Guest Column: Silly Disobedience? Five Contemporary Cultural Trends that May Weaken Rather Than Strengthen a Cause

sounds of awareness? absurd, reasonable, uncool, cool

by Ralph Greco, Jr.

Is there too much happening in the culture to keep an ever-vigilant eye on what is absurd and what is reasonable? Here are a few of the things I wonder about and what, if any, good comes from any of this.


To somebody of my father’s generation and political leanings, hell-bent on the idea that the legalization of marijuana does society more harm than good (a point that could be argued infinitum) and to me, somebody who sees legalization as a good thing (within some boundaries) naming strains of pot “Purple Urkle,” “Candyland,” or “Gorilla Cookies,” does not engender a seriousness to the endeavor. Sure, plenty of weed enthusiasts would argue that the very last thing they want to do is inflict their buzz/business with seriousness. But on a few occasions that I’ve visited various dispensaries around the U.S. I have always been heartened by how knowledgeable the budtenders are and how much they seem to want to get a patron’s order right. I believe that saddling weed with silly names belies the legitimacy this ‘budding’ business is trying to achieve.

Keep That Mask On, Eugene!

A commercial has recently been playing on a T.V. station local to my ‘burb, advertising the virtues of online gambling. The announcer lists the many ways one can win by engaging an app and enjoying various games of chance from a computer or cell phone, while an inset picture of a comely young female croupier pops up during the clip. The video shows the lady dealing cards across a green felt table from the viewer’s POV, and she is wearing a COVID mask. No one other person is in the dealer’s vicinity, nor will anyone ever be (this is the point, after all, of engaging a gambling app, being able to stay at home and gamble), the way this online gaming occurred even pre-COVID. Here is an excellent example of virtue signaling to my mind, bringing me up short over my consideration of the silliness of wearing a mask in this instance, instead of reminding me to wear one.

Dave Does It Again

Comedian Dave Chappelle is undergoing criticism for his recent Netflix special “The Closer.” Employees have left Netflix, and others are protesting what they claim are the comedian’s disparaging remarks about the transgender community (this is not the first time Chapelle has been accused of this kind of insensitivity). The thing with the walk-outs or even those people coming to Chappelle’s defense is that all the grandstanding on either side neither excises the special from existence, will most likely send those who would not have usually been attracted to Chappell’s comedy to see it to seek it out just for the controversy and fails to recognize that this is just one man’s opinion.

Motto Kryptonite

Comic behemoth D.C. has changed Superman’s motto. The new ‘mission statement’ for the 83-year-old Kryptonian has been changed from ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’ to ‘Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.’ D.C. claims this is to “better reflect the storylines that we are telling across D.C. and to honor Superman’s incredible legacy of over 80 years of building a better world, Superman’s motto is evolving.” 

Although “The Man of Steel” has saved the planet plenty in his day, Superman has always been an American icon. According to the mythos, he was raised in Kansas (USA) by his adopted farm family, the Clarks; he wears a red, white, and blue costume and has marketed American idealism and the country’s most optimistic values around the globe for decades.

What is D.C. really after here in updating a classic? And why update or change it? We do our art a disservice by changing songs, literature, paintings based on mores from a time when that art was not created. Banning that word in Tom Sawyer because that word is deemed offense today or excising a song or lyric (I’ll get to an example of this in a second) because it offends us today undercuts the discussion, we could be having of why certain things created way back when might seem offense today. And who we may or may not have evolved from that position over the years and if this is a good thing or not.

Hey DC, why not invent a new superhero who embodies all the wonderfulness that our world culture now stands for?

No Sugar, From the Stones

Here’s the one that really gets my goat as a professional musician and fan of this band. But as it is the artists themselves doing the canceling, I guess it stings slightly less.

Just slightly. 

For the first time in a very long time in their live performances, The Rolling Stones, touring presently on their “No Filter” tour, have dropped the song “Brown Sugar” from their setlist. Mick Jagger and company are concerned that the song’s lyrics could offend folks in the current cultural climate. Well yeah, it’s about slavery and a black woman.  

I ask, when were the brash Stones ever worried about offending anybody? They built their brand/band/reputation on offense! It’s one of the reasons, beyond their songs that they have always been so beloved, whether their public trash-and-dash moments were satirical public relations stunts or not, or Mick was prancing around the stage like a satyr. 

Again, with the Rolling Stones making the call here, I feel the wokeness a little less, but still…

Is ‘the cause’, whether it be a better understanding and application of transgender civil rights, the consideration of U.S. policies and history, concern over public health, climate change, being more respectful or trying to bolster a burgeoning business helped by any of these changes, callouts, protests, or silliness or something else, altogether?  

Postscript: Has anyone ever listened to the third stanza of America’s National Anthem…roots can be deep or shallow. Context? The Age of Aquarius is another article.