JAIMIE VERNON: The Further Decline Of Western Civilization

This week I came to the startling revelation (at least for me) that the human race, as a species, has reached evolutionary saturation. We are now at the tipping point of depravity, debauchery, and hedonistic self-pursuit where Rome and Greece collapsed as empires. Aside from the fighting and political upheavals – which are the cornerstone of all megologarchies since we learned to beat each other with clubs – our descent as a species rises and falls on what we spend our time doing between wars.

When Western Civilization ends it won’t be in a monumental obliteration of life and property in a nuclear holocaust. No, it’ll be something innocuous like the collapse of a TV network (FOX would be the logical catalyst), a wireless smart phone corporation like RIM, or Apple deciding that iTunes just isn’t worth bothering with anymore and you should go back to stealing music – or ripping the audio tracks from YouTube videos. My proof is in the mundane minutiae of our every day lives that have gone beyond a passing fancy or social fad into full-time unproductive stimulus that physically rewires our brains into drooling, consuming, flatulent, flaccid, plastic surgery-addicted, caffeine fueled, ADD lab mice. To wit:

•The viral video explosion of a drunk guy butchering “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the back of an RCMP cruiser and the follow-up video of him, sober, attempting to prove that he can sing.  Since being posted a week ago, the original has had 7,200,000 views. It’s already spawned mash-ups with the original Queen bed track and several spoofs. Aside from the obvious slow-motion train wreck unfolding on screen, this phenomenon speaks more about this generation’s fascination with a song that became an annoying cliché the minute Wayne & Garth got their party-on in the back of an AMC Pacer all those years ago. http://youtu.be/RaDKbKt–vQ

• James Cameron, the movie producer/director, had his character assassinated after he built a $100 million submarine and drove it 35,000 feet (that’s seven miles for you metric snobs) into the bottom of the Mariana Trench – only the third human ever to do so – and will single-handedly resurrect deep sea exploration unparalleled since the days of Jacques Cousteau. Why? Because his movies are pop culture McNuggets people won’t admit they paid to see. The planet used to turn their noses down at sci-fi writers too…until Arthur C. Clarke defined and wrote about the crazy concept of geosynchronous orbits around the planet to transmit information globally by satellite. It was a technology game changer. Few will be laughing when Cameron’s name appears on a deep sea discovery – like a previously unknown life-form. The proof in the world’s disinterest is that the video about the mission’s announcement has only had 525,000 views. http://youtu.be/0mBG0LbAoqk

• People watch “Survivor”, “Jersey Shore”,  “Extreme Couponing”, “Toddlers & Tiaras”, “Hoarders”, “Hairy Bikers”, “Swamp People” and this week’s addition to the talentless ‘reality’ genre: “Restaurant Stakeout”. This is where restaurant owners watch the live video feed from hidden cameras in their establishments to catch employees and customers picking their noses, having sex in bathrooms and spitting in the food. We are a generation of voyeurs. We’d rather live vicariously through the humiliation and embarrassment of others than leave the house and our dependency on visual stimuli that masquerades as reality. It’s a 24/7 world of insular mental masturbation. Step out into the sunshine, people. You won’t get hurt. “The Walking Dead” is fiction. No, really.

• Conversely, we’re now substituting true education for what we read in Wikipedia; you’re really going to trust the wiki update from Mary in Canoga Park about the socio-political instability of post-industrial revolution Europe? Everything Mary knows she learned in the back of the tour bus. Television’s actually been trying to teach us a few things not just babysit our children. National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet are among those showing us sights we would otherwise never see in person. But when History channel introduces the blood sport of ‘Full Metal Jousting’, ‘Tank Battles’, and ‘Battle Castle’ – where they re-enact classic WAR strategies (in stereophonic 5.1 and HD) – you stop wondering why we have such a huge fascination with going to war.

• We acknowledge every celebrity death like we’d just lost our children – and the anniversary of these deaths. This week we lost Jim Marshall – the creator of the Marshall guitar amp which has single handedly created more deaf people than any other device in the world – and Ferdinand Porsche the designer of the Porsche 911 which contributed to our obsession with buying automobiles as substitutes for inadequate penis length. Try and find a list of deaths for scientists, philosophers, scholars, kings, queens, elder statesmen, war heroes, politicians and other revolutionary thinkers of our time and you come up with lists of actors and musicians and the occasional dead dictator. It’s interesting to note that this was also the week that slacker culture’s Kurt Cobain and Lane Staley also died (on the same day in different years). Fewer people waxed poetic about them this year when put in perspective against the bigger contributors to our culture like Marshall. http://www.brainyhistory.com/daysdeath/death_april_5.html

•Michael Bay – he of gratuitous CGI explosions and stingy of plots – announced that he is re-imagining the new movie version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Teenage ALIEN Ninja Turtles. Needless to say, the Turtleverse had a collective cow. [Don’t believe me? Google TMNT + Michael Bay]. Former teen actor Robbie Rist – who was one of the original live-action Turtles on film – led the charge in rallying the troops to send Bay strongly worded Facebook statuses and sarcastic Tweets. Take that Michael Bay!
I know this is life or death pop culture tampering (like sticking nipples on George Clooney’s bat suit), but c’mon, it’s not like James McCartney announced that he and the other Beatles’ kids are assembling The Beatles Mach Shau 2. Oh, wait…yes he did. “Ladies and gentlemen….right here on our stage…direct from Liverpool….it’s THE BEATLESONS”. Now, had director John Waters decided to turn Superman into a campy gay icon…

• Nickelback. What the fuck, people? Like with multi-gazillionaire James Cameron, the populace spends unhealthy amounts of time (and bandwidth) dwelling on how much they hate this band [when such vitriol needs to be re-directed to the Tragically Hip who truly are harmful to the environment at large]. Chad Kroeger makes musical widgets. Chad Kroeger makes musical widgets that millions of people buy. Chad Kroeger makes money. But because Kroeger doesn’t make money the good old fashioned way by hiring employees at minimum wage, screwing them out of their pension plans and destroying neighbourhoods building monolithic store fronts like a Fortune 500 corporation he is someone more evil than Emperor Palpatine himself. Let’s be clear here folks. Not everyone’s in the music business for art. Not everyone wants to starve to death trying to get a Monday night slot at some dive on The Danforth or Hess Village or Yaletown. Nickelback is a business that happens to make music. They’ve done one thing the music business has been failing to do with music for the last 20 years. Monetize it.

The point of all these examples is that Western Civilization has become numb to the real world and real world problems. We’ve locked ourselves into pop culture cocoons and euthanized both our empathy gene and our humanity itself. “Oh, look…those kids are starving in Africa. Maybe we should send Sally Struthers a few more strudel cakes to assuage our guilt – and hers.”

We’ve become reliant on pop culture to entertain us, babysit us, feed us with information – true or false, passive or harmful – and rely on its invisible shield to protect us from ever having to experience true love, heartache, pain, or anything else that might potentially harm us…like ragweed and the George Zimmermans of this world. One day all the multi-media outlets will merge and new ruling class will take over the internet – probably in a hostile take-over by Nickelback LLP and we will once again be disconnected from information 24/7 365. We will be forced to leave the house and maybe even our street. We will have to interact in a way unknown to this generation. In public. With real people. And we will discover that there are no real humans like Ryan Seacrest or Chef Ramsay because they were merely ‘Westerworld’ -like entertainment constructs. You see, the actual world is not always filled with lies and masquerades and back stabbing and fornicating unwed mothers stealing welfare and aborting their babies. It also isn’t always filled with fluffy kittens, double rainbows and Hallmark platitudes. We need to evolve as a species so we can be mature enough to handle the best and worst of both.  It was Gene Roddenberry who envisioned humans in a cooperative Utopian universe. Ironically, it divided its viewers into Kirk lovers and Pickard lovers. And don’t get them started on whether Scott Bakula’s short-run with “Enterprise” constitutes ‘Star Trek’ canon.

I’ve been slowly migrating away from television, music and even the real-time ticker-tape cesspool repository of Facebook. Movies still intrigue me as a means of two hour respites from the chaos in my life but the lack of anything worth watching from Hollowood has lead me back to books. The ones I’m writing. They will be reflections of man’s condition. One that needs serious improving. These are self-help books when you get right down to it. And maybe if I’m really lucky I can be ridiculed for my pop culture popularity and laugh all the way to my isolated little villa in the Himalaya’s where I can have peace of mind without concerning myself with which Kardashian has the fattest ass or who is sticking what into Snooki’s various orifices.

And remember….the cake is a lie.

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. http://www.bullseyecanada.com/encyclopedia.html

3 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: The Further Decline Of Western Civilization”

  1. How true/sad it is!
    Contradictory that I agree, yet am here because of Facebook…there is a difference between using and being used by…I try not to cross that line…Nickelback are honest!

  2. Martin Melhuish Says:

    “In the darkness of the night, only occasionally relieved by glimpses of Nirvana as seen through other people’s windows, wallowing in a morass of self-despair made only more painful by the knowledge that all I am is of my own making …

    When everything around me, even the kitchen ceiling, has collapsed and crumbled without warning. And I am left, standing alive and well, looking up and wondering why and wherefore.

    At a time like this, which exists maybe only for me, but is nonetheless real, if I can communicate, and in the telling and the bearing of my soul anything is gained, even though the words which I use are pretentious and make you cringe with embarrassment, let me remind you of the pilgrim who asked for an audience with the Dalai Lama.

    He was told he must first spend five years in contemplation. After the five years, he was ushered into the Dalai Lama’s presence, who said, ‘Well, my son, what do you wish to know?’ So the pilgrim said, ‘I wish to know the meaning of life, father.’

    And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, ‘Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?” – Keith Reid (Procol Harum)

    Go get ’em, Jaimie!!

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