Popular culture: Gotta love it, gotta hate it. I have Ellie Goulding and One Republic in my music library alongside Johnny Cash and Jason Mraz. Yet I know these are fleeting voices. Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring have endured but were just the popular culture of a different age.
One of the strongest props of popular culture is acquisition — having “things.” You could argue that purchases drive the consumer culture at the heart of capitalism — an economic system that, despite its flaws, has the greatest promise of alleviating poverty, hunger and misery around the world. That desire to acquire, perhaps, is why my family owns more guns than we need (strictly speaking).
On the other hand, popular culture keeps our kids addicted to video games. It suggests to bicyclists weaving through traffic and pedestrians crossing intersections that talking on their cellphones is more important than being aware of the endless, fascinating and dangerous maze of people surrounding them.
Perhaps that’s why I was disappointed when a story recently appeared on my phone’s news app, written by “De,” a “New Yorker turned Bostonian,” about 30 things you “need” before reaching 30 years old.
De includes as needs such things as “a fancy coffee maker,” “a dining room table” and “high-quality luggage” but leaves out such crucial supplies as a firearm, extra ammunition and a good first-aid kit.
She suggests that office supplies will make a person feel “grown up” but doesn’t mention anything about accepting responsibility for one’s own safety.
Am I just an old fuddy-duddy or am I right to think that people like De are living in a bubble — one where evil doesn’t exist and where self-defense doesn’t either?
I worry about popular culture’s agenda for our children. I worry that “quality shampoo and conditioner” (No. 28 on De’s list) are of more concern to our youth than are quality tools for self-preservation.
Although I questioned nearly every one of the things on De’s list, I did like how she wrapped things up in No. 30: “The willpower to throw away what you truly don’t need.”
Throw away. Get rid of. Resist.
Indeed, let us resist popular culture — and the people who buy into it — that tells us it’s more important to have a “a high-end blow dryer” than a firearm with which to defend the precious lives of those who make life worth living. Let us measure our lives not by “things,” which will not preserve or sustain us, but by enduring values and timeless, meaningful symbols of our heritage and our future.