…from a hungry massgoer…
One Sunday after Mass, I went to the pub to get a porkchop with a group of other massgoers. When it was served, the first thing that hit me was the lovely freshly fried aroma, together with the meaty fragrance of the gravy that was cascading down its sides. That, combined with the tantalising sizzle, was the sensory orchestra that made me grateful for the wonders of creation.
The world was for, a moment, blissful…
That was until someone looked over into my porkchop and with a pretentious tone said “…oh that’s great! That is such a wonderful witness against Islam…”
My whole afternoon was shit…
All of a sudden my porkchop wasn’t just my porkchop anymore. I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was. I couldn’t enjoy its tastes, its smell, its sound. Somebody had to barge in and turn what was a beautiful little corner of creation into his cipher for a political cause that, until that moment, had – and still has – nothing to do with the substance of my meal. Indeed, the goodness of my meal was nowhere improved by its recruitment into a political process that is in no way concerned with flavours or aromas. The thingy-ness of my thing had been violated somebody else’s hologram.
What had happened? Clay Shirky observed that, with media technologies able to publicise and meme-ise everything – including photos of meals – the private sphere is constantly on the retreat and even on the verge of disappearing altogether, and no corner of the world can be protected from the gaping maw of public consumption. Without ever asking, every little thing is now being made to stand for something else, and in the process, the enjoyment of things for what they are becomes lost.
Worse still, when social media and their capacity to manipulate and culture wars (screw it, let’s use culture-jihad, since the political entrepreneur, the culture-warrior and militant jihadist all operate on the same logic anyway) combine, things in this world are not allowed to have their thingy-ness anymore, not allowed to exist in and of itself. Instead, they are only given their due insofar as they can have political slogans slapped on top of it, or turned into instruments for someone else’s unrelated, one-dimensional cause. It is as if the cause had now become some kind of cultural vortex into which everything that is truly cultural is sucked. In so doing, not only does the cause suck, the thing recruited, its own substance vampirically sucked out by the cultural-jihadist, sucks all the more for being an empty vehicle for transporting freight not of its own.
The complexity of lived life, the textures, contours and facets, the holes and bumps of embodied culture – in short, its fecundity – have in this media-saturated, culture-jihadist-ruled world, become sanded down into a single ideological plane – that of the culture warrior’s. And no amount of grandstanding, com-box-slinging or slacktivism would stem the tide. What would stem the flow, to paraphrase a line by Gandalf the Grey, would be the “small acts of kindness and love”. The little things done with great love, as St. Teresa of Culcutta once said.
It would be the small acts that can restore the bumps, small acts that restore the textures to our world that have been sanded down by the culture wars, small acts that restore the private zones in our ever publicising mediascape. In short, we need small acts of frying porkchops just because somebody really likes the taste of Sunday porkchops.