There’s an iconic scene from the early days of The Ed Sullivan Show featuring a popular vaudeville-style entertainer doing the old spinning-plates routine, always just on the verge of a manic catastrophe.
It was obviously much easier 50 years ago to be an entertainer and impress a crowd – I doubt the audience particularly cared about who he’d voted for, whether he was a feminist or what his stance was on gun control – he just had to be moderately entertaining to get a gig on the US’s most popular variety show at the time.
This type of scene has been running around my head for weeks now as an analogy for modern life, particularly in this age of social media hysteria and click-bait headlines, wherein we’re confronted daily with a seemingly endless parade of issues, drama and controversy. The challenge of course for most of us is that we have a fair number of our own plates spinning already – relationships, family, children, career, family business, sports, hobbies etc – and I don’t know about you, but my day is pretty stacked with keeping a tolerable degree of sanity in my own home as it is, which makes keeping up with the societal and political issues of the day tiresome at times.
For this reason [aided by a home PC that’s spent 3 weeks out of action and the timing of the school holidays] I’ve taken the opportunity to have a clean break from all things social media, keeping only one eye on my favourite news sites, avoiding the usual diet of insanity, stupidity and bullshit that one is typically confronted with in the 24/7 Facebook age. It’s been a fantastic break.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – the immediate lesson for me has been just how vacuous and immaterial most of what we’re confronted with daily really is. Stepping away for a few days at first was difficult, as I found myself automatically reaching for my phone and my social media feeds whenever I had a spare moment. When you’re accustomed to keeping up with any number of news stories – and let’s face it, they’re almost endless – and you’re engaged in discussion with like-minded people or [far more enjoyably] ignorant leftist keyboard warrior types online – it’s incredibly addictive not only to receive the validation of your peers (and the odd public figure) but also to experience the impotent and unhinged outrage of the social justice warrior swarm when their ideas are challenged or exposed.
Stepping away from that has been brilliant, and I’m tempted to make the hiatus permanent.
The second lesson involves complexity.
I recall the basic gist of a book I read some years ago, one of those ones geared towards making science accessible to the average dolt and it went something like this; years ago, being smart was a lot easier that it is today; the average wise man in times past mainly concerned himself with a few key bits of learned experience, whether he was the shaman, the priest or the local ruler – the extent of information available to those who sought it was extremely limited relative to today. Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, is renowned as probably the greatest polymath in history, the original “Renaissance Man”, with tremendous accomplishments in painting, sculpture, architecture, science, mathematics and anatomy – yet what he knew at the time about each individual subject is these days dwarfed by the sheer weight of learning that has been accumulated by modern man over the past century and a half.
Today to be truly knowledgeable in any particular field, one must digest and understand a remarkable volume of information, usually through many years of study, but typically contained to the area of specialisation itself. No wonder we would struggle to identify anyone alive today as remarkable as Da Vinci; no wonder too in this age of hyper-complex social and political machinations that we struggle so much to keep up with and understand the ever-changing news landscape and why so often the “experts” trotted out by the mainstream media to lecture us about what we should think about a particular subject or “fake news” story come across as quasi-intellectual know-nothings with little grasp of the real world. Their expertise is garnered from academia, which as we know is nothing more than cloistered leftist, progressive dogma, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, or indeed any subject ending in ‘Studies’.
It’s also no surprise that fame has been bestowed on the likes of Bill Nye, host of the excruciatingly banal Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World, a former children’s science presenter whom the Left has elevated to the position of modern-day polymath to lecture us plebs about everything from gender diversity to climate change. As the volume of information has increased, as the complexity of the modern world has grown beyond the point where a news story can be relied upon to present more than a fraction of the story beyond a catchy headline, so has the quality of thinking and the ability to process nuanced issues diminished.
We’ve become a society blessed (or is it cursed) with a veritable sea of information at our fingertips via the miracle of the Internet, yet for the most part, time permits us to barely scratch the surface of any topic via our social media feeds, with the majority of the blinkered populous consumed with soundbites and snippets of information from their favourite media outlets, and force-fed a steady diet of leftist rhetoric from the Twitter feeds of late-night “comedians-turned-experts” like Stephen Colbert, or innumerable cloistered celebrities granting us mere mortals the pleasure of their clueless progressive stances on the news of the day. In this social media age, it is more important to be popular and ignorant than to actually stop long enough to examine a subject deeply and risk being unpopular or, God forbid, correct.
A few weeks on the sidelines has made me realise that keeping up with or engaging in any way with that swirling social media world is exactly like that poor bugger spinning his plates – sometimes amusing, often a guilty pleasure, but ultimately pointless. It’s a world dominated by censorious algorithms designed to set us apart from one another, and in which poorly researched opinion passes for intellectual debate and prejudices delineate the discussion.
Even if it’s well-intentioned, what possible good does it do me to engage on Facebook with a student from Melbourne with a “Vote Greens” profile picture about the relative merits of our cultural heritage and history on ANZAC Day? Far better to put the phone down and listen to The Band Played Waltzing Matilda with my kids.
The most important epiphany was that getting away from pointless social media exchanges has only allowed me more time to read and reflect on actual events and reinforced in my mind the underlying threats facing our beautiful country and indeed the West in general – the social media circus is just a cheap side show. The cultural, political, economic and spiritual battle in the years ahead to conserve some semblance of sanity and decency in the Anglosphere for our children and grandchildren in the face of the progressive, globalist establishment is not going to be fought by wasting time with trivial TwitBook exchanges, but by an engaged and informed citizenry that understands what’s at stake. The writing (you know, tolerance, diversity, social justice, equity) is already on the wall.
Unlike the activist left, we HAVE jobs, families, commitments and responsibilities beyond choosing a gender identity each day. Time is precious – Keep the right plates spinning.