Then one day I entered the Diner and there was a new voice coming from the juke box! New kid named Sinatra...
The radio, and the telephone, and the movies that we know
may just be passing fancies, and in time may go...
And in time they did—or at least as we knew them then. We just got bored. We had all the toys, and the certainty of science to back us up—but we were tired of jitterbugging. The Big War was over, and we looked around, knew we had to start all over. Television sets were beginning to appear in American living rooms: rabbit ears on top and two knobs in front. The fascination of twisting and turning, adjusting the rolling picture on the screen, the three channels to choose from--bringing in a world we heretofore hadn't known existed. Suddenly it was just too much.
Look what we've been missing! we said.
Eating our TV dinners and dreaming away, we became covetous. We wanted some money, some education, some credit, some instant gratification. But we had seen too much, too soon. The kids were getting out of control. Along with the new rock n roll music, Elvis, Marilyn, Malcolm X, we had discovered SEX. The world was now in our living rooms, and we just couldn't handle it. Too much bewildering diversity, too much, too much. New ideas, new people, strange, vaguely threatening. And one final ingredient needs to be recalled: around us and above us in those years was something we've now (astoundingly!) forgotten: the lingering omnipresent threat of atomic warfare that hovered over our heads with each new day, the immanent and very real possibility that the damned Russians were going to drop the BOMB on us, ending the world, period. What to do about it all, how to cope? The modern world had become chaotic, a NIGHTMARE.
And so the toys were put aside and ignored, while we looked around for the answer to modernity's ills. And soon enough the solution began to emerge. It was---are you ready for it—POWER.
And so was born the phenomenon of postmodernism. That's where we are, folks. We're postmoderns. You're crazy, you're not like me. Furthermore, you're wrecking my life by your very existence. But if I can find a way to get POWER over you, you're TOAST, Jack. This search for power became the theme of the postmodern era. The search soon centered in the area of religion, which swiftly moved into and merged with politics, perennially allied of course with money… That's where the ultimate power always resides, is it not?
Bing was phased out. Who needed his corny crooning? His replacement was himself a harbinger of the new power paradigm. He heard Bing as a boy in Hoboken, and determined to become The World's Greatest Singer. He had to conquer everything and everybody, become A Number One, King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, in old New York, favorite city btw of Ayn Rand, another postmodern pioneer. If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere… To his credit he did do just that, but he always had time for his pals of the power elite, the Italian Mafia. Frankie, innocent as he seemed at first, was warming things up for our unsuspected future. We didn't get it when he responded to Bing's 'buh buh buh boo' in the film High Society: don't dig that kind of croonin', chum!
This is not to knock anybody's favorite singer; I simply choose this metaphor to suggest a trend. We were losing our Cool, our sense of humor. We were moving in fact from Cool to Hot, from Left to Right. Far Right, in time off the charts—at least in terms of those who were making the most noise, namely the new media, bought up strategically in time by the new neo-con pseudo-Christians, backed by big money from their new unlikely ally, Corporate America. These were suddenly dead serious about their new power agenda. Anger and division and most of all fear began to characterize us. It wasn't fun any more. Even in sports, it was no longer the ideal of Good Sportsmanship that guided us, but just win, baby, just WIN—that's what matters… And at any cost.
Once man loses his faculty of indifference he becomes a potential murderer; once he transforms his idea into a god the consequences are incalculable… E.M.Cioran, A Short History of Decay
Yes, indeed: the faculty of indifference… That almost, in my view, translates directly into a useful core definition of what it means to be a genuinel liberal. It has nothing to do with Gay Marriage or Abortion... please. It's not that you don't care, or that you have no strong convictions, no no. It means that you're not ready to kill those who disagree with you, to deny them the right to exist. It means you can laugh it off and move on. And now you know the meaning of democracy… You take a vote, and then you let it go, abide by the results.
But yes, some among us were now going for the jugular. It was most apparent in the field of popular religion. And again, it was happening around me in good old Akron, Ohio. I've already mentioned the Invasion, how it was transforming the town.
“Coming into town from almost any southside highway entrance, the most imposing visible landmark seen by the traveler would soon be the giant open Bible, which seemed to float up there, high in the clouds, hovering over the city, bordered by flashing neon lights and proclaiming its mind-boggling message: JESUS SAVES, atop the gigantic tower which Billington was to erect, sprouting there from the monstrous parking lot surrounding his new ecclesiastical digs on Manchester Road. Of course across town the Humbards would try to outdo him with their gigantic illuminated fountain fronting their Cathedral of Tomorrow, which would shoot up a jet of water about a mile into the air, colored lights playing upon the pool below, while inside could be found a hydraulically operated revolving stage featuring alternating hillbilly gospel bands, raucous, riotous, revivalistic, Maude Aimee and all the gang, the guitars and the drums never going silent.” (The Cosmic Lady Was Right, p. 243)
It was a prescient moment in time. Many of the new postmoderns thought they saw in religion a short cut to power. Was it because in this field every man thinks he's an expert, that his opinion is as good as anyone else's? Here, the guy who can yell the loudest, get together the most money, can hope to be at last a WINNER.
Hey buddy, I can read the Bible too, just like you--and I see here it says have DOMINION over the entire earth and its inhabitants. We're tired of waiting for the Kingdom, let's just get it together now for Jesus, so that he can return. We're tired of being subject to the Powers That be—we intend to BE those Powers.
The way was suddenly clear… It was politics. The new postmodern American pseudo-Christians, drunk now with power, reversed themselves on an old position: whereas once they had shunned politics as the Devil's province, they were now to be seen running for local school boards, city councils, lobbies of various sorts. Mayors maybe soon, who knows?
We might even see the day we're in Congress, maybe even the Supreme Court. We're mad as hell and we're not taking it any more. We'll see the day when one of us is President! And then, and then…
America was now one big Akron. Megachurches were sprouting up everywhere. There was no escape. And oh yes, God had become a registered Republican...