Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Being cool with being provincial

With devices and channels to transmit our ideas in an instant we insist we’re connected. We watch television and absorb political sermons. Some make us laugh. We measure our personal coolness in relation to the news-like performers, the popular culture philosophers who reside in New York City, Los Angeles, and I’ll add London. Washington DC possesses no culture. Just malls.

I read Yael’s columns relating how Colbert’s views affect us here. They’re laughing at us! The affectation is really a struggle in self-[and collective]confidence, I think.

The media we consume thinks us provincial. It’s a good word. This area of America, this nebulous MidWest, provide the fast-paced political coast-dwelling urban hipsters with entertaining material. You may resist this provinciality, but it’s best to accept it. Consider that Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz) is a re-invention and an amazing comedian. A New Yorker. Stephen Colbert’s core is acting. He’s a Second City (Chicago) alum.

In their eyes, we are curious and entertainingly naïve. Many people here think them fun and cool. We use their eyes as mirrors. That becomes problematic when we attempt to measure our behavior, and adapt it according to “the rules” of New York and Los Angeles, even DC. Local commentary shows here in Kansas City, and there are very few, attempt a level of coolness and level-headedness. I don’t watch Ruckus anymore as it’s boring to watch and listen to the same people with the same templates and filters week after week moderated by a chap with a well maintained English accent that supposedly raises the IQ of the gathering. It doesn’t fit our provincial context here in Kansas City, but it makes some feel cooler, smarter maybe.

Context is cool. Re-invention can be fun. Authenticity begins with context. Place, and in the case of the Kansas City area, our places are diverse. One can be in a downtown setting and drive a mere 25 minutes in multiple directions and look at cattle over a fence. Our context, our grist, our MidWestern-ness is hard to pin down and summarize. Hard for us to define “us”, much less an entertainer in a New York studio.

Connectedness has created a virtual media “high school” setting in the image of a John Hughes film (Beuller, Beuller?), in the likeness of the Harvard dorm dramas whose temporary residents gave us Facebook and now fund the Obama campaign. Kansas and Missouri may have cool kids, but the cool kids are the kids who moved away to re-invent and develop coolness in the eyes of those who define cool in the media. I think we’re authentically cool here as we are. Not that we shouldn’t change, work hard, and learn.

I think we should accept our provincial context and be cool with it. I think we should develop more local media here and import fewer digits, start some new versions of Ruckus with younger folks. New ideas.

Don’t feel badly when Jon Stewart laughs at you. He was bullied when he was young. That’s sad. But, hey, now he’s cool and his shtick is helping us to laugh at ourselves. You’re cool too. You just don’t know it.

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