Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Lure of Rebellion

Two headlines in the New York Times. On the front page “China Reins in Entertainment And Bloggers”; leading the Styles page is “To Be Young, Hip and Mormon.” The paper’s general stance on things signals the tone of the presentations by headline alone. The Evildoer in the first case is the Government of China, in the other the Mormon Church. The heroes are the rebels. Moving in a little, I discover that China has a ministry called State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. It is now telling TV stations to limit entertainment shows and to increase news coverage. The Times quotes it as aiming to root out “excessive entertainment and vulgar tendencies.” In the Hip-and-Mormon story, the hero runs a rock band, celebrates drowning one’s sorrows in bourbon and explores “the seedy underbelly of his hometown, Las Vegas.” But the hero also made a short video for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which he proclaims himself a Mormon. But why did the Chinese ministry countenance the growth of vulgar tendencies in the first place? And why did the Church selected this musician to advertise it? The ambiguous behavior of authority, of course, is itself an indicator of the times. Of interest here is the thrilled fascination with rebellion, its favorable treatment on the one hand, anger at its suppression on the other.

As order gradually shatters, as the seedy underbelly becomes the seedy whole—and while the money lasts and a little bit of order still remains—rock stars shall lead us. But when chaos has come to rule, rebellion will take another form. It will manifest as a ruthless quest for order, sword in hand, and public admiration of those who seek the holy.

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