Sunday, September 27, 2015

Congratulations! Your Son Is A Pansy

I don't get this new series of TV commercials by GE. Do you? Please explain it to me. The whole series revolves around stereotypical cliches about engineers/nerds. You can't lift a hammer. You aren't writing cools apps. Etc. Etc. 
The secret sauce of any advertisement / commercial is that it taps... somehow... the aspirations of the target audience. So tell me, who is the target audience? What is their aspiration? For me, this ad does nothing but diminish high intelligence people, thus elevating those of average-to-low intelligence. Tell me, who do you want engineering the car you drive to work in the morning. Someone who can lift a heavy hammer or someone who can wield a mean slide rule? This is the essence of Radical Center.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Be Slightly Adventurous has chosen to appeal to the sloth in you. You could travel to Ireland to soak up the fascinating culture and trace your roots OR you could visit your loudmouth annoying Irish cousin in Boston.

Hotwire suggests you do the latter. Radical Center much?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Let MTV Inside You!

Ah, Rock & Roll, it rots your brain. Mom and Dad said so. It has been fashionable to rail against the leading edge of culture since The Tower of Babel, certainly since Noah and the Ark. 

But, when the leading edge of culture rails against itself... well, that's Radical Center at it's best. Once again we're reminded of Radical Center's mission to make citizens in a culture selfishapathetic, and non-judgmental. Just like I said in my post, Billy Joel vs Adam Hamilton, deconstruction is the path to confusion and confusion is the doorway to apathy. At least MTV admits its goal in this commercial that aired during MTV's 2015 Video Music Awards.

"You are a series of electrical impulses contained in a meatsack. MTV is a series of letters that used to stand for words. ... Your desires will never be fulfilled. That's the function of desire. Give away a quarter of what you own and let MTV inside you."

"Selfishapathetic, and non-judgmental..." Does that describe a generation you know?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Don't Share!

Yum! Brands is on quite a roll. I started this blog by referencing KFC's new ad campaign that mock's their own venerable founder. This campaign perfectly demonstrates the Radical Center's mission to make citizens in a culture selfishapathetic, and non-judgmental. After all, if KFC doesn't take the Colonel seriously, why should you?

Sister fast food purveyor, Taco Bell, is upping the push toward the Radical Center. Remember, one of the goals of RC is to foment selfishness? What's more selfish than not sharing... especially sharing something so fantastic as... well, watch and see...

All of remember those painful first days of school in the Fall. You had talked your parents into splurging for that 48 or 68 box of Crayons and you get to school and the schlub next to you drags his tail in with a 24 or 36 box of "crayola" and during coloring time he asks to borrow your Burnt Sienna and he pushes too hard coloring his dumb horse and breaks maybe the only one or two Burnt Siennas in the whole class... Remember the lesson you learned: Sharing Sucks. Do NOT do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

Taco Bell wants to celebrate that selfishness and parsimony. DON'T SHARE!! The commercial closes with an unheard of concept in attention-hungry field of advertising... "Don't share this commercial." Screw it. "I have my $1.49 Grilled Stuft Nacho, what do I care if anyone else every gets their own." 

In a better world, this would be simple irony or Saturday Night Live-ish sarcasm. But if there is such a thing as an effort to push our culture toward the Radical Center, then this commercial isn't that funny. It's honest.

What do you think? Is America becoming more generous or selfish?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Billy Joel vs Adam Hamilton / Black & White or Shades of Gray?

Ah, Billy Joel, you rascal you. You just wanted to take Virginia Callahan’s virginity, that’s all. Instead, you got yourself a Top 25 Billboard hit out of “Only The Good Die Young”. Sing us a song, Piano man:

Come out, Virginia, don't let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one
They showed you a statue and told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
But they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done...
Only the good die young

Joel says about the song, “"When I wrote 'Only the Good Die Young', the point of the song wasn't so much anti-Catholic as pro-lust." Either way, Joel gives us an excellent backdrop for understanding the Radical Center.

We are used to the classic protagonist-antagonist struggle. Classic literature, and indeed, the history of human life, itself, has amply illustrated this struggle. In this case, a young man operating on his own moral code of having sex at will is locked in strife with a young woman with a moral code of preserving her virginity. Black and white. Good and bad. Catholic and [whatever the singer of the song styled himself as]. These are classic opposing positions in battle against one another. Most of us understand a world in which there is good and there is bad. Hopefully we care about those polarities and try to orient ourselves to a life with those opposites in mind.

Mack Reynolds introduces us to “a third way” - the Radical Center in which notions of black and white are mocked to the extent that they are not deemed reliable positions any more. The goal of Radical Center is to generate apathy and hopelessness in which a few (who have generated the apathy) can shape the moral, political, and economic direction of a nation. As long as there are people strongly believe in black and white, good and bad, there is hope - there is a goal to be achieved. But when a culture becomes selfish, apathetic, and non-judgmental, the people are mindless sheep to be led by shepherds with their own personal agenda.

“Only The Good Die Young” is a good illustration of a moral compass informed by religion (at least in Virginia’s case). No Radical Center issue there. Have sex or don’t. But what happens when religion itself begins advancing the Radical Center approach - that we really can’t be sure about what we think we’re sure of? I have a perfect example!

In a recent sermon, Adam Hamilton (senior pastor at Leawood, Kansas’ United Methodist Church of the Resurrection) tackled the oft-heard “Christian cliché” of “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” You can watch the entire message here. Throughout the message Hamilton engages in a clever rhetorical device call “deconstruction”. He identifies multiple Bible verses that people think they understand only to squash the passage as misinterpreted and offer is own interpretation that suits his goal. (This can only happen when people are so confused by rhetoric that they become apathetic and non-judgmental.)

Imagine looking at a map and every time you try to give directions someone else turns the map 90 degrees. North is now West, South is East and the old instructions are no longer valid. That is the method of deconstruction. Take what people thought they knew and pull that foundation out from under them.

At 29 minutes into the sermon, Hamilton does what he does what he does best… he muddles the issue. He uses the prop of homosexuality to prove that we can’t judge. (I've told you that non-judgmentalism is a key doctrine of RC. Hamilton demonstrates it.) Hamilton refers to “five, maybe six” passages in scripture that speak against homosexual behavior and then asks “were they [Moses and Paul, writers of those five or six passages] even talking about what we’re talking about today? Did they understand things like sexual orientation?” In other words, science has brought us to this wonderful age of enlightenment while Moses and Paul wrote in heavy darkness… disregard what they have to say.

This is classic deconstruction and it is the surest path to the Radical Center. Hamilton suggests that because the Bible was written long ago, by people with a particular (peculiar) agenda, it can’t be used - as a whole - as a guide for modern living.

Hamilton is a specialist at this kind of Radical Center rhetoric. Hamilton wrote Seeing Gray In A World Of Black And White. This is how the book is described on

Everyone agrees that America is polarized, with ever-hardening positions held by people less and less willing to listen to one another. No one agrees on what to do about it.

One solution that hasn’t yet been tried, says Adam Hamilton, is for thinking persons of faith to model for the rest of the country a richer, more thoughtful conversation on the political, moral, and religious issues that divide us. Hamilton rejects the easy assumptions and sloppy analysis of black and white thinking, seeking instead the truth that resides on all sides of the issues, and offering a faithful and compassionate way forward.

He writes, "I don't expect you to agree with everything I've written. I expect that in the future even I won't agree with everything I've written here. The point is not to get you to agree with me, but to encourage you to think about what you believe. In the end I will be inviting those of you who find this book resonates with what you feel is true, to join the movement to pursue a middle way between the left and the right - to make your voices heard - and to model for our nation and for the church, how we can listen, learn, see truth as multi-sided, and love those with whom we disagree."

Here’s the key sentence: “I expect that in the future even I won't agree with everything I've written here.” There is an old saying - a liberal is someone so open-minded they won’t even take their own side in an argument. Hamilton boldly proclaims just that! Since there is no black and white, he must remain gray even with respect to his own viewpoints. What greater way to advance the Radical Center mission of non-judgmentalism than to propose that one cannot even be certain about his own world view? How convenient for those who would color in that world view for us since we can’t be sure of our own.

And here’s another conundrum, a self-opposing concept. Hamilton wants to have “a richer, more thoughtful conversation” that leads to discovering “the truth that resides on all sides of the issues.” Truth on all sides of the issues? “Multi-sided truth”? What is that? Radical centrists want to convince you that there is truth everywhere and that's why you can't be judgmental of another's person's "truth". That's right, at the Radical Center personal opinion and preference (and according to SCOTUS Justice Kennedy add "self-expression").

Sure, I guess if you’re talking, for example, about nuclear energy, there is a truth that we need more electricity and there is a truth that there are some risks to creating that electricity with nuclear power. Yes, those are two sides both with some truth in them. But Hamilton has so deconstructed his own source of truth (the Bible) he is left with no truth at all except his own experience and wishes… and those may change! Is Adam Hamilton’s truth your truth?

Billy Joel depicts a church which has established a black and white morality (specifically on the subject of premarital sex). 
Adam Hamilton depicts a church of confusion-based non-judgmentalism. 

Billy Joel illustrates moral definity. 
Adam Hamilton illustrates moral ambiguity. 

The rock’n’roll singer is the poster child for the struggle between good and evil.  
The man of the cloth is the poster child for the Radical Center.

Funny, I would have expected it to be the other way around.

I guess I don’t know what to expect anymore.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What Does "Radical Center" Mean?

excerpts from
Mack Reynolds

The thrust of Radical Center is that there are forces at work generating a feeling of apathy and futility in the electorate. The story is told through the bumbling work of journalist Lucky Myers who literally, luckily, falls backwards into the story. Most of these excerpts below were presented in dialogue between characters. Full text of Radical Center.

That's one of the things I'm going to write up. The growing cynicism of people in regard to anything the politicians do any more. We've given up expecting anything except a sideshow from them. Lucky, there hasn't been a real idealist in the White House since Woodrow Wilson, and he was an anachronism and probably slightly crackpot to boot.

Public cynicism toward the police and politicians, the declining percentage of eligibles who voted, that sort of thing.

Why, anything might happen, with all the old values almost completely devaluated by our long-term campaigns.

We've been working a long time on creating voter apathy.

Make the opposition apathetic,

“But what it amounts to, my boy, is that we're going to take over through apathetic cynicism on the part of the citizenry. We're going to take over because nobody gives a damn any longer."

The day of the radical center is dawning. The nation is equally cynical about the radical right and the radical left, but transcending even that is the fact that they couldn't care less who takes over the reins of government. They're too busy living up to the new moral code.

We can easily illustrate this with the trajectory of the Tea Party in America over the last decade. The grass roots conservative movement erupted in 2008/2009 and created sensational attention, on both sides of the political spectrum, for several years. The Tea Party got some old line Republican elected officials run out of office, but the Party had little lasting impact on their fundamental issues of limited government and significant changes in tax policy.

As a result, via the Tea Party movement, conservatives have essentially “loved and lost” (better than having never loved at all?). Congress has delivered Obama tacitly unlimited increases in the debt limit, Tea Party darlings Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have generated notoriety without results, and now in 2015, the Party barely exists as a footnote in the American political landscape.

As America creeps into the 2016 Presidential election season, it is my opinion that there is considerably more apathy among the electorate than there has been in the last several Presidential elections - from the perspective of either party. With strident voices at either end of the political continuum hushed, with growing voter despair about accomplishing real change, with pressure toward the Radical Center mounting, what is left to animate the voting public?

In my next post here at Radical Center > Age of Unreason, I’ll expand this discussion outside of politics and delve into what the excerpts above call “the new moral code”. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Age of Unreason

Similar to my War On Men blog, this blog looks at prevalent themes in modern media that seem to push a particular agenda. In this case, Radical Center: Age of Unreason looks at the puzzling (at first) messages that advocate what author Mack Reynolds coined as the "Radical Center" - an anything-goes morality devised to make citizens in a culture selfish, apathetic, and non-judgmental. (Sound like any culture you know?) Most well-grounded, sound-minded humans are stunned by these messages which seems to call forth anything but an aspirational, engaged, optimistic personal life and society, but changes - rapid changes - in our culture reveal that the Radical Center (RC) is more normal than we thought possible.

I'll unpack the principles of the Radical Center as we move along, but let me provide an excellent RC illustration with this commercial from Kentucky Fried Chicken*. KFC was once a venerated American food brand whose founder and spokesman was the iconic Harland Sanders. In this latest campaign, KFC parodies itself!** As we'll see, this is the very embodiment of RC principles, specifically that which promotes apathy and non-judgmentalism. In other words, "if KFC doesn't take itself seriously, why should I?" And by extension we are led to ask, "what else in my world have I considered trustworthy and reliable, that maybe I should rethink."

"Enjoy" this ad from The Colonel:

* - I give full credit to my oldest son for pointing out this self-mocking parody and giving me the impetus to launch this blog.

** - Note at 45 seconds how the KFC billboard letters fall off the wall as if to say that their identity is not something they're committed to as much as a good punch line. In fact, the fall of their identity is their punchline. This perfectly epitomizes the Radical Center.

Stay Tuned.