The Modern Trends: A non-contemplating Civilization

Glad as I am to witness the first time in recent recorded history a black man becoming the most powerful man in the world, I think there is great value in reckoning that the Obama VS McCain battle, apart from being a tussle between change and reform belied an underlying tension between showmanship and statesmanship. Showmanship won the day, Obama was ‘cool’ Mc Cain was not. McCain was a statesman who had been in public life for about 40 years and had high credentials whereas, Obama came out of nowhere, had very little credentials for executive leadership. But Obama captivated the hearts world over by his ability to enthrall a crowd by his ‘coolness’ factor – charisma, showmanship and rhetoric. He spent $650 million on his advertising and showmanship – the record highest for any US presidential bid. If he had opted as he had promised and as Mc Cain did, for public financing then all he could have spent would have been about $90 million dollars. His charisma drew two hundred thousand Europeans when he was in Berlin. McCain his statesmanship not withstanding, could never match Obama’s showmanship. It is astounding that a person, coming of out relative obscurity, can by sheer showmanship become the most powerful guy in the world.

My intent here is not to delve into the differences between Obama and McCain. Obama is a leader that America needs to salvage what is left of is tarnished reputation in the world. But I intend to use this display of showmanship which won the day, as a starting point to allude to the modern trend in human nature because of which we have allowed ourselves to be persuaded more by the ‘coolness’ factor, showmanship and rhetoric than by reality and rational persuasion. This is not only true of politics, it has pervaded all spheres of life. This was true of the IBM vs Oracle struggle as well, during the initial years. Though IBM had a better product, Oracle took giant leaps by sheer showmanship of Larry Ellison and got a head start in market share.

Over the course of modernization, there has been an increasing focus on creating the coolness factor through showmanship and advertising. That a company like Google can blossom out of nowhere and make net profit of over 4 billion dollars annually, just after 7 years of its inception, just by tapping into the online advertising potential, is evidence enough for the importance of advertising and showmanship in this modernized world. Online advertising has grown so big so quickly that it gives the great Microsoft chills as it has missed the crest of the new wave. In the 2006 ‘Client Summit’ Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft in the key note address said, “in the 1990s Microsoft was about ‘windows, windows, windows baby!!!’ four years back it was about ‘developers, developers, developers baby!!!’ but now Microsoft is all about ‘advertisers advertisers advertisers baby!!!’”.

To understand the implications of this trend in the modern man, of his predisposition to blithely give in to such showmanship that is so prevalent around him, one has to understand the words of Voltaire one of the profound thinkers of the age of Enlightenment when he said
“The modern man has no time to think about truth, his intellectual history is just a replacement of one myth by another”.
Advertising and showmanship is all about captivating the human hearts and minds and then feeding it with myths while at the same time, deluding it into an intellectual laziness of blithely assuming that it is getting a glimpse of reality and also feel ‘cool’ about it. The modern man would buy into anything, whether it is the legitimacy of abortion or the adultery or rampant materialism if it is well ‘packaged’ and ‘delivered’ with cool showmanship.

Advertisers and showmen are easily able to tap into this trend of intellectual laziness in human because humans beings as Voltaire rightly points out do not want to spend time thinking about Truth. They do not want to think or spend time in deep contemplation. Edison the man who invented much more than any man alive could ever have, said, “Man would go to great lengths just to avoid having to think about something”.

If Voltaire would come to this world, he would be flabbergasted by the way the post modern world has fallen from the intellectual ideals of the enlightenment world. He would be happy to go back in time to the enlightenment world were reason and content held sway over intellectual laziness and showmanship. The 21st centuary man, to retain his intellectual fidelity to reality, has to make a concerted effort not to allow showmanship or the ‘coolness’ factor to delude him from truth. He should go through the painstaking path of rationally thinking through content and have a glimpse of truth for himself.

The problem with the post modern man is that the idea of introspective contemplation and the quest for Truth has become non essential. In the good old days when India was one of the most advanced civilizations in the world, the highest vocation a man could dedicate himself to was to take up a life of meditation in which one was in a quest for Truth about life. Even in the western world, the golden age was when Philosophy was the pinnacle of education. Now a days, the highest vocation a young man can devote himself is to become a Steve Jobs and create devices which is so much about look and feel than about anything else. The need for such devices is in their ability to seduce the modern man’s mind and being absorbed by anything other than contemplating the truth of being.

21st centuary man thinks that his civilization is perpetually progressing. But he does not even realize that in allowing himself to be seduced by showmanship and ‘coolness’ factor around him, his supposedly ‘progressive’ civilization distracts and deprives him off the time he needs to introspectively analyse if his civilization truly is progressing or not. He blithely gives into the ‘cool show’ that is put around him and assumes that he is progressing into a better world than his ancestors lived in, just because he has a ipod and his forefathers did not. It would do him a lot more good to remember G.K. Chesterton’s quote

Civilization can exist in only one angle, right now, we are testing angles

Author: Emmanuel R Paulpeter

I am a writer, spiritual director, life coach and a Church Planter who love all things pop culture, theology and spirituality.

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