The recent passing of Andy Rooney made me realize that what we need is a good curmudgeon. Look around and no one really comes to mind. I believe this is partly due to the (admittedly alliterative) proliferation of political partisanship in our society. No one is against everything. The conservative talkers like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, even Glenn Beck are primarily against things because those things are against what they are for, The talkers on the left are…well there really aren’t any talkers on the left. I know there are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but they have way too much fun doing what they do to even be considered. Besides, complaining just to get laughs is disingenuous at best, which is why Bill Maher and Dennis Miller are out too.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a curmudgeon is an avaricious, churlish fellow. Citations date back to 1577. Indeed, for most of the intervening years, greed has been closely associated with the term. More recent definitions split off the churlishness and allow it to stand on its own, and it has done just that for most of the 20th century.
What we need is someone talented enough to complain about everything. Someone who can look at the glass half full as being inadequate, the glass half empty as being empty and the glass itself as containing lead and having been made in China; someone whose spirits wouldn’t be up even after four Viagra.
To be clear, pessimists need not apply. The true pessimist believes that the root of our existence is evil. We need someone who can properly value the stupidity and shallowness in society and not merely chalk it up to God’s will, or worse, God’s punishment. This is a matter of mores, not morals.
Maybe the current economic problems can actually have some positive benefit and provide some new curmudgeonly blood. After all, the last great generation of curmudgeons was borne out of the Great Depression. Hard times make for hardened souls. Economic depression can make you depressed. (By extension, then has the Great Recession made us recessed?)
But I digress. We in the United States enjoy the gift of almost complete freedom of speech. As with any commodity of unlimited supply, we waste far too much of it. Our politics is divisive and confrontational; our entertainment banal. There must be one lonely voice in the dark that wants to rail about the dark, mustn’t there?