Thursday, December 29, 2016

“Passengers,” A Few More Words

     ...and not about the movie.

     Way back when – years when I was too short to reach the stove – the opinions of celebrities on social, political, and economic issues didn’t matter to anyone except perhaps their families. Shortly after that – though I believe I was still too short to do the dishes – the television became a staple of the American household and the Cult of Celebrity was born. People whose talents for singing, dancing, joking, or otherwise entertaining us had become “evening guests” in our living rooms. And shortly after that, interviewers foolishly began to inquire about their sociopolitical stances.

     I didn’t care then about a celebrity’s politics. I still don’t, except about the way in which the whole Celebritarian phenomenon has warped the minds of Americans.

     Conservatives have legitimately mocked celebrities who’ve spouted political bilge. The ridicule is well deserved; even the most sensible of the lot are generally under-educated, misinformed about innumerable things, and pumped far too full of themselves by the adulation of their fans. Yet conservatives have gone on from that to lionize celebrities – including very minor celebrities – who spout political opinions with which we agree. How is that consistent?

     As little sense as that makes, it makes even less sense to promote a celebrity’s political stances above his value as an entertainer.

     Yesterday evening, when I posted this piece, a distraction flew past that caused me to omit something I’d intended: specifically, to forbid comments on the piece. So of course the comments immediately poured in – try a Google search for “Jennifer Lawrence” and see what you get – and not one of them was about the movie. And equally of course, I smacked myself on the head, deleted them all, and closed the piece to comments.

     Conservatives, Christians, and others offended by the public caperings and pronouncements of celebrities have been told many times not to patronize their wares. I regard this as bad advice. Ours is a division-of-labor society. Entertainers entertain (and we don’t) because they’re good at it (and we aren’t). People consume entertainment because they want it; indeed, we often need it, given the fractious state of the world and the various ways in which it impinges, undesired and wholly unwelcome, on our lives. So we need to learn to separate the entertainment wheat from the sociopolitical chaff.

     The Left would never do that. To the Left, everything is political. That’s the underlayer of the Leftist psyche. It’s what makes leftists intolerable. And we must rigorously avoid becoming intolerable by aping this characteristic.

     The pseudonymous Ace of Spades, one of the most perceptive writers in the DextroSphere, once wrote that despite the Left’s tendency to view everything as political, it’s we of the Right who seem always to be talking politics. He had a powerful point. It’s a behavior we should expunge. It makes us unwelcome in places where we’d otherwise be welcome. And it pollutes our ability to enjoy pleasant diversions such as music, movies, and sporting events featuring performers whose politics we dislike.

     I wish, most profoundly, that celebrities would keep their sociopolitical opinions to themselves. (Then again, a lot of people wish I’d do the same.) But we can’t always have what we want, and in many a case the desire itself is bad for us and should be squashed.

     Not long ago I read a most excellent book: When Jesus Became God, by Richard Rubenstein. It’s a history of the 4th Century struggles within Christianity over the divinity of Jesus and His precise relation to God the Father. The whole thing is eminently worth the time of anyone interested in the history of Christian thought, but the part that comes to mind just now is early in Rubenstein’s saga:

     The almost obsessive quality of these disputes is nicely captured by a famous churchman, Gregory of Nyssa, writing twenty years after the lynching of Bishop George. In a sermon delivered in Constantinople, Gregory decried the contentiousness of his fellow Christians. “If in this city you ask a shopkeeper for change,” he complained, “he will argue with you about whether the Son is begotten or unbegotten. If you inquire about the quality of the bread, the baker will answer ‘The Father is greater, the Son less.’ And if you ask the bath attendant to draw your bath, he will tell you that the Son was created ex nihilo.

     This was not good for Christianity. It sometimes escalated to violence: Christians spilling other Christians’ blood. It had to be ended. The Council of Nicea, by proclaiming official doctrine, attempted to put an end to it...and failed. It resulted in the earliest known Christian schisms, which have never healed.

     So also with excessive attention to the sociopolitical opinions of celebrities – and I must state this plainly: any degree of attention paid to the sociopolitical opinions of celebrities is excessive.

     Enjoy what entertainers offer (if you find it enjoyable) and dismiss the rest. Otherwise, you’ve been lured into playing the Left’s game – and since it’s a game in which they hold all the cards, it’s one you cannot win.

     I have spoken.