James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, February 04, 2013

Bread and Circuses, Beer and Football: Are These So Bad?

Are people kept in apathy by being fed trivial entertainments?

Perhaps many are. But the trivial entertainments aren't the problem. And those who are apathetic aren't the problem. They have no political agenda. The best of them do the world a favor when they don't even vote. They're not hurting anyone. May their numbers increase.

And let's look at it another way. Those who would have us intervene in Syria or Mali? They're not watching Honey Boo Boo. I wish they did.

And it is often those who condemn the apathy of others the most who have the most crazed and convoluted policies for them. The architects of the Great Society weren't watching Gilligan's Island. While they decried the ignorance of others, they believed their own good intentions could make others better-- the most ignorant belief anyone can have.

Which brings us to the Super Bowl, drawing audiences far greater than any other tv show. The late Richard John Neuhaus said about fifteen years ago that the Presidency and the Super Bowl were the only remaining national "things." The Super Bowl is the mother of all circuses.

And it is good. Everything about it. Especially the commercialism - the ads - and their celebration of pleasure and material goods.

Because it is a product of the foundation of American prosperity: free trade among the states. This means a national market. With free trade, we not only get more stuff, our lives are made easier.

Imagine the opposite. Go back to when the first washing machine was produced. What incentive would its inventor/producer have had if he knew other states would slap heavy tariffs on it, or even prohibit it? How much labor would have needlessly been wasted because the washing machine was never marketed?

It is labor-saving devices like that which are made more possible through free trade. That allows labor to focus on more productive work. And, equally important, to allow more leisure time.

Are lots of people squandering their leisure time on mindless television, video games, and sports? Maybe, but who am I or you to judge? Perhaps these things help them relax and get their minds off their problems. One can't say that crossword puzzles are good but watching tv is bad. Neither are particularly "helping society," and who cares? To each his own.

Note that whole new statistical categories have been developed in baseball, football, and basketball. Not by the people who run the sports and make the rules, but by intelligent fans who have, in many cases, dis-proven what many coaches and managers believed were common sense.

If these fans spent less time watching supposedly "mind-numbing" games and instead whiled away the hours reading Shakespeare and Montequieu, would any of this have happened? Of course not.

Would society be better if they dedicated their leisure time to political causes? What if half of them started promoting gun control, and the other half gun freedom? Is society better off?

Instead, they focused their leisure on things that interested them and gave them pleasure. The games themselves are better off because of them.

Who knows what good may come when you are wasting time?


To conclude, what I like about the Super Bowl is that it celebrates abundance and leisure. Those who rip the Super Bowl, or pop culture generally, should never take either for granted.

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