Last night many of us watched the Grammys. We watched the beautiful people come out and sing and celebrate. Oh, what it would be like to live in that world.
But, when the musicians started airing their concerns about war, many people objected. “I want to be able to sit down and just enjoy entertainment,” is a statement I heard one woman say last night on the news.
Why do we want to ignore the war in Iraq? Why do we think musicians and actors do not have a right to fill our time with concerns about the war?
Americans are tired. They work more than any people in the world. They receive less vacation time and are expected to take work home with them. They are paid a salary to become chained to their responsibilities. With the fatigue comes the need for rest. And watching and consuming American culture allows people to ignore their days, and their problems and escape into a subreality, or a one-dimensional reality.
But individual musicians and actors are choosing to voice their opinions and threaten the subreality Americans enjoy so much. The arts have done this before. Music and drama have been important venues for political views. During the Vietnam War a new genre of music and drama was created based on the idea of peace.
Other forms of literature and culture have been used repeatedly to send political messages. Plays, books and movies are all outlets for people to get their messages across. Movies like “American Beauty” and the “Matrix” say something about society. They make statements about the audience that is consuming the media and the movie industry itself.
Has the American society become passive? Much of the entertainment industry does not deal with the issues in society. But the war with Iraq is something American society has to deal with. We will have to see our brothers and our friends go to the Middle East and face the dangers of biological and chemical weapons.
We will have to deal with shortages in goods that we are used to having in supply. We will have to deal with the fact that we as a country allowed our government to kill, injure and displace thousands of people in Iraq and around the Middle East. Most important perhaps is that we will have to deal with the hate and anger created by this war. The people of the Iraq and the people in the Middle East will not come to love America with its bombs and its attacks.
The view that America has become “one-dimensional” has been debated in theoretical political studies. This view is that instead of looking at the problems that are important, and exploring our identities and our possibilities, Americans have come to be part of a capitalist society that deals only with trading and commodities.
In this perspective the society defines itself in one dimension. For the capitalist society this dimension is consumption. We are socialized to see ourselves as consumers and our one role is to consume. We work to consume. We procreate to consume in a pair. And we reproduce to create more little consumers.
One main criticism of this view is that is fails to recognize the human ability to be critical and explore self-identity, two attributes I find important in humans. However, it does have some validity by looking at what is popular in American culture and what is required of individuals to survive.
But I would argue that humans have the ability to self evaluate and explore. Realizing what is going on and what affects us as people is important to becoming active agents in our own lives. Even in a capitalist society where the buck rules, people can search out their identities and get beyond one dimension. Even Keanu escaped the pod in the Matrix.
The arts, including the art that is supposed to entertain us, is an important venue for people to search out their own choices and identities and explore answers to societal problems.
By falling into the definition of American society as one-dimensional we are all missing a piece of our own identities. From this mosh pit to yours; listen, watch, learn and speak.
That is what we all have to do to find the answers to the real problems that await us outside the dimension we have become so used to consuming.