July 8, 2014

Binge And Puke: The New Moral Disorder

I feel confounded these days about our appetite for distraction, and not in a good way. Easy access is partly the culprit -- the Internet being an all-you-can-eat buffet for the carnivores of curious. The puzzle lies in determining whether there is more happening (religious violence, suppression of women, greed, corruption, deception, manipulation, death, starvation, intimidation and repression) or just more ways to know about what is happening. Either way, the result is the same. If you read the news daily and vociferously, as I do, you end up with a dirty collage of bleakness.

Perhaps the media is partly to blame, although given the symbiosis between media and consumers, there's really no point in going down the blame road. Do they keep feeding us negativity because that's what we want? Or do we want it because that's what they keep feeding us? I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker recently, a man sitting on a quiet country porch with his wife. "I miss hating the city," he says to her. We grow accustomed to our misery, attached to our drama, and when we remove ourselves from it, we miss it.

I'm beginning to believe that we need to look closer at our appetites. It's one thing to be pissed off at McDonald's for not declaring that the Double Whopper is a whopping 900 calories and 56 grams of fat. It's quite another thing to know that truth, shrug your shoulders, and continue dropping in on McDonald's every now and then to get your fix. We're all guilty of this. "Yeah, yeah, I know, you're right!" But we don't change our behaviour.

A friend convinced me to watch Breaking Bad, which has been called "the greatest show ever written for TV." I can never make it past the violence and cold-blooded murder in the second and third episodes, after initially balking at the miserable meth world it introduces us to in the first. Do I really want to know the seedy underside of the pathetic drug business in North America? A man called Walter dying of lung cancer, whose son has Cerebral Palsy, whose wife is pregnant at the age of 40, who works as a high-school Chemistry teacher, barely making enough to pay the bills, let alone his cancer treatment. (The writers pushed all the right buttons, to ensure that the trap had a wide opening.) He's desperate for money, and so what does he do? He turns to murder and organized crime, of course. What other options does he have? Poor guy. Not enough money to die with pride. Never mind that he's breaking the law, killing people, contributing to teen addiction, and lying to everyone he loves. That's OK. He's desperate, right?

Is this what feeds our greed? I picture hundreds of thousands of people hunkered down in front of their monitors, eating junk food, ignoring their failing health, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer as they chortle and celebrate Walter on his excellent adventures in the land of "getting even." I can feel their feeble minds coming up with similar scenarios to get out of the trap of their own lives. And I tremble for future generations, brought up by parents who eat this stuff up.


  1. "an all-you-can-eat buffet for the carnivores of curious" - What a wonderful description of the internet! Well -crafted words, Lorrie :-)

  2. Thanks, Alex. Compliments from fellow writers always doubly appreciated.


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