Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Wisdom of The Simpsons

Below is another post relating my all-time favourite TV show to some life-experiences I've had.

When I was 14 and underperforming in school...underperforming is too weak a word, the kind of word that parents use to deflect talk of their problems. I was failing and frequently being called "a disaster" "a failure" "a fuck-up" from all directions.

In an attempt to get me focused on my studies, my parents first banned me from playing the guitar, then banned me from watching the Simpsons.

Of course I was angry, but this is just the kind of thing that would have happened in The Simpsons, and if it did, it wouldn't be portrayed judgmentally, but portrayed with equanimity.

Two such scenes from the Simpsons reflect my situation well. In the first, Homer and Marge are called in to meet Bart's school counselor, and when asked for his opinion the counselor declares "Bart needs to learn to be less of an individual and more of a faceless blob." In the other, Homer first meets Marge in a detention. When explaining why he is there, Homer says "they put me in detention for being me. I come here every day and be me, and they punish me for it."

Directly after graduating from my Bachelors, I took a summer job. It was a job in which some students make a lot of money, but most make a net loss. The company that ran this summer program were excellent at taking credit for the successes and dodging responsibility for the failures.

In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer gets sponsored by the Power Sauce Energy-Bar company to climb a mountain. When the company loses faith in Homer, they start looking for other people to blame. On reaching the top, Homer scraps the plan of planting a Powersauce flag on the top, and instead places a 'Simpsons' flag. For me, this symbolizes a rejection of the pseudo-collectivism that some companies cultivate for their own self-interest.

For the last three years, I've been working as a teacher. In an episode of the Simpsons where Lisa meets a particularly inspiring teacher, the teacher explains: "One day you'll miss your brother's antics. When your life takes you to far away places, places where your itelligence is an asset, not a liability. " I've always been aware that I'm a pawn in this education-system (same as I would be back home), but I've always striven for this level of connection with my students. As for the substance of what he says, "places where your intelligence is an asset, not a liability." The (as I then thought) exam-orientated, spirit-crushing, secondary schooling system I went through, was an innocent child compared to the one I'm working in now.

And the last scene I'd like to reference, Bart sits down with his fallen idol Krusty the Klown. Bart explains to the impoverished, crestfallen clown "My mom says God never closes a door without opening a window." Krusty prompty replies "No offence kid, but your mom's a dingbat." In Empire of Illusion Chris Hedges writes eloquently about how positive psychology can strangle creativity and moral autonomy. I also have experience of the tyranny of mindless optimism, and Krusty the Klown so eloquently defends my position here.

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