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Doug Wrenn

Text Alert: Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") Could Have Just As Easily Died!
By Doug Wrenn
Nov 20, 2010 - 12:33:57 AM

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I must be getting old. Cops and doctors, as the adage warns, are beginning to look younger than me. I recall when gay meant happy, spam was a grotesque cheap, canned meat packed in jelly and tweeting was something only birds did. Oh yeah, and some younger people now seem increasingly obnoxious.

Emmy award winning science educator, author, inventor, and celebrity, "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" recently collapsed in front of his podium for about ten seconds while lecturing an audience at the University of Southern California. None of the students present came to Nye's aid in the interim. While ten seconds is a short span, many of those very compassionate spectators apparently did have enough time to start pulling out their cell phones, gadgets, gizmos, widgets, whizbangs, and various other trendy "I-toys" to photograph, email, text and tweet to their equally esteemed peers. Barring the usual shorthand that typically begins such situations, I can only imagine that most of those deep conversations would have otherwise began with, "Duuuuude...." and contained a mega- dose of the word "like" appearing at least three times per each (incomplete) sentence throughout the less than cerebral exchange from these fine examples of our alleged best and brightest. And undoubtedly, many, if not most of these precious little cherubs are attending USC (toys included) due to the unrequited charity of Mommy and Daddy's hard earned dime.

P.T. Barnum caught hell for dehumanizing his "circus freaks" by putting them on display in his shows. How far have we progressed when a potentially sudden and serious illness is transformed into a photo-op and a race to be first to spread the juicy gossip, while the defenseless victim is reduced to little more than a mere stage prop to be watched for entertainment purposes? How thoughtless of Mr. Nye to not at least have bled a little for the benefit of the drooling zombies in the audience, glued to their seats while mesmerized and yet still yearning for more! I have no doubt that the next performance would have been a lion eating a Christian, except for some PETA activist do-gooder wanting to turn these man-eating carnivore cats into vegans and some loony, leftist greeniac calling for an environmental impact statement, lest their subsequent flatulence creates too much of a carbon footprint, and some ever-bristling anti-religion sycophant decrying having a Christian anything in a public indoctrination camp. (Oops, sorry...I mean "educational institution.") Remember, we're talking southern California here! That's quite a contradiction, given that liberals are always the self-proclaimed compassionate ones among us. Yet in sufficient time span to text, tweet, email and whatever else, none of these pillars of compassion (and our theoretically future leaders) seemed to be able to squeeze in enough time to at least check for a pulse or respirations on Mr. Nye, or for that matter to use those cell phones for a really unorthodox purpose: actually making a phone call! Call me crazy, but 911 seems to come to mind, even for a struggling southern California college student who was admitted because in high school he scored a perfect 800 in self esteem. (Helpful hint to challenged USC students: try to refrain from calling the 911 dispatcher "Dude," and as your profs teach in Journalism 101, try to stick to the basics: who, what, when, where, etc.., and preferably without multiple repetitions of the overly popular word "like" peppered throughout the urgent discourse!)

The Golden Rule "was" (and yes, my usage of past tense here is intentional), to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, or in short, to "Love thy neighbor." Now in this age of technology that has simultaneously advanced our intellect and regressed our values, we don't love thy neighbor. It's dog eat dog, yet we are oddly and ironically obsessed with our neighbor. This whole imbecilic tweeting trend is based on our inane and conceited self-absorbed obsession with telling the entire world what we are doing every waking second of every day and actually thinking anyone else really cares. To the morally bankrupt contingent of USC students and their ilk, here's a unique thought: skip the chatter about how many peas and carrots you ate at lunch and how many squares of toilet paper it took to clean their disposal afterward and instead, because (Brace yourself now!) nobody cares but you, and that's not apathy; that's just life. But when you see a fellow human being in a dire situation and you don't know what to do, then at least do something, even if it's just calling for help. Failure to do that is apathy. Get the picture now? And mind you, what the last words of the apparently now obsolete Golden Rule says, "...as you would like to be treated yourself." Someday that unconscious body lying on the ground may be you, and it will be others like you stepping over you, walking around you, and stopping only to tweet and text about you, and all the while hoping you croak anyway, because hey, that makes their "You-Tube" submission that much hotter, right? Now how do you suppose that would feel? News flash: I know life is good (Excuse me....I mean "cool" ) now, but Mommy and Daddy won't be around forever to keep bailing their precious little snookums out of life's cold, unfair and often cruel hardships.

If you think I am bashing all USC students, my sarcasm aside, I really am not. And if you think I'm being harsh on these specific USC students in attendance, then please, allow me to clarify: I am. Enough people in their politically correct upbringing have coddled them and patted them on the tush. In college, most if not all of students have attained the legal age of majority. They're adults, at least in theory anyway. And too many people today make excuses for unacceptable behavior. There is a sociological premise that says in exigent circumstances, large groups of bystanders often fail to act because they assume someone else will. But that wasn't the case here. A man had a serious medical emergency in front of these alleged adults, and all they cared about was telling the world this juicy, real time gossip at an innocent person's potentially grave expense via their presumably like minded inner circle. That's inexcusable, and if it was a mea culpa you were seeking (Silly you!), try the dictionary. (For the benefit of those USC students, I would suggest beginning under "M," and with your profound cyber profanely, you just might even be able to find a dictionary on line!)

We've lost all sense of privacy, intimacy (and for you USC students, that doesn't necessarily mean "hook-ups" with tonight's nameless and drunken human friction doll du 'jour!), and discretion. The usual suspects perusing popular so-called "social networking" web sites also do their share of social dismemberment, either accidentally or by design. The news is increasingly replete with countless stories of people who have been harmed (immediately and later) by inappropriate statements and photographic indiscretions made public to the entire world by one's own stupidity or the stupidity (or sheer evil) of others. This harm, while sometimes delayed, can also be serious. As an erroneously accused aid in the Reagan administration once famously and astutely quipped after being vindicated, "Now where can I go to get my reputation back?"

Texting and email have now led to an assumption that the entire world communicates by shorthand. These could be effective tools in honing skills for those interested in pursuing a career as a court stenographer, but for the rest of the abbreviators, they are increasingly getting dumbed down while knowing and caring about it as much as the loopy frog in the pan of water with the goofy expression on his face because he has no idea what is coming next in the science experiment. (And many of these abbreviators seem to sport the same goofy, clueless expression!) Certain mistakes in life all but guarantee you a life of misery and a dead-end job: not completing or attaining much education, teen pregnancy, gang involvement, and yes, like it or not, visible tattoos and body piercings. And last but certainly not least on the list is a lousy personality and poor communication skills. If you are not even remotely likeable and cannot express yourself efficiently, just stick a fork in yourself, because you're done. No professional employer wants to hire a self created circus freak, and if you can't reasonably interact and communicate with other people, then there is little use for you in any decent paying labor market. Besides losing grasp of literary fundamentals, all this excessive hi-tech "communicating" also increasingly isolates us from each other, thus eroding our much needed social skills that we acquire in daily life from simple "face time" with other people. We have come full circle and are returning to our Neanderthal roots, but this time, with more glitzy tools in our caves.

Then of course, we now also have "sexting." I could speak volumes on that topic alone. But I won't. Enough said on that subject, and that's more than it deserves.

Christianity, like most other mainstream religions, professes moral principles upon which a culture and civilization can thrive, while at the same time, not necessarily being solely steeped in religion. While atheists, agnostics and humanists might scoff at the Ten Commandments, even a decent hearted secular progressive type can wrap his arms around the concepts of "don't steal," "don't murder," and even, "don't commit adultery." (Much contrary to the old "If it feels good, do it!" philosophy!) Christianity also professes, and rightly so, that we are all here to help each other. Yet increasingly, in our continually enveloping dark, self-isolated world of funny little abbreviations and sharing our most intimate experiences with whomever has access to view them, and regaling ad nauseum to others about each breath we take, we are at the same time, immersed in what we have woefully convinced ourselves is "communication." As an unintended consequence, we are in fact separating and isolating ourselves from others so significantly that it isn't too hard to fathom that future generations will eventually have no idea as to how or what to do otherwise, to the demise of us all. This trend isn't new, but it's growing, and it's kicked into high gear since the Internet has boomed. There have always been and always will be rubberneckers at gory highway crash scenes, but now such scenes can be taken, held in time and transmitted to countless people in seconds, and all the while forgetting that the shed blood on the pavement was once contained in a human body of a real, live person that was somebody's most cherished loved one. I'm all about free speech, but individuals, as well as those who run the web sites that spread this stuff need to exercise some discretion and occasionally pull the plug on their own accord, lest this disease spreads that much more. More than once, news stories have chronicled sick, injured or victimized people left for dead, as passers by avoid them, not wanting to "get involved," but our wonderful age of technology has now provided a means by which the lowest traits of humanity are now amassed onto the fast track, and real life is becoming debased into the equivalent of a video game.

I have always questioned even TV news stations that now let the untrained public do their work for them, by broadcasting cell phone pictures or home video of graphically horrific scenes some like old lady getting savagely beaten by muggers, or some poor soul burning alive while trapped in a car fire. When seeing such footage, I have always wondered, why wasn't the person recording this tragedy not instead doing something to help? And yet even so-called "professional" "journalists" (Remember when they used to be called "reporters"?) stick a camera and a microphone in the face of an obviously distraught person who just learned that a loved one was just violently killed, and then have the audacity to ask for a comment. What are they thinking? That perhaps this grieving person will break out into a song and dance act? Who really needs to see this person suffer and be so gratuitously humiliated at such a vulnerable moment? What has happened to discretion and compassion, and for that matter, common sense and common decency? We, the consumers, are as much the problem, however. In fundamental economics, it's called, "supply and demand," and if we choose to stop watching it, news stations will abandon their unofficial but prevailing policy of "If it bleeds, it feeds," and move onto subjects not only more significantly relevant, substantive and newsworthy, but occasionally, perhaps even more upbeat as well.

Our obsession, foremost with ourselves, and secondly with sophisticated gadgetry, self-gratification and being the first to know (and tell) has turned many around us into desensitized ghouls. It has lowered gossip to an all new and insidious low. Specifically in the plight of Mr. Nye, one wonders if ten seconds had turned into ten minutes and he had not awakened if he'd even be alive right now, and if so, how. News reports did state that paramedics and campus security did respond to the incident, but after checking several news sources, I have yet to read who called them. Whoever it was, bravo to that person. OK, so maybe we can cut USC some slack, and now call it the "University of Some Compassion."

And thus, to you (questionably) "post"-adolescent bubble dwellers, who sat there and did nothing, or worse yet, tried to make a spectacle out of the event for the cheap jollies of your pathetic selves and your cyber cronies, shame on you, assuming you're even capable feeling any semblance of shame. But fret not, Mommy and Daddy still love you, and I am sure, your absence of moral character aside, are quite proud of your astounding technological skills. (I believe they call that "multi-tasking;" sitting on your butt, watching someone almost die in front of you, while you punch little numbers, letters and symbols at lightening fast speed onto a screen of an impressive looking little palm-held toy for the "dude" on the other end who can actually spell, "AWESOME" in a (sadly) well thought out response!) Mr. Nye is supposedly quite liberal in his politics. Lucky for him. Had he been a conservative who passed out, when he woke up, he most likely would have had a pie thrown in his face!

Most importantly, however, best wishes to you, Mr. Nye. I hope you are well, and if not, then at least on the mend, completely, and soon. By the way, I don't know if you charged an admission fee to your talk, but if you did, if I were you, I would charge double next time I address USC. Don't worry, Mommy and Daddy are probably picking up that tab as well!

And to anyone who claims they're not, I am laughing out loud. (Or in texting parlance for the benefit of the verbally challenged cyber robots of USC: "LOL!")

Doug Wrenn


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