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Fun and Foolishness in a Dangerous Time
Posted By Howard Rotberg On August 20, 2013 @ 12:35 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 7 Comments
From the Beach Boys’ famous song “Fun, Fun, Fun (till her daddy takes the T-bird away)” to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls just want to have fun” and then to business magazine Inc.’s 2007 cover story, “Fun – It’s the New Core Value” (i.e. the work environment has to be “fun”), we see a growing cultural emphasis on having “fun.” One of the biggest growth industries in Canada and United States in the past decade is the casino industy, designed to give people “fun” while they lose their money.
Recently social networking site Badoo.com conducted a survey among its readers (mostly in their twenties and thirties) on which country was the most “fun.” The actual question was: “How often would you say that you really have fun and a good time?”
The top two countries were Argentina and Mexico, with reports of days per month spent having fun being 14.8 and 13.7, respectively. The percentage of those having fun “most days” was 41.6 and 36.8, respectively. The U.S. finished sixth, so young people in the U.S. report they are having a lot of fun.
Most of us who follow international affairs know that Argentina and Mexico are highly corrupted countries. Argentina’s latest example of corruption is the “deal” made with Iran not to prosecute Iranian government officials and politicians found to be behind the Hezbollah terrorist bombing of the Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires, in order to preserve trade relations. Mexico, of course, continues to struggle with drug and crime cartels and a corrupted Justice system.
Given the views of most conservative writers that the West is facing a crisis brought on domestically by over-spending and internationally by the terrorist war by Islamism for Western submission to Islamist values and influence, this cultural emphasis on fun gives us pause.
If “fun” is the new cultural core value of the West, are we happy with that? Firstly, do we even know what the word means? Shouldn’t we discuss it more?
It might be useful to understand its derivation first. According to Dictionary.com, the word derives from between 1300 and 1350 and from the Middle English word “fond,” which in turn stemmed from “fonned” (the past participle of “fonnen” to be foolish, originally, to lose flavor, sour).
It is also suggested that by the 1680s, the word was used as a verb to mean “to cheat or hoax,” which was probably a variant of “fon” or “befool.” Later, it was used often in the sense of “it is all in fun,” that is playfully or not seriously.
Only later, it seems, did “fun” take on the predominant meaning of “amusement,” “mirth,” and even “pleasure.”
So, we note that “fun” has seemed to pass from a concept of foolishness and playfulness to the serious business of a cultural value.
A Western culture that promotes the fun-ness of video games over the pleasure of reading a good book and the fun of gambling over the hard work of honest toil, may be worshiping at a rather bizarre altar.
When one looks at the tremendous problems of modern society, and in particular the threat to our fundamental freedoms from Islamist terrorism and jihad against liberal values, how do we defend ourselves when we are engaged in “foolishness” in the name of fun?
American presidents have often enjoyed golf (a game I myself like, and would play if I only had the time), but President Obama seems to always be playing golf when national emergencies strike – during the run up to the capture of Osama bin Laden, during the first bout of violence in Egypt in July, and again in the middle of August as the military fight with Muslim Brotherhood protestors took a more deadly turn, and for three days a couple of weeks before the looming March 1st deadline with Congress to avert automatic massive spending cuts.
George Bush for the first part of his presidency did the same thing. Margaret Talev writes for Bloomberg that, after Palestinian terrorists staged attacks in Israel, including the suicide bombing of a bus in August 2002, Bush gave the U.S. reaction from a golf course near his family’s vacation compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.
“I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers,” Bush said, adding, “Thank you. Now watch this drive.”
Bush, however, realized that his “fun” was looking increasingly “foolish”: In a 2008 interview with Politico, cited by Talev, Bush said he gave up golfing because it sent the “wrong signal” as the U.S. was engaged in a war. “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said in the interview.
Obama also went golfing during the Gulf oil spill crisis. Of course, good mental health requires some downtime in such an important and stressful job. Obama however is reported to have gone golfing 6 or 7 times during the 58 days of the Gulf oil spill crisis.
Obama is supposed to have received daily briefings during his last week’s vacation, where he golfed nearly every day, and which culminated in a round with Seinfeld show co-creator Larry David. David, whose wildly popular show about “nothing” and the fun-filled lives of four underemployed narcissistic New York liberals, has now earned his way into the realm of presidential golf partners.
The big problem is that the Egyptian crisis (along with the Iranian nuclear bomb) has the possibility to define his presidency. Obama has shocked scholars of radical Islam by favoring the Muslim Brotherhood (along with former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, whose advisor and close personal friend Huma Abedin has never hidden her continuing relationship with Muslim Brotherhood officials, including her family members.)
Obama seems unable to interrupt his fun vacation to ask the Brotherhood to stop killing Christians or comment on the burning and looting of 40 churches and the heavy damage of 23 others since Wednesday. His only public comment for the week was to ask the Egyptian government and military to stop their violence. He appears not to reflect upon the serious problem that encouraging “democracy” without constitutional or judicial powers to protect human rights and fundamental liberties is a recipe for more abominations like the Iranian ayatollahs or Hamas in Gaza. Is he having too much fun to even care about these crucial world issues, which shall surely impact world peace? Is it more fun to golf with Larry David?
Did Winston Churchill golf his way through World War II six hours at a time?
It is fun to spend money and not so much fun to save. That is why our politicians like to make their mark by spending on new programs and monuments to themselves. It is not fun to tell people the truth that spending trillions more than we take in as taxes will result in bankruptcy within two generations.
When my parents grew up in the 1920s, the word “fun” was probably used about 5% of the time it is used today. Today’s children in the West spend half their waking hours engaged in the fun of video games, texting, and watching television and movies, a significant portion of which are action and horror films where the educational benefit to the young viewer is marginal. How much Internet surfing is spent in acquiring knowledge and how much in mere foolishness, including pornography and gossip and celebrity sites?
What education our children do receive is meant to be fun and is meant to teach them that there can be education without values, respect without being respected and tolerance without being tolerated. It is more fun for the teachers to avoid the whole issue of values and pretend that it is possible to separate values and ideology from informed discussions.
My day job is as a real estate developer of socially just, and culturally just, real estate projects, including affordable rental housing for low-income working people and conversion and restoration of heritage institutional and industrial buildings for new uses. In the evening, I should be having “fun” but instead I write articles and books and publish books through my publishing house, Mantua Books, for international conservative authors who are being shunned by mainstream left liberal publishing houses. It is not often fun, but it is necessary if my grandchildren are to grow up with the freedoms we too often take for granted.
Many of us spend our lives in the pursuit of money, fame and pleasure. The real pleasures are more than momentary fun, more than drug or alcohol or sexually induced highs, and consist of a deep enjoyment of living a good and meaningful life in loving relationships; in doing good for others and promoting liberal freedoms as a constitutional right for every man, woman and child.
Within that context of a meaningful life, and meaningful love, there is lots of room for fun, but fun is not the ultimate goal, although it is nice when it, to some degree, accompanies our other deeper goals.
However, I fear that we are making fun the ultimate measure of our lives. Moreover, if we appear in the West to be focused only on fun, those Islamists who enjoy jihad more than fun can easily surmise that they have a good chance of winning, and making a world-wide Caliphate when their opposition is too busy having fun to take up arms in defense of their own liberty.
The historical sense of “fun” as “foolishness” should be a warning to us all.
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