05 December 2010

Incivility

I read in The New York Times (attending to the daily news is an addiction I wish I could break; it is certainly debilitating) that a recent event at the 92nd Street YMHA did not go smoothly. Apparently, Steve Martin’s recent book “An Object of Beauty” concerns the art world, and so the conversation tended to discuss the world of art. The audience was not pleased. They wanted a different conversation.
Midway through the conversation, a Y representative handed Ms. Solomon a note asking her to talk more about Mr. Martin’s career and, implicitly, less about the art world, the subject of his latest novel, “An Object of Beauty.”
According to Mr. Martin, viewers watching the interview by closed-circuit television from across the country sent e-mails to the Y complaining “that the evening was not going the way they wished, meaning we were discussing art.”
What is this? An obviously multi-talented man writes a novel about the art world and the audience doesn’t want to hear about his work or the world he has studied in order to write the book because they have come to hear about his life as a comedian and an actor. They would have the story they want or they would have no story at all. The Y returned the $50.00 for each ticket purchased. The behavior of the audience at the Y displays a disrespect not only to Steve Martin and his work—his new work—but to the very idea of conversation. The discourtesy speaks to an anti-intellectualism that will hear only what it want to hear. Hence the incivility of our society: if you don’t agree me you are obviously stupid and wrong, you dumb ass! And the behavior of the audience at the Y speaks to a dull consumerism that insists on being pleasured. What would the audience have done if Leonardo daVinci had come in to talk about his flying machines and not his painting of the Mona Lisa? He would have been booed.

A story is told: Abe knocks on the office door of his good friend Jules. “Come in, come in, please have a cup of coffee. How are you.” Abe says, “Really, Jules, I’m not so good. Today I learned that unless I can come up with $10,000.00 by next week I’ll lose the business.” “That’s terrible,” says Jules, with great sympathy. “I know,’ Abe sighs. “Jules, I hope you can help me.” “Gee,” says Jules, “I don’t think I can, Abe.” Well, Abe is a bit shocked. “But Jules,” says Abe, “remember when you were starting up your own business, and you needed immediate capital. Who gave you the money?” “You did, Abe, and I was grateful.” “And when your factory burnt to the ground, who signed the bank papers guaranteeing payment.” “You did, Abe, and frankly, it saved my life.” “And when your wife became sick, who gave you the money you needed to hire specialists and to send her to a private clinic where she recovered fully?” “Abe, bubeleh, you know it was you. And we were so grateful” “Abe sighed and through up his arms. “So then, Jules, why won’t you help me now when I am in trouble and you can help me.” “Ah,” Jules said, raising his eyebrows and turning his head slightly to the left, “but what have you done for me lately.”

 The rudeness of the audience and the complicitousness of the administration of the Y in this behavior reflects the general atmosphere of incivility now plaguing society. I am not prepared to catalog instances of this behavior (though I am obsessed with the South Carolina Senator who called the President a liar during his State of the Union Message and was not roundly censured or removed from office), because they are too abundant. Our politicians and public officials are certainly guilty of engaging in public display of repulsive speech and unethical behavior, and violence is all around us. I read (alas, yes, in the papers!) that football has taken a turn for the worse in the practice of head tackling—a particularly deadly strategy for effecting injury. I read that basketball is plagued by fake injury-display.

What is this shit?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop the world - I want to get off!

06 December, 2010 08:00  

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