“A Culture Beyond the Superlative”
One of the reasons I follow the Twitter accounts of so many young people is to imbibe the jargon. For personal fiction-writing reasons, I want to know how they speak to each other. Among the things I have noticed is a continual urge, a perpetual need to surpass the superlative. To exceed even that which is grammatically defined as the limit.
What’s better than the best?
I see the phrasing, “beyond amazing” and “beyond unique,” begging the question, what is beyond amazing, what is past unique?*
I heard a radio advertisement this morning ask, “What’s more American than the word America?” And I thought, it is living in a culture that is constantly bombarding them with these types of messages that lead today’s school kids to try to describe something as better than the best.
I’m mean, what’s left? Literally.**
Yet, I think the solution, as many others from the Maker’s movement to the Falun Gong to the Slow-food movement have discerned, lies in reducing the pace of our lives and our inputs.
But it also has to do with recognizing and dispensing with phantom fears.
Our information overloaded age has a propensity and perhaps even a profit motive in making everything out to be the “best” or “worst” ever. The underlying psychology is how else can they hold our interest.
I think we regularly need to apply this lens to the news media. When I hear reports about each Ebola case (and they are all personal tragedies) I think at the scale of the Bubonic Plague or what Smallpox did to the Native-Americans, the nomenclature of epidemic is being misused.*** Heck, we have had far more catastrophic, in-terms of numbers, outbreaks of the flu.
Why is this important? Because overuse of fear-mongering creates a “Boy who cried Wolf” effect.
An old friend of mine was fond of saying, “the crossbow was the weapon that was going to wipe out the world.” As was the repeating rifle. The machine gun. Accurate artillery. Rocket launchers. And eventually the A-Bomb. Only to be surpassed by the H-Bomb.
The generations that have been passing away in the last twenty years survived World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, Mao’s purges, the Armenian Genocide, the Khmer Rouge, and what Zbigniew Brzezinski conservatively estimated were 1 billion premature deaths in the 20th century due to violent conflict and its ancillary impacts.
And yet they bequeathed us this world.
What is left to amp up?
In rooting for the Millennium of Women to ascend to power any time now, one of the concomitant hopes I have is for the culture of the superlative to wash away. For -est in all of us to take a back seat to the Golden Rule and a mindset embedded in collectives ranging in scale from the village to the global ecology.
While I was writing this essay a friend popped in and reminded me, no less than pioneer, Gloria Steinheim, said we spend far too much time thinking in hierarchies.
Here’s to a lot more heterarchy in our futures!
*Metaphysically one might argue more of the same is beyond unique, things having come full circle, and found their way back to conformity. Or one might take a more scientific slant and say beyond unique is an alternate universes, wrinkles in time, or anti-matter.
***On the dangers of the misuse of nomenclature see my articles on how calling everybody a “terrorist” radicalized many otherwise nationalist movements and pushed them into alliances with the global forces of mayhem.
“From the Editor’s Desk” is written by our Editor: Aaron Mandel