I wanna watch the world burn?
Mean Girls is a movie that was written by Tina Fey, an improvisational comedy actress turned writer. Fey had become a hot commodity in television, and she convinced them to make the movie. It is about the perceived damage inflicted by the semi-sociopathic high school popular girls—mean girls—and how they get their comeuppance.
As modern things go, the hit movie was turned into a hit musical on Broadway, and we take our discussion today from some of the lyrics of the song “World Burn”.
In “World Burn”, the lead mean girl and head sociopath Regina George has been temporarily bested. She swears her revenge in a song:
I wanna watch the world burn
I got the gasoline
I wanna watch the world bur
And everyone get mean
Her ploy is to throw the new peace into complete disarray, and when the disarray arrives, to offer herself as the leader who can make bring them back together. Ironically, the peace she offers is simply a return to her iron fist, but it seems new, and seeming new, it becomes, to the uninitiated and uninformed, attractive.
I find a deeper truth in these lyrics than just the wildly evil tendencies of a group of girls competing to see who would be the apex predator.
People seeking to become the apex predator are all around us. And their path takes many forms.
You and I have discussed this before. We agree that the world seems filled with people whose only talent seems to be the ability to get others to watch them. They may have neither skills nor talent, but some of them—I’m thinking the Kardashians—have made enough money to buy Ft. Knox, by being a train wreck that people can’t look away from. I’ve never seen a single episode of their television show, but the phenomenon is omni-present.
How does this apply to the world of politics? We seem to be surrounded by people who have few real ideas, but who seem to embody my favorite definition of a politician: someone who, when the parade is passing by, jumps out front with a baton and a high-step, all the while pretending that they started the thing.
Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, are still in constant riots. In their case, someone literally wants to watch the world burn.
We’ve replaced the traditional television news casters (their job was to tell us the who, what, where, and when of what happened today) with the talking heads (their job is to irritate us into agreeing with them so we will tune into their television show tomorrow).
We traded down.
Does any of this make things better?
I think not. The fault is our own. It seems that no one wants to watch people talking calmly and quietly, reasoning from problem to solution, weighing alternatives honestly, trying to arrive at a reasonable solution. It seems we’d rather watch the fire than to seek the peace.
What are we doing? Our noses are infiltrated with the ever-present acrid smell of spilled gasoline. And while the fumes rise, oh so many people hide the struck match in their left hand while they try to gain attention with their right hand.
Out national news—men and women alike—are the mean girls, the Regina Georges, the apex predators that we are too intimidated to disagree with. Yet they are so often manque intellectuals, failed thinkers with loud voices.
Is there a solution? There are several.
Turn away. If a newscaster regularly makes you angry, maybe you should take a vacation from them. If a network’s modus operandi is not to report the news but to mold it to fit their general narrative, maybe you should take a vacation from them. Stop at the end of a newscast and ask whether you know more facts and information than you did at the beginning, and if you’ve learned nothing, but your blood is boiling, maybe you should re-think watching them for a while. Turn to print media. It is easier to choose between stories, and with print it is far, far harder to roust anger with written words (take it from me, a scribbler). Plus, if you don’t like what you see, just move a few inches in either direction to find something new.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to watch the world burn. I’d much rather see it come together and to grow.
Can it happen? Maybe. Will it happen? Maybe.
One can always hope.
It’s up to us.