Miley Cyrus and the Question of Priorities

Miley, Miley, Miley… WTF, girl? Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about her train wreck of a performance at the VMAs Sunday night than has already been said in many many places and by many people (including myself).
 So this is only partly about Miley. I want to talk about… priorities.

This afternoon, one of the pages I follow [and often share] posted this:

(W) Today’s News quiz for the American public:

The phrase “MORAL OBSCENITY” is trending because:a) US Secretary of State John Kerry used it in the official statement referring to chemical weapons use against civilians in Syriab) Hundreds of mainstream media references to Miley Cyrusperforming at MTV awards yesterday.

Is the Web a mirror in which we see a real reflection of our society? If so, it ain’t a pretty face 

It was a good point, but I believe it was pointless. For one thing, instead of getting the serious discussion I think the post was intended to have, a huge chunk of the comments (at least, as far as I bothered to scroll through–there were a lot) were about Miley’s performance. I believe that was the exact opposite of what this page intended to do. But, more than that, this page (one I normally love, mind you) and some of the commenters on this page’s status whose contributions to this post I read (the ones that weren’t about Miley) about how “stupid,” “dumbed down,” or “desensitized” people who talked about the pop tart instead of John Kerry are, need to get a grip.

You know, it’s perfectly possible and even acceptable to care about mindless, mundane things like Miley Cyrus making a complete fool of herself, Robin Thicke, and the rest of us while also caring about actually important world events. Just because you don’t talk about Syria… or Egypt… or the NSA… or Trayvon Martin… or the 50th Anniversary of the “I Have a Dream Speech” on your Facebook wall doesn’t mean you aren’t informed and don’t care. And, maybe, you know, underneath all of those grains of emptiness of millions of Facebook users and bloggers going on and on about Miley Cyrus and that poor excuse for “twerking” is a serious and legitimate concern that demands attention–like one woman who commented on this status pointing out that it’s not a very “Liberal” (part of the page’s name) attitude to have absolutely zero concern for the very feminist issue of why women feel they need to exploit themselves in order to be relevant?

Dafuq?? I’m pretty sure Paula Patton was ready to snatch those pine cones off her head…

For myself, though, I was just enjoying mindless fun–which I’m entitled to have. I read the news often. I’m generally up on current events. I am certainly no stranger to analyzing and ranting (both on this blog and on my personal Facebook wall) about world news and national or local political issues. However, for all of my talk today about the VMAs and all my talk for the last few months about women’s issues, racism, voting rights, and other issues du jour, I have not posted one thing about Syria or Egypt. Why?

Well, for me (and only for me), when it comes to my political rantings and ravings I prefer to post about things that outrage me that I feel I (or my Facebook friends) can have some control over. Can the people I know change the way they approach and view others (subconsciously often) regarding race or gender? Absolutely. Can I remind my Facebook friends and family members (especially my younger family members who may still live in a bubble where they are 100% unaware of any news that doesn’t fall into the entertainment category) of how important it is to vote? Of course. Can I do a thing about a government using chemical weapons on its citizens? Probably not. I can sign all the MoveOn.org petitions in the world, but there’s nothing about my behavior, my actions, or even my moral outrage that could possibly do a darn thing. And really, that’s part of my internal litmus test for my Facebook page and this blog. Some of the factors I use are: (1) is it funny or cute?; (2) do I actually have any personal or professional knowledge about this subject that allows me to talk about this without sounding like a complete idiot?; (3) does it directly affect me?; (4) can we do anything about this?; (5) is it worth my breath? Those aren’t everything I internally process in approximately 10 seconds before I post something, but it’s a pretty good summary of where most things break down. But that’s just me.

My friends all have different tests. I have some friends who have one or two topics that get their goat, and they will latch on to any and every topic related to those issues. I have other friends who (as I often do) have a large variety of topics from which to draw their internet material. And I have other friends who feel like they would rather leave the negative issues in one place and use Facebook and blogging for the silly, funny, happy, and mundane. It’s our variety that makes the world go ’round. Sure, I have friends who may have been busy posting about vacations or sharing funny pictures of polar bears when I was ranting and raving about the Texas Legislature’s war on women, but that doesn’t mean that they had absolutely no idea what was going on. It didn’t mean they didn’t care. And it also didn’t mean that their cute polar bear pictures were somehow a waste of time or 100% unimportant (after all, funny and cute things improve your quality of life).

When I posted a very heartfelt “Some of you have been far too silent, so please delete me if you don’t care about these couple of issues that are part of the essence of me and some of the most important things I believe” plea to all of my friends on my personal Facebook page, I got responses from a lot of people saying something to the effect of, “Please don’t take my silence as an indication that I don’t care. I do care. I just don’t use Facebook for that.” And, quite honestly, I have a lot of friends who admitted in one way or another that they really didn’t care about certain issues, either because something else in their lives took priority or because they completely disagreed with my view of things. Whichever of these camps some of the answers fell in, it was good litmus test for me–to what extent was I willing to be okay with remaining in the online of company of people who didn’t feel certain topics worthy of discussion or who fundamentally disagreed with me about things that I found so important that I was physically ill at points over the topic? The answer actually was, “Well… it depends on the person and why s/he doesn’t want to discuss that kind of topic here/whether I can respect his or her point of disagreement.” But it was also a good reminder: Silence on a topic doesn’t mean someone isn’t paying attention.

A friend of mine always has this statement about people’s struggles: It isn’t a contest, and someone suffering more doesn’t mean that my struggles don’t exist. Similarly, just because a person focuses on something mundane and mindless doesn’t mean that s/he is mundane or mindless. It doesn’t mean that the important, interesting, and topical thing isn’t important to him/her. But it also isn’t a contest. Why can’t you be outraged by Syria and Miley Cyrus “twerking” (hardly) at the same time? Are we not allowed to multi-task anymore? Doesn’t the fact that I belong to a page where discussion of heavy political and global issues is the norm while ranting about Real Housewives mean that I am multi-tasking?

So my answer to the page that I briefly considered un-liking today before shrugging off this one hiccup in our otherwise stable relationship (wherein I repost 15 gazillion articles from it a day) is this:

No, the web is not a mirror in which to see a reflection on our society. It is what it is. Everyone chooses what they want to share and to what they want to contribute, and sometimes that isn’t going to be the heaviest and most serious issue of the day; but it is quite presumptuous to think that just because the things that the majority choose to discuss ad nauseum aren’t the things you consider important means our society is headed for a downfall. After all, isn’t the fact that a country is using chemical weapons on its people while an over-indulged former Disney girl performs the ultimate cry for attention on the same weekend partial evidence that we’ve kinda already fallen?

I dunno… This is pretty damn morally outrageous, too….

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