February 13, 2004

The Challenge of Culture: Failing Via Isolation

Donald Sensing's current article on culture generated some really frustrating comments that advocated turning off the TV and dropping out of the current culture. That's, at best, a half baked solution. I should know, I tried it. For over a year I literally had no TV. I got all my news off the Internet and radio, mostly the Internet. I read, I paid attention to my new wife. It was a decent existence, I thought, but what it wasn't was engaged. I was, to a great extent, absent from the spiritual battle over american culture. And when I returned, I noticed the difference.

When I left TV land, things weren't quite as crass, when I came back, it seemed like every other show had an occult or vampiric link to it. Now my father was born in the heart of Transylvania and I was born on its edge so I understand the schtick but the current iteration was a little too admiring of the evil side of things for me to be comfortable with it. And the general level of intelligence dropped. It's still dropping but if you haven't at least dropped out for a year, you can miss the gradualness of the process.

There are technical innovations, filtering content, that permit the erection of a wall between you and the sewer. But that's not enough for an ultimate solution. What needs to happen is for us to demand something better and be willing to spend our money on that, be willing to lead the cultural elite not just with the negative stick of a boycott but the positive carrot of increased profitability if they do good things.

Part of that, I fear, will require us to remake the distribution networks of culture in a way that destroys the monopolies that the current gatekeepers enjoy. Hollywood, the RIAA big five, the broadcast networks need to be forced to create new business models that destroy their ability to impede highly rated shows like 'Touched by an Angel' because the people who watch them are not the 'right people'.

Literally, the demographics of people who are most likely to care about christian morality are valued less than those who do not have the experience, and tend not to have the judgment, to include serious moral standards in their cultural consumption habits.

This is going to create some very odd bird alliances. The countercultural hackers who wish to create technological systems to end-run our current cultural gatekeepers are the most likely allies we have in this battle. They often don't understand christianity, sometimes are even explicitly hostile to it, but their free code ethic and hostility to the corporatist control machinery will create an atmosphere where the consumers of culture will actually be the customers and that is a situation in which serious christians will have a favorable playing field to engage in spiritual warfare.

Moral degradation and deviance will always exist as long as free will does. Some will choose the wrong path, however much we may try to persuade them otherwise. But there is no reason that such fare has to be tolerated in our own homes. There is no reason that we have to accept this bystander view of our culture where the broadcaster is the vendor and the customer is the advertiser, not the consumer.

Creating a world where the cultural consumer is the customer is the best current option for freedom minded faithful. This gets the free market working in our favor, not at cross purposes to what we want. The market will respond to our needs, but only if we are the customer. Withdrawing from consuming culture does not get us to this position. At best it is a temporary spiritual retreat that arms you with a more objective perspective about how bad things are.

Posted by TMLutas at February 13, 2004 10:13 AM