Interesting download this morning that felt like writing to the collective – so here we are. Initially it seemed like nothing new … Reality is not what you see on TV or in social media. It’s not what’s presented. It’s what happens. Sometimes what happens is contrived. In fact, more often that not, it’s safe to assume much of what you see is contrived. In that case, there’s a number of potential “happenings”.
So, as is not a surprise to any of us who are really paying attention to the movie, watching at the risk of getting left behind, is how great the confusion around what’s happening, what should be happening and what we’re told is happening. Our life experience encompasses a live, multi-channel audio and video feed of unvetted gossip, entertainment and information that most of us deem necessary to our survival. Our news, media, and entertainment have become fundamental to how we view and feel about ourselves – in some, perhaps many cases, such is more vital and important than the feed from our bodies, from our actual human senses.
I watched my father wrestle with this in the 1970’s when entertainment programming, network series like Hill Street Blues and other detective shows were popular in the US. He was an aspiring person. He’d studied and applied himself. Factory work was not for him. Psychology and Criminology. Drama. War. Excitement. Family. Leadership. Will Power. Discipline. Intelligence. Those words characterized him well.
He also wrestled with religion and law enforcement – not just in his head, but in real life. He was on the “side” of the “good” guys. He was a church and community leader. He’d risen from a patrol officer through the ranks to lead the local police department. He’d also transformed himself from a troubled kid, drinking and smoking and skirt chasing Marine who was left without a future thanks to the Great Depression of the 1930’s and droughts that wiped out the family farms and community in the Midwestern region of the US. He was pulling himself together when he met my mom and all this came together for them (their life, as we would say). Then I came along just before JFK was assassinated. 35 millimeter video camera’s had come out. Dad filmed my arrival to the home they were building. I have the video today – nearly six decades later. They even made a movie like poster with a slogan on it: “Don’t Bug Me. Burp Me” – a timely play on the “bug-i-ness” of my family name.
So he had the inside track on how police work really went down and was pressed into reality of living it. There was no way out for him. He didn’t drink or mess around. He and my mother had a bit of family support but no inheritance to inside connections in the community to make things easier for them.
The line was thin between the haves and have nots in this midwestern community. The natives of this region were hillbillies. In reality they were drawn to the beautiful outdoors of the region and likely were outcasts or lost souls who stopped in the middle of the settlement of the continent in the 1800’s. They were poor and uneducated, potentially desperate and primal.
The professionals in the region had migrated into this from the larger cites located 150-200 miles away. Like the locals, they enjoyed the scenery and landscape, the lakes and mountains – but with a marked superiority to the locals. These wealthy professionals brought industry, commerce, education and “the better life”, i.e. hope (on their terms) to the region. They brought their connections from the “big cities” into the local region. These “outsiders” were fingers or extensions, a new market for the larger cities.
This is not intended to be a piece on the history of the Ozark Mountain region in southwest Missouri. However, it is necessary to form some foundational point of reference is necessary to position reality, fiction and that gap between. They say nobody reads anymore and this needs to be a video or podcast, but such a line is not for the faint of heart, the follower or the lazy. So why bother. This is addressing those who require and understand the need for foundation. The lost are lost, but their time may come to require a foundation other than a celebrity frame of common reference.
So to keep this from morphing into an epistle, more than is necessary, to get to the point now, my father was frustrated by the stories around police work and the mafia and religion on TV and film in the 1970’s. My theory is these contrived stories were written and acted how the business people, the advertisers, wanted life in America portrayed. The objective was to hold people’s attention long enough to sell some stuff to the watchers. Where churches failed, programming and non-stop feeds of stories through communication technology succeeded then and has not only prevailed, but it is soaring.
My father was disgusted. On the job he saw the desperation and primal behavior of mankind. On TV he saw hero’s and neatly packaged stories around justice that just never happened in real life. Every day he was dealing with desperate people on both sides of the hierarchy. An interesting cast of characters from a distance. Some paid off by the mafia. Businessmen looking the other way. Bored people drinking and having affairs, pretending to look after their children. Community leaders desperately trying to keep order. Bad cops with friends in the right places.
Nobody had time to stop and rehabilitate “the cast” and have them act the way they should be acting, the way they were portrayed on TV. Reform really never happened at prison. It was just a place to lever the behavior, to add pressure to an angle in the game.
My father’s greatest dismay may have indeed been rooted in seeing humanity shift from demanding justice, opportunity and living the values they talked about into demanding it in their entertainment.
I passed one of my father’s former colleagues recently during a visit back home. The man noticed me in the grocery store. He stopped to connect and remind me how much he thought of my father. “He got off easy”, the man said fondly. In the man’s eyes I could see my father’s pain. It was comforting not to be alone. I suspect that’s why he approached me.
Now in retrospect, from the ease and perch granted me by life today, I find myself wishing we had found a better way forward for our children – but who am I to say. We keep repeating the mistakes over and over. We continue to dream of ways to live without foundation. We can’t help but oversimplify with our shoulds and desires. It’s hard to remember who we really are and to deal, feel and react authentically. It’s becoming a lost art as the masses swell to eight billion plus at the command of the few, much less than the one percent. We no longer even need humans to do much of the thinking or even the repeating to create a false sense of security. The schemes of the bankers and highly powerful and educated – Lehman, Enron, Madoff,and now the recent SBF/FTX debacle. We don’t bring newborns into the world to be de-conditioned from society, from their upbringing, to play video games and live in their heads. Or did we? Do we? Are we?