By Kim Nursall
Earth is facing a pandemic. No, not this whole “swine flu” scare — I’m talking about something much more serious. Something, with long-reaching implications, that forecasts the decay and putrefaction of human existence or, at least, accelerates our decivilization.
The western world, the most influential chunk of the planet, has become a bastion of apathy and stupidity, with an imminent generation of inhabitants disengaged from current events and completely unaware of our society’s afflictions. A number of circumstances can be cited as reasons for this: inadequate education, parental irresponsibility, distrust of politicians, et cetera. Furthermore, youth apathy being created under these conditions is then perpetuated by shows like Gossip Girl, The Hills, My Super Sweet 16 and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.
These shows showcase destructive relationships, petty revenge, extreme selfishness, malicious cheating and every other dysfunctional social dynamic we’ve come to know and love in our daily dose of drama. Essentially, these youth-oriented programs depict teenage lives that either do not exist or should not exist and then exemplify them as acceptable. Youth apathy no longer just implies disengagement, but a deterioration of character. When it is six o’clock on a Monday night, young people are certainly not tuning in to the evening news to gain insight about the state of health care reform in the U.S. Instead, they are glued to their TV screens watching Gossip Girl to learn who Chuck Bass just hired for sex or which person Blair Waldorf is now exacting revenge upon because she didn’t get her way. Indeed, these barbaric characters are placed on pedestals because of their bombastic behaviour! Being told you are like Blair is actually taken as a compliment rather than an insult.
However, as much as I would like to blame this tasteless television for every malaise infecting our planet, I cannot. There are more obvious and direct causes of our cultural decay — war, famine, political corruption, state failure and so on. But, indirectly, insipid TV also plays an insidious role (just like its most celebrated protagonists). Extremely contagious, and with viewers exhibiting symptoms such as foolishness, mindlessness and ignorance, prime time clap-trap seems to prevent youth from even becoming aware of the aforementioned direct causes, the bigger issues. You don’t have room in your head for details about Iran’s nuclear program when Lauren Conrad has had another problem with the other “famous through their parents’ wealth” appallingly apathetic youngsters of The Hills.
If youth are going to be inheriting the Earth, then those of us with brains should be extremely worried. If individuals such as Paris Hilton are held up as worthy of emulation by our generation, it will not be long before groups of their zombie-like followers anoint them as our advocates and elect them as our political leaders.