May 9th, 2010 10:30 EST
A Democracy Can't Live on Baloney, Trivia and Corn Syrup
Trivia works. If eternal adolescence is your aim. A society awash in it is determined to avoid the hard work of fulfilling its promise. Trivia lines the way to the junkyard of societies.
If you`ve ever eavesdropped on teenagers in a mall you know the sound of a society that would rather distract itself than grow up. It is unfortunately the sound of our society: self-absorbed, looking for simple answers and villains to blame.
It is a society suffering from pernicious attention deficit disorder, unwilling to focus long enough on problems to fix them and therefore looking for quick fixes, patches and jury-rigs. A Manichean society in which it is all too important to be right "and for others to be wrong. A society easy for swindlers and ideologues to jerk around, just as children are easy to gull, albeit not as easy as we think.
It is one thing to be conned, another to persist in liking it long after every reason under the sun has offered itself to see the con for what it is. In our obsessive fear of snake oil we drink too much of it, calling it an antidote when it is in fact hair of the dog. We would rather munch on doughnuts than facts.
That is why we keep on swallowing the patently cynical idea that unregulated capitalism will take care of the masses and tax cuts for the rich will move them to treat the rest of us as equals and not as galley slaves. Hair of the dog. A shot of snake oil to remedy a binge of it.
Trivia is like doughnuts, candy, booze, cocaine, hash. It promises to prolong youth and that is why we are obsessed by youth. Trivia is fast food. Nobody has persuaded us, certainly not our schools and colleges, that knowledge is more exhilarating than another needle of trivia. Nobody has persuaded us that our politicians are such self-serving liars because we like them that way, because we`ve never learned to take the time to parse the lies and to call them out.
We revel in violence "spend an evening surfing television channels if you doubt it "and yet we simultaneously revel in a gutless press, a gutless educational establishment and a gutless political culture in which money drowns morality, courage and common sense.
We go to church to hear preachers inveigh about morality and a return to values, preachers who don`t have the conviction or moral compass to tell it like it is, to say we are to blame for the lies we swallow because we devour fast food and trivia instead of growing up and getting smart.
We want to blame immigrants and big government and people who wear their pants falling off and their bill caps backwards for our failure to study matters instead of hoping somebody else`s wisdom will rub off on us. That is why we believe radio and television haters, because they sound so certain. Liars always sound more certain than the rest of us. They have to.
We believe government is to blame for our woes because the corporate oligarchy that has picked our pockets clean and exported our future to cheap labor markets wants us to believe government is to blame. Pickpockets always distract their victims, and these particular pickpockets have billions of dollars in tax breaks and ill-gotten gains to distract us with.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999. He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com