Sic Per Gradus Ad Ima Tenditur
August 09, 2006 - 11:14 a.m.


I know, of course, that the world always seems to be falling apart. The reality of the human condition is so inherently brutal that it's hard not to see the sky falling everywhere one looks. Pessimism is written in the psalms, it was recorded by medieval monks during the plague and during Viking raids, it has fuelled numerous cults (mostly in the U.S., where everything is huge and out of proportion), and inspired some of the most horrifically brilliant art post-WWI Europe has ever seen.

So, yeah...people have been watching the collapse of the civilized world for eons.

Still, it's hard to come to anything but an apocalyptic conclusion lately. The western nations (read, the U.S. and allies) are setting themselves up for a religious war of global proportions. Meanwhile real horrors brew in forgotten countries like Rwanda. Our climate is shifting dramatically, our resources are running low and the world's dominant society is spread out over an untenable car-centric model doomed to collapse with the end of cheap oil. We seem determined to stake out politically polarized positions, both in the secular arena and (most disgracefully) within our faith communities.

And, in what must certainly be the darkest omen for humanity, America's Got Talent is the top-rated TV show in the U.S.

Really? That turkey. That's what everyone is watching? That moronic concoction of forced banter, contrived suspense and frantic attempts to capture someone's - anyone's - attention? That is what keeps the world's most powerful nation riveted to its couches? Simon Cowell, purveyor of brainless TV, may well accomplish what Osama bin Laden could not - the ruination of America.

NOTE: And why is it that every contest-based TV show simply has to have a cruel and cutting British guy? Is this America's new image of the English? No longer polite and reserved but rather mean-spirited and happy to cause emotional pain? Do Americans need someone foreign to do the "dirty work?" And do the TV execs who plan these show sit around and say, "So, who can we get for the mean British guy?" as if every show obviously needs one?

You see, I'm only half joking here. While there are plenty of true horrors out there, the fact that a (purportedly) educated culture (and I do include Canada in this, since we mostly just watch American TV) is giving even passing credence to such drivel is a sign that something is desperately wrong. OK, so the very fact that Regis Philbin has a career is a bad sign in itself...

Has nobody stopped to ask, "What lasting impact will this have on the course of humanity? What mark, or stain, will we leave?" I can answer that one; you've heard of gladiators and bear baiting, right? America's Got Talent is in that basic category. A thousand year from now history books, if they record it at all (if books even exist, at the rate we're going), will note the rise of "reality" TV as a sour note in the swan song of western culture.

So sound the death knell and look to the is, indeed, falling. Sic per gradus ad ima tenditur...and so by steps going on to the worst.