Reality – Vanity Fair Style

Vanity Fair has its annual essay competition and poses and interesting question:

In a nation defined by video games, reality TV, and virtual friendships, with a White House that has perfected the art of politics as public relations, what is reality to Americans today? And did we ever have a grip of it?

First of all, I think that the question is appallingly political but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t valid from a conceptual stand point. Our reality has expanded exponentially since the inception and adoption of the internet. Things that wouldn’t have affected us twenty years ago now cause us profound pain; Steve Irwin’s tragic death is a case in point.

I don’t believe that America, or any other nation, is defined by video games, although too many people do watch reality TV. Only a bleeding heart liberal would say that the Bush administration is governing through the media but we all have virtual friends. Unfortunately, some of my closest friends, who I would see every week in the UK have become virtual friends and fortunately, some virtual friends have become real friends.

In Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War allegory, Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino’s wizened, world weary general/head coach defines living as the six inches in front of your face. It’s no great leap to use the same definition for modern day reality. Except that what’s in the proverbial six inches in front of our faces is now a TV or computer screen extending the six inches to six time zones.

Nothing of note happens without finding out about it and then analyzing it to death. While we may not be experiencing certain realities in the same way as our parents generation we are still connecting on an emotional level to certain events around the globe.

30 or even 20 years ago I wouldn’t have known, much less cared, about a naturalist in Australia who saved crocodiles. Now, because of the screen six inches in front of my face, I feel an emotion connection with him and his family. Has reality itself changed?

No. Reality has become a commodity and we have become voracious consumers.

As for the second part of the question, did we ever have a grip on reality? I’ll leave that for my very educated readership to address over the weekend.

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