I’ve still got to get back into the rhythm of reading in my free time again, so today I thought I’d talk about something different. I also think that I need to expand the scope of my blog since I don’t really think I’ll get back to reviewing two or three books every week like I did for the better part of the first two years of my blog.
The basis for this post comes from two separate things I’ve seen recently. The first is a documentary that I came across last light on Netflix about Lenny Bruce – Looking for Lenny. I’m a big fan of standup comedy – I know I’ve talked about George Carlin on my blog before – and anytime that you really look into the history of standup comedy, you eventually come across Lenny Bruce’s name. But while I’ve heard of him before, I wasn’t familiar with any of his material, I was only aware of the impact that he has had on the world of comedy. After watching the documentary last night, it gave me a lot to think about, to the point where I watched it again tonight.
While he is largely known for being a foul comedian – and he did use more than his fair share of foul language – Lenny was really one of the first people to use comedy as a way to introduce an idea. When you tell a joke, there is the immediate reaction (hopefully a laugh), but with a quality joke, there should also be a delayed reaction when you think about the joke later. While Lenny started this, I think that one of the best people to ever do this was George Carlin, specifically with his routine “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.”
But while I think that Carlin’s 7 words routine is a perfect example of using comedy to introduce an idea, I think it shows part of the problem as well. We’ve been inundated with people cursing to the point where you don’t even notice it anymore. I know that I swear far more often than I probably should, but the words have no power to me anymore. The words are overused, but they’re no longer attached to new ideas.
It’s difficult to get people to listen to controversial ideas, even in situations where you think you should be able to. Even in my college courses, there were plenty of times when I would throw out an off the wall idea, and oftentimes I would get blank stares from other classmates and my professors as well.
So exactly what point have I been getting to? Simple. We may have progressed in a lot of areas, but unfortunately not in any of the ones that matter. We claim to be forward thinking, but most of our society is so afraid of anything new that we mistake an acceptance of cursing for an acceptance of ideas. And this leads to the second item that served as a prompt for this post.
While I haven’t blogged about it very much, I’m a sports junkie. And the biggest story in sports for the last couple of weeks is that fact that the NBA player Jason Collins is coming out and admitting that he is gay. While it is a step towards acceptance, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.
Depending upon the source that you look at, studies have shown that up to 1% of the population is homosexual (it’s from Wikipedia, but I can easily believe the number, I actually thought it would be a little higher). Even with a mere 1% of the population being homosexual, the odds are fairly good that you know at least one or two people who are gay. I knew several people who were gay when in the music department at the University of Akron when I was a music major my first three years out of high school, and several of them were my friends.
So here’s the question that I ask after talking about my recent media viewings and the one news article I’ve seen recently. Exactly how far have we come? My answer to the question is that we haven’t come very far at all. And it’s not just with language or homosexual people. It’s with anything. As a society we feel such pressure to show how tolerant we are that we show off the first person who is different far more than we should. Jason Collins coming out will get far more airtime than something as meaningless as a person’s sexual preference should ever get.
The fact that a professional athlete in comfortable enough in our society to come out as a homosexual shows how far far our society has come. The fact that it’s a major news story shows that we have so much further to go.