Sunday, August 21, 2011

"The Elusive Big Idea"

One of the theme's I written about is based on another Becker quote that I've taken liberties with... In Denial of Death, Becker argued we "tranquilize ourselves with the trivial" to avoid thinking about the one thing we know to be true - we're all, ultimately, food for worms.

In the 70's when Becker wrote the method's were different, but the basics of watching sports and television and focusing our energies on the lives of those who play and act, were similar... Whether Tiger wins another 5 major golf tournaments, where Brad and Angelina are vacationing, or who's going to win the next Dancing with Stars/American Idol, etc. doesn't affect my live in any measurable way, but I suppose thinking so, may make it so. I've also suggested that the trivial has essentially lessened public debate and allowed a few powerful elite to, in essence, create an economy and political system that benefits them at the expense of the rest of us.

In the NYT's last week Neal Gabler weighted in on the topic, with what I thought was an interesting piece, entitled "The Elusive Big Idea"... Click here for Gabler's piece

Many took exception to the piece -
Here, Here, and Here

In total, however, I think Gabler is making some very important points -

He writes:
"In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.

It is no secret, especially here in America, that we live in a post-Enlightenment age in which rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate have lost the battle in many sectors, and perhaps even in society generally, to superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy."

From my perspective, he's absolutely correct on these two points - first, there is very little room for idea's that can't be monetized, I don't know that Marx or Einstein were ever asked, "Can you explain to me the ROI of this?" But, that's the question asked of ideas today. Secondly, look at the political discussions and debates of the day, think of the tea party (and Putnam's research I mentioned below) and I can't help but believe he's absolutely correct when he asserts that "superstition, faith, opinion and orthodoxy" have supplanted "rationality, science, evidence, logical argument and debate..."

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