Friday, August 26

Turning vice into virtue

One of the dominant themes in C. S. Lewis’ works is the tendency of humans to turn vices into virtues and visa versa. In The Great Divorce, the human allows her love for her deceased son to become an excuse for terrible actions. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tells his nephew that the demons have been able to turn all vices into virtues except for cowardice. Finally, in Out of the Silent Planet, the Oyarsa of Malacandra reflects how the bent Oyarsa of our planet turned the virtue of loyalty to one’s species into a vice in the case of Weston.

It doesn’t take long to find overwhelming evidence of this on the Internet. In particular, I find the webzine Slate to be a particularly strong source of this. Now, before I really get into this, I would like to point out that I do enjoy reading most of Slate’s articles. They are generally of a very high quality, though I am put off by how their contributors seem to search for a chance to antagonize others and delight in controversy. First of all, Slate keeps an ad critic on its staff. It is this person’s job to tell us how effective various advertising schemes are, from Quizno’s talking baby to Geiko’s bait and switch to that cosmetic company’s real women/ curves. It’s pathetic that we need a professional to tell us how good these ads are in convincing us to more fully engage in consumerism. Here, the vice of gluttony has become the virtue of art.

Second, this isn’t Slate’s story so much as the New York Times’ but Slate devoted a lot of time to it. Originally the Times published an editorial or something by the author of a book on how television shows like 24 and The Sopranos and video games improve their viewers and players. I believe the title of his book was something like Everything that is bad for you is good for you. This guy was giving people an excuse for wasting more of their time on the couch. Anyway, a Slate writer took exception to some of his claims and wrote about them in an essay of his own. Eventually, the two ended up debating the issues that had been raised in another Slate article. This was great to see, and, in their debate, Slate’s writer raised some good points like that watching television only made you better at watching television and that no matter how much benefit there is to watching these shows. They’re still interrupted by commercials which would disrupt any improvement that was going on. One thing that really got me though was that no ever mentioned watching the news and trying to piece together everything that was going on there. I don’t care how complex and intelligent you can make a TV show, but it’ll never compare to real life. Besides, how many watchers of 24 can name the leaders of three other countries or even the secretary-general of the United Nations. My disgust with Slate here stems from giving this man and his book so much attention and for not mentioning these points.

No comments: