Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Devolution vs. County Fairs

Devolution vs. County Fairs

There’s a cable show called Web Soup. It’s target demographic is nerds, geeks and tech elitists in their late teens and twenties, plus older people (like the 40-year-old host) who are consumed by delusions of youth. Their common trait is a desire to feel better by watching the self-inflicted misfortune of others.

Each week in 22.5 minutes, the show plays clips from the ‘net that producers think their targets would like. A big chunk of the vids involves one or more guys inflicting Darwinian levels of injury on their reproductive organs. And, apparently, the pool of candidate clips is growing fast.

Why?

Not “Why do people watch?” I know that. No matter how lame and pointless one’s own behavior, no matter how bleak one’s personal prospects due to sloth and a foolish sense of entitlement, the morons in the clips are light-years worse. Everyone needs to look down on someone. And in American culture, the only safe media outlets for that drive are: these Darwin Award runners up, rednecks, Sarah Palin’s family and Tea’baggers’. So, Web Soup impales them all on the points of video clip spears for their audience to laugh and point at – and feel so much better than.

Web Soup’s ethos and their weekly grist of self-selecting, pragmatic Darwin-deniers are the antithesis of a County Fair. The ‘soup’ show is anchored in vile and monumentally condescending schadenfruede. The heart of a County Fair is wholesome, positive, inclusive neighborliness and sincere personal concern for others worthy of that concern.

From the delightful competitions for best rabbit, or chicken or sheep or horse, to the laughing children on colorful rides, to the eruptions of glee from winners on the midway, to arts and crafts and baubles and trinkets and climbing walls and miniature pig races and ice cream, it’s all good clean fun at no one else’s expense.

The original idea for this post was as a paean to the notion of County Fair-ness. Our fair will be during high summer, and I’m looking forward to it, as I do each year. But, like an artist’s rendering where the subject is defined by it’s background rather than by lines around it, the wholesomeness of the fair stood out in my mind far more than it ever has. Against a devolving cultural backdrop of Web Soup-ishness, a County Fair seems to take on the mythic power of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Castle as a force for positive things.

This year, more than ever before, I’ll cherish the family time at our County Fair.

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After thinking about the implications of what this post describes, I came to a sad realization. There is a growing proportion of people who can only feel better when someone else feels worse – people who think someone else coming to harm means that they themselves must be better off.

And there’s another crop of people who see no problem destroying their future for the possibility of a sliver of a moment of notoriety. And neither group feels any shame about their shameful outlook. In fact, they are in our faces instantly at the first hint of anyone ‘being judgmental’, asserting their ‘right’ to be profoundly worthless turkeys. As if only illegal things were wrong.

It seems to me that these phenomena are the result of a successful, systematic effort to disassociate self-esteem from merit. Anecdotal evidence suggests that too many people live their lives as though an Air Band was a real band. Or that the color of a person’s skin was much more important than the content of that person’s character.

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