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when the tail wags the dog…

March 14, 2013

Are you old enough to remember when we didn’t give a rat’s ass about who the next pope would be? Do you remember when for a decade or two or three in the ’60’s-’70’s-’80’s we no longer cared about the Royal family either – that in fact most of the Commonwealth wanted them gone – or off our money at least?

When Pope John Paul I and II were elected in the late “70’s (Paul I died 38 days after becoming pope) neither event made the front page of the New York Times or the Globe and Mail.

The Vatican was understood to be an archaic waste of time – enormously corrupt – having sided as it did with the fascists and the nazi’s, and dictators all over Latin America. Not to mention the pedophiles. (The first recorded pedophile cover-up was in the year 400.) And the residential schools and the money laundering and the massive art theft (the Vatican still has the largest collection of erotica in the world).

But now the media covers the papacy inauguration like the Pope is an American Idol rock star. The CBC has had journalists over there all week. Every day they start the evening news with “Live, from Vatican City!” Blah-blah-blah.

And next month our attention will be 100% drawn away to Princess Kate’s growing baby bump and the oh-so-exciting arrival of the next heir to the empty throne.

Who decided to start caring about such shit anyway?

I didn’t. No one I know does. My mom, a lifelong practicing Catholic doesn’t.

When did the media conglomerates decide to latch into some sort of populist-symbiotic-bread-and-circus-tail-wagging-the-dog relationship with us?

When did they decide to start putting Oscar celebrities and sport stars and popes on the front page?

Bertrand Russell once exclaimed in the early 1900’s that the daily media was the worst sort of news there was.

But it seems so much worse now. It’s as if we are all in on the vacuous charade.

It’s as if we have all agreed to pretend that these ceremonial leaders – golfers and popes and queens and little prince’s somehow matter – when we know they have no power at all.

Maybe its the post-post-modern thing to do – in our fear of a global-warming apocalyptic future we prefer to look backwards and pretend that we care about celibate men who admonish our sins – our gayness, our science, our humanity – and we watch our sterile old fart of a queen and we wax romantic for simpler times – white man times – when the world seemed less complicated, less polluted, cooler.

Unfortunately, in the media concentration-populist saturation, there is now nowhere for us to hide. Its all 24/7 Pope Francis – a new dawn in Vatican City.

China “elected” its new leader on the same day the new pope was declared. Did you notice that? Were you paying attention to that little piece of news that actually matters on the global stage?

Probably not – but  it’s not your fault. They tell you what to pay attention to. 

Only people who “take themselves too seriously” paid attention to that bit of news.

Better to talk about the fact that Francis was the first pope not to wear red shoes at his inauguration. (Red shoes being the shoes worn by Roman Emperors-a practice passed on to the Popes with the fall of the Roman Empire-who had done so ever since.)

The symbols of Imperial Power die hard…long after the power has faded…

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