Friday, April 14, 2017

WHY ME? WHY NOT ME?

Actor Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

I finally caught up with the TV series Breaking Bad. This is an admission of my aversion to commercial TV and conformist adulation of any media. I waited for it to come on Netflix so I could binge watch the complete show, all 5 seasons. And I recommend it.

The show has roots in Greek and Shakespearean tragedies with a little Dickens thrown in. In other words, it is quite brilliant. Its characters and plot lines beautifully convey universal messages about personality, greed, addiction, family and choices. It is an intricate portrait of modern American needs, mores and values.

Jesse Pinkman, a central character who is a meth addict, frequently whines indignantly "Why me?" whenever asked or told to do something he doesn't want to do. Jesse is the perpetual adolescent, representative of today's spoiled middle-class youth. He has invested nothing in himself in order to contribute to society. He has been enabled by materialistic parents. He takes unless bullied into contributing something. He turns his own home into a meth den to block out his loneliness and desperation. Then he plays with the addled meth heads in his home like dolls or pets. They are his bitches in Jesse-speak. Parallels to the adolescent emperors of ancient Rome. 

The "Why Me?" culture is part of the generalized victim culture in developed countries today. It is fueled by personality politics and celebrity obsession of narcissists. If a person feels unrecognized or coddled in any way by society in this sick frame of reference, he/she becomes a victim. The reality is that a victim of this kind is actually a victim of self-oppression and/or character disorder. Sufficiently mesmerized into a group-think with other self-identified victims, this individual can easily be manipulated to violence and destruction. In the fog of false victims everywhere, actual victims of harmful injustice go unnoticed and ignored.

I learned something about this at an early age. My mother, a strong and capable woman, was prone to say "Why me?" whenever I got sick or was found to have some problem requiring intervention.  My wise old-school pediatrician heard her say this in his office when I came in with a nasty infection in my preschool years. He looked at my mother over his spectacles with a frown and said sternly, "Mrs. Creeden, he is a child. Children get sick." That doctor treated me with special tenderness whenever I came in after that. The lesson may have been wasted on my mother, who continued her "Why me?" responses, but it was not a lesson wasted on my impressionable mind. 

The irrational cult of victim status and the irrational cult of unrealistic human happiness are intertwined in a society ruled by commercial media. These cults are also fueled by the technology of instant selective information. Victims gather views, tweets and retweets. Celebrity lifestyles, mostly unearned in any rational way, are pushed into the faces of the struggling masses as ideal. The role of average hardworking citizen is no longer valued. Practicing simple honesty and decency within one's lot in life is seen as dysfunctional, depressive or weak. Aggression, begging, whining, indignation and bragging are the acceptable standards of modern behavior in many segments of society. If a person's goal is to always feel special, he/she is condemned to a frustrated life of "Why me?" and "Why not me?".

I like to deconstruct "Why me?" for myself whenever tempted to think it. "Why" is simple for me. There is no "Why" in the Universe as I understand it. God, sin, karma, heaven, hell ... all these "Why" constructs mean nothing to the rational me, yet I manage to live a relatively peaceful and responsible life with normal incidence of human pain and suffering.  The "me" concept, as a descriptive of some uniquely central human being in a vast Universe, also means nothing to the rational me. I am a construct of genetics and environment, no different than any other creature on a purely existential level. If anything, my consciousness of my own unexceptional state on this planet is as much burden as attribute. Starting there has helped me survive, persevere and function with relative serenity in a Universe which really doesn't care if I do or don't. 


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