Monday, March 23, 2009

Niche

A teacher I had in high school once gave me some advice prior to going to college. He warned me against getting a PhD and told me to enjoy my time learning in the classes I took as an undergrad. He argued that getting a PhD would suck the soul from the subjects I loved. In his view, modern higher academic learning was finding a small niche and learning everything about it. As he said, "One day someone will get a PhD for becoming the world's expert on the last line of MacBeth" (Mr. Q was a Shakespeare fanatic). While I did not have the drive or desire to get a PhD, I did witness this expert on minutiae vibe in my friends that did apply for PhD programs.

Spreading this idea to the greater forest of humanity, we have become a society obsessed with appearances, not just physical and social, but mental. People want to appear smart or have others think they are smart. A manifestation of this is the crazy obsession that fans of sports have taken to statistics and others have taken to pop culture. Stats are a great way to compare and contrast players. What has become sickening is the way that some people argue about stats or cling to the latest stats about sports (especially baseball), like this is the only argument for a player's value. They are tools for assigning value, but they are not the be all end all. Mostly, these debaters are unathletic d-bags that never played so they make up for this by becoming the stat go to person for discussing the sport. This would be like a group of 9 year olds talking baseball and one kid claiming to know more about the game and players because he read the backs of every players' card. Lame.

Pop culture has gone this route as well. People do not just read a book, see a movie, listen to an album, but they consume it, discuss it at great length on the "internets", create a blog for it, make a list, pick up all the latest news and be a general fuckstick with the world of said item. This is not horrible, as people have been fucksticks or become obsessed with movies, music and art for a long time. What is horrendous is that there is a condescending attitude toward those that do not "get it", and a sense of superior being because the person does "get it". This sort of reminds me of the attitude a friend had when she first went gay. That used to be the province of people at art exhibitions when a mainstream 'rube' would not understand the modern art piece of junk on the wall. Now this attitude is flung at anyone outside the circle of knowledge of some pop culture item. It's pop culture. It is not Kafka's "The Trial" or the history of Australia.

I might be a bit too upset by this. What bothers me is that never before in the history of human civilization have so many normal, common people had what amounts to libraries of information at their fingertips in a free format 24 hours a day and it goes unappreciated. We have this power & access, and yet the Internet feels like a portal that spread misinformation and entertainment crap news as a primary output. There are good sources, websites, authors, etc that use the web. I wish this would get more focus and kids would learn this first... rather than how to surf amazon.com or go to E! television blogs. Please give us little experts on philosophy, chemistry and history rather than who banged who and leaked the video to the internet.

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