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This post is not about Miley Cyrus.

September 2, 2013

I have great desire to enter the Miley Cyrus VMA performance debate. However, I will decline to comment at length here, because the controversy and its multiple angles have been explored in excruciating detail. The short version, however, is that I support Miley; I think her display erred in its execution, but given her newbie provocateur status, I’m willing to grant her a pass. End of opinion.

However, I do wish to elaborate on a side issue that seems to rear its head each time something that is not immediately impactful to billions of people becomes a hot news item.

The media blow-up following Miley’s display was somewhat predictable. Disney Sweetheart Turns Into Girl Gone Wild, the headline could have read. Quite sensational and scandalous.

Perhaps more predictable, though, was the indignant backlash regarding the inherent triviality of the event. How dare CNN make Miley the top story when there is turmoil in Egypt and impending war against Syria. How dare anyone speak of a VMA performance when it’s also the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Or, even more ominous, what if this inundation of fluff was a planned distraction by the “lamestream media,” calculated to keep us oblivious while the foundation of our great nation is being yanked from underneath us?

I hope you realize from my ever-so-slightly derisive tone that I don’t place much credence in these proclamations. What we have here is a blatant attention-grab by a celebrity. And we’re supposed to somehow suspect that something is amiss when her attention-grab grabs attention? That course of events is not a commentary on our society; it’s human nature.

It’s analogy time. Suppose you live in a city and walk a mile (or a miley, if you will) to work each day. You walk past apartments where jobless moms struggle to feed their kids and landlords ignore the contractual needs of their tenants. You walk past offices where hostile takeovers are being plotted and unsafe products are being approved for consumer use. You walk past schools where teachers are mistreating kids and administrators are mistreating teachers. You’re relatively oblivious to this because you’re only walking to work.

One day, a nude individual, yelling loudly, begins running the perimeter of one of the rooftops of the buildings as you pass by on your way to work.

When you arrive at work that day, are you likely to relay the anecdote from your morning walk to co-workers? I would venture a guess that yes, yes, you would.

Does it make you an idiot, a member of the “sheeple,” or a misguided soul with a complete lack of perspective, because you did so? I think not.

Analogy over. Now it’s time for a more direct instruction to those who would judge the state of anyone’s mind or heart, much less the collective mind or heart of a news agency or a society. Stay the hell out of everyone’s conscience, please, if you have any interest in sounding reasonable.

In my human experience, the real estate of my thoughts is mine. It is perhaps 75% focused on items that have limited applicability to anyone except me: what time will I go to bed, is my state of mind right, what will I eat for dinner, can I meet this deadline at work, I hope that pimple goes away quickly, and so on.

Another 15% or so is focused on others: will my guy have a chance to grab something to eat for himself, did I clean the litter box for my kitties, did I verify that dinner meeting with a friend, I hope my co-worker passed that exam.

That leaves me less than 10% of my thought energy to focus on Egypt and Syria and Miley Cyrus. This is precious real estate, and I would very much enjoy the freedom to spend a little of it on something other than the state of humankind. Thank you.

More generally, all our journeys in this world are different. Most of us are getting by the best way we can. Most folks are simply overwhelmed when considering issues like world peace, world hunger, and human rights. Retreating to our measurable spheres of influence is the best way to cope.

There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information regarding Egypt and Syria and the correct course of action. There are policy experts who stare at these problems all day long and are still perplexed. It’s perhaps negatively productive for the average person to spend more than a few minutes pondering the pros and cons of these world-stage conundrums.

As a final thought, consider this: for some of us, Miley Cyrus and her antics could serve as a point of entry into “real” issues. Her performance touches on issues of psychology, parenting, social status, artistic expression, and gender roles, just to name a few.

It could also lead to a rumination about priorities and snap judgments and blanket indictments of an individual, a culture, or a society.

Like this one.

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