8 07 2009

I’m a-gonna get on mine for a moment.  Feel free to tune out if you’d like.

And I’ll state up front, I’m definitely the pot calling the kettle black, or white, or silver, or whatever color your kettle is.  Who has a kettle these days anyway?

I don’t get the Michael Jackson mania.  Actually, I do get it.  It’s just another instance of how screwed up and backward our priorities have gotten in this world.

The man had talent. He was an artist.  Sure he had a questionable character and offbeat lifestyle.  Name a celebrity who isn’t put under pressure each and every day.

But the thing that gets me is the celebrity-worship we’ve developed in this country.  We eat, drink, sleep, breathe celebrity.  It’s the American Dream–anyone can be someone, and guess what, they were just like us!  Television force feeds us with so-called “reality” television, which is actually code-speak for “cheap to produce” television.  Case in point, the 10th or 11th edition of a show called Big Brother is about to premiere on CBS on Thursday.  The object of this show?  To sit around in a house with a bunch of other “houseguests,” compete in “challenges,” and vote people out to narrow it down to someone winning 500,000 buckaroos.  On the one hand, it’s somewhat educational into strategic gameplay and human interdynamics.  On the other, it’s exploitative (not truly, everyone volunteers to play for advancing their fame), and mind-numbingly insane to watch.

If that’s not enough, reality “stars” are recycled from one series to another, popping up on all kinds of new and stupid shows.  And we watch.

Now I have a bone in this argument, because I actually have a degree in Radio/Television, with an emphasis in management and sales.  Not that this is doing anything for me in seminary, but still.  One of my favorite classes I took in college was called “Programs and Audiences.”  Mind you I was in school from 93-98, to set a time frame.  In techno-speak, it was at the end of television as it had always been (30 minute situation comedies, 60 minute dramas, the dawning of the impact of the expansion of cable networks, etc)  In this class, we discussed how stations/networks decide what to air, who their target audience is, and why.  It was here that Dr. Pitts first told us about this show that had been pitched to a network about a group of people deserted on an island with a film crew, with all their daily activities filmed, competing in challenges, or a sort of game show.  I thought it was ridiculous.  Who would do this?  Who would volunteer?  Little did I know that this genre would spawn evil offspring that would eventually take over the face of television.

But I started talking about Michael Jackson, didn’t I?  My main complaint is this:  We’ve become a society of celebrity-worshippers who are narcissistic enough to want to become one ourselves.  The sacrifice for all of this is a loss of true community.

Community is a buzz-word that’s thrown around fairly flippantly lately.  I mean it in this sense–Michael Jackson’s death didn’t unite the world in community–it just became the most watched television event in history.  His memorial service put money in someone’s pockets.

You want community?  Get to know your neighbors.  (Self-revelation and foot in mouth coming) At the end of this month we will have lived in the house we live in for 2 years.  My neighbor on one side’s name is Jim.  He’s married, drives a volkswagen and a motorcycle that are both really loud and shakes our house when he starts them up.  We speak when we meet at the mailbox.  His dogs are sometimes in the backyard, and sometimes aren’t, and they always bark at me and scare my daughters, even though they’re little yippy dogs that I could easily squash.

My neighbor on the other side is a young guy and girl, recently married.  They moved in this spring.  His dad also either lives there or stays a lot.  The dad’s name is Norman and he’s worked hard to clean the place up.  He has cleared out the fence row in between our houses, and cut up 3 dead trees that had fallen in my yard that neither I nor my landlord had gotten to.  He even mowed my backyard once when he thought we were out of town.  We made them some cookies.  He has a weenie dog named Samuel J. Dog.  He barks at us and growls and scares the girls too, but I like him.  I like Norman–he went out of his way to meet me and my family.  At first, it was a little creepy–who is this guy and why does he want to know me?  We are conditioned to be private and protective.  Where we lived in Cincy for 6 plus years, we never knew the names of the people on either side of us, only giving them nicknames like “woman with a lot of kids” or “pharmacist sisters” or “mom with druggie son.”

I don’t know the people across the street from me, yet I could probably name all of Michael Jackson’s siblings and children.  I think one of the people across the street died last fall, but I didn’t know them, so it wasn’t my business.

I don’t want to live like that.

I don’t want to minister like that.

I don’t want to become so disconnected that I mourn a man who made music more than the person who lives across the street.

I’m gonna take Norman’s example and introduce myself to my neighbors.  They’ll think I’m strange, but if I do it in the right way, maybe I can minister to them and be the man God called me to be.

I wanna live where I am, and not in some reality show or sensational celebrity tragedy.



2 responses

8 07 2009

Very good thoughts and a challenge to us all!

8 07 2009
Joe Bumbulis

I do think that one of the most damning things in our culture is that we know more and care more about celeb’s and their lives than our neighbors. So with that I agree.

I do think the Jackson Mania is out of hand, but I’m also not black. I can’t help but wonder if this is an important moment, not for Jackson, but for the black community to take center stage. Racism is a reality and I don’t understand what it means to be black, but I do understand that Jackson broke barriers for the black community and for that his community is celebrating him. So while I do agree that this is a case of our narcissistic culture on the one hand, I wonder if there is something deeper involved for an oppressed community.

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