The Thin Veneer Of Cultural Iconology

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The Thin Veneer of Cultural Iconology

In his article—Confessions of a Cultural Drop-out—published by Pajamas Media, Victor Davis Hanson slays the huffing and puffing dragon of popular culture by assessing the thin veneer of cultural iconology as it swishes by with no apparent staying power. His last few paragraphs begin with eerily the same language I just this past weekend used to describe my own general malaise which can also be summarily dismissed as simple aging by those who, in Kierkegaard's terms, simply refuse to make distinctions , so I start here...

A FINAL, ODD OBSERVATION. As I have dropped out of contemporary American culture and retreated inside some sort of 1950s time-warp, in a strange fashion of compensation for non-participation, I have tried to remain more engaged than ever in the country’s political and military crises, which are acute and growing. One’s distancing from the popular culture of movies, TV, newspapers, and establishment culture makes one perhaps wish to overcompensate in other directions, from the trivial to the important.

Lately more than ever I try to obey the speed limit, overpay my taxes, pay more estimates and withholding than I need, pay all the property taxes at once, pick up trash I see on the sidewalk, try to be overly polite to strangers in line, always stop on the freeway when I see an elderly person or single woman with a flat, leave 20% tips, let cars cut me off in the parking lot (not in my youth, not for a second), and patronize as many of Selma’s small businesses as I can (from the hardware store to insurance to cars). I don’t necessarily do that out of any sense of personal ethics, but rather because in these increasingly crass and lawless times, we all have to try something, even symbolically, to restore some common thread to the frayed veneer of American civilization, to balance the rips from a Letterman attack on Palin’s 14-year-old daughter or a Serena Williams’ threat to a line judge, or the President’s communication director’s praise of Mao, civilization’s most lethal mass murderer, or all of what I described above.

I don’t fathom the attraction of a Kanye West (I know that name after his outburst), a David Letterman, Van Jones, Michael Moore (all parasitic on the very culture they mock), or the New York Review of Books or People Magazine (they seem about the same in their world view). So goodbye to all that.

Horace called this reactionary nostalgia the delusion of a laudator temporis acti, the grouchy praiser of times past for the sake of being past. Perhaps. But I see the trend of many ignoring the old touchstones of popular entertainment and life as a rejection of establishment culture—a disbelief in, or utter unconcern with, what elites now offer as valuable on criteria that have nothing to do with merit or value. I was supposed to listen to Dan Rather because Murrow once worked for CBS? I am to go to the Cinema 16 because Hollywood once made Gone With the Wind or On the Waterfront?

I don’t particularly like the idea that I want little to do with contemporary culture. But I feel it nonetheless—and sense many of you do as well.

But don't neglect reading it all..

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