by Joel Fernandez
One would like to think that the culmination of a personally significant ordeal would be both noticeable and tangible in nature. That the end of a particular segment in a time-line would be acknowledged by at least a plurality that is commensurate with the amount people that were affected by the seemingly significant series of events. But sometimes, glorious victory is confused with ignominious defeat. Today’s discussion will be about how sometimes, historical events are only important to an audience of one.
How do we define cultural relevance? Perhaps it is when a person, place or thing (noun) is able to achieve transcendent resonance within the hearts and minds of the individuals that collectively define the culture. Maybe it’s when a champion emerges from the masses to lead a revolution that changes things for the better in the lives of a significant (there’s that word again) number of people. However we choose to define cultural relevance, there’s no denying that acknowledgement only becomes palpable when something is important enough.
Everyone likes to believe that we are all created equal. But if that were true, we would all be treated equally. The fact is that some people are ugly while others are beautiful. Some people are stupid while others are brilliant. Some people are weak while others are strong. You don’t have to be an anthropologist to see the pattern here. The world order as it stands today is about fitting into the different categories of society. To that end, being able to stand out in a crowd should lead to some sort of acknowledgement. But what happens when millions look but none acknowledge? The answer is obviously an unceremonious end.
When watching a movie, the audience expects a structure that is identical to that of a book. That is to say that movie audiences expect a conflict, climax and conclusion, even if their minds don’t process information using those terms. If, for some reason, the audience is left without some kind of closure at the end of the film; the movie would most definitely turn out to be a commercial failure. This thought process is similar to how human beings feel when their personally significant event is noticed by the masses but is deliberately ignored. It is a double standard that exists on one side of the equation that defines the terms audience and protagonist.
The previous paragraph was meant to be the means by which we can attempt to synthesize some empathy where there was none before. To disassociate the events that play out on a movie screen from reality is perfectly normal within the context of theater. But when an audience applies that logic to a series of events that takes place in reality, the result is what will come to be known as mainstream apathy. Imagine watching a movie where the hero dies at the end but choosing to laugh at a joke from the beginning of the film on the way out of the theater. Doing that to a movie is fine. Doing that to a person is just plain cruel.
The fact that such terms need to be defined in such an obvious way is indicative of just how much “mainstream” culture has degenerated over the past few decades. Imagine being watched every day but never receiving the acknowledgement or approval of your peers. It’s enough to make you wonder if sacrificing one’s private life has any meaning at all. If every historical achievement in one’s life is ignored until someone copies it and then the second person achieves fame, what is the point?
There is at least one way to avoid an unceremonious end. It is plausible that somewhere on earth, the amount of time that the public spends observing is commensurate with the amount of acknowledgement that they openly exhibit. It’s not easy to wake up one day and realize that your journey is destined to reach an anticlimactic conclusion because of the fact that every interaction you had along the way was a bad joke. Nobody wants to perpetuate the state of living a lie. So perhaps going on an odyssey in order to find a new home is the best way to make sure that happy endings are not something that is reserved for for the audience instead of the protagonist. That way, the anti-hero can live happily ever after. Even if that end is achieved in the most unceremonious way.
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