among many exciting possibilities.We get the path of least resistance, whatever is lying around and popular at the time. When we declare that this previous era and that one had its own biases, we are like the boy in the story who is ensorcelled to fall in love with the first thing he sees upon awakening.  In this case, whatever is in the checkout line at the store, or whatever is on tonight's news.

I don't think popular culture is neutral, not in any era. It contains the Spirit of the Age in distilled form, and we too easily become drunk on it.

(Whoa.  That metaphor played out well.)

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