Fr. Raymond de Souza has an insightful article in the National Post about the reign of Oprah here.
He makes a great point about how Oprah is the result and response to a culture that is so atomized that it needs to look to tv personalities for a ray of hope and vacant platitudes that make us feel better. It is, indeed, a major cultural issue, and yes, it is due to the failure of our society, friends, families, churches, etc., that have brought about this atomized culture.
I remember when I was a kid when everyone knew each other on the block. The kids would always become friends and play together, and the parents would quickly become friends as well, often hosting BBQs and nights to simply spend time together chatting while the kids played hockey or swam in the pool.
Today, if you attempt to get to know your neighbour, you’re seen as a bit of a weirdo almost. The idea of “neighbourhoods” and “neighbours” are, in my mind, long gone. Perhaps it’s just my experience on the West Coast; I hope this isn’t a reality everywhere. But even though we have a physical proximity to people, there is no spiritual proximity – and I am not speaking here even in a religious sense! Naturally, human beings are spiritual creatures who find fulfillment in creating community with others. When that isn’t happening, then we are entering a spiritual crisis on the natural level (which is scary because it precludes a crisis on the supernatural level first!).
We no longer desire to know others. I remember, for example, going to a Pizza Hut one day a couple of years ago in Edmonton and seeing four kids sitting at a table, texting each other: they wouldn’t even speak to each other! I must admit that I myself have even fallen into this culture, and it is difficult to have the eyes to see in order to break out of it.
When we no longer desire community, when we no longer desire to be with others – think of the family in which each person eats the meal of their choice in front of their own tv, a sad but true reality in many households – then we seek others to fill our spiritual void, but in a way that the spiritual void is not actually filled, but only superficially. We thus run to TV, self-help books, the internet, drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, and so on, in order to fill that spiritual gap in our lives. We are empty, and we know we need to be fulfilled, but we don’t know how, so we go for those places, people, and things t hat seem to give us fufillment. It is a sad state in the world when this is the natural spiritual condition of a culture. I believe, too, that if this is indeed the case, then we are in for cultural suicide. This is not just a spiritual hunger: when we become atomized, when we become isolated from others, then basic human principles such as love, compassion, forgiveness, reason, are no longer easy tasks to carry out, and thus man becomes more like an animal when, ironically, he is claiming to be more human than ever!
It is a sad state when truth becomes a lie and the lie becomes truth.