Wednesday, February 19, 2014

BLACK & WHITE V. GRAY - or why today's news depresses me



All artists, especially visual artists, are conscious of values as they relate to the darkness and lightness of color.  Pure black and pure white are classic examples of two extremes in value.  With a little imagination one can imagine a series of boxes or circles, starting with a pure black and gradually becoming lighter until the last one is pure white, with a ranged of grays in between.  This is a value scale which can be applied to all colors, and paintings done using the extreme end of this scale generally evoke more interest than ones rendered almost entirely in a small range of values.  The movement between the two extremes, in art, music, and life in general creates tension and interest.  Clearly there are times when a far more consistent demeanor or palette is desirable, but for this narrative, the emphasis is on the black and white.

 Unfortunately, in spite of its artistic desirability, the world in which we live is not black and white.  Instead, with few exceptions, we live in a world of varying degrees of gray, although you might not know that based on the current public political discourse in our country today.  According to many politicians, columnists, and talking and blogging heads, everything and everyone is right or wrong, good or bad, or weak or strong.  If you propose a new government service you are a Socialist.  If you believe in a strong free market you are a greedy capitalist.   It is so much easier for politicians to identify themselves and appeal to their bases - generally in the extremes of each party - than to honestly acknowledge that good ideas can be found across the political spectrum, and that no one has a monopoly on the truth.  Woe be to the politician who vainly tries to see the middle ground; he or she is quickly labeled someone who cannot be or act decisively, and cannot be counted to support the party, and clearly the good of party is more important than that of the country.  Blaming the other side is more important than listening or seeking common ground.  Today no one is willing to publicly grant praise on someone of the opposition until he or she dies, and even then it is often equivocal.  


Sadly this movement to the extremes exists in all arenas of public discourse.  It is easier, less complicated, and for some probably less threatening, than attempting to acknowledge, let alone see all sides of an issue.  It is a large black v white hat that easily accommodates conservatives, liberals, corporate executives, union leaders, as well as those “of faith” and without faith.

This state of affairs distresses me greatly.  There was a time I enjoyed the news, written, spoken, and otherwise, and looked forward to the morning coffee and the newspapers.  Now it is a chore I force upon myself, feeling it is my civic responsibility.  The worst part of this is that I can see no signs of improvement, either now or in the future.  Until we place the greater good before our own ideology and interests we are doomed to be governed by ineffective politicians and powerful self interests, and to be bombarded by pompous self righteous noise from all sides.  Undoubtedly there are many reasons for this current state of affairs, but one that stands out, at least in my mind, is the 24 hour news cycle with its need for filler, usually a talking head who speaks with or without validated information, relying greatly on the opinion of “experts”, and presenting us with a black and white world of either or; the discourse is devoid of all but the extremes.

1 comment:

Katherine Thomas said...

This is a fantastic post! Thank you for starting my day with this. I don't watch TV in the morning. I let my mind fill up with art and comraderie (sp) from blog friends. I don't need somebody who wants to boost their ratings to tell me what to think about for the day. Your analogy was perfect, regarding the extremes of values, too!