A recent Washington Post piece makes a startlingly sad claim: Gossip is the only monoculture left.
People don’t all watch the same television shows anymore, like they did when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. They don’t hold the same bedrock beliefs about the world, like they did when liberalism (with a little “l”) was the guiding light across the West. Instead, people are bound by their knowledge of the Kardashians. Everything else has been broken apart and divided, and all that is left to share are tidbits about celebrities.
Now if that weren’t enough, the article quotes Elaine Lui, the creator of Lainey Gossip, who tries to defend this obsession with gossip and her role in feeding it.
“Talking is action. Conversation is action. The result of a conversation is that you’ve conversed; you’ve heard each other. That’s an action.”
Ugh. We have thousands of years of human history that prove otherwise. Some of the English language’s greatest aphorisms—condensed into little diamonds of wisdom by the pressures of history and the passage of time—speak to this very notion: actions speak louder than words; talk is cheap; a picture is worth a thousand words; you’re all talk.
Let’s start today off with something that reasonable people should be able to agree with, even if gossip remains an occasional guilty pleasure: Talking is not action and anyone who believes that is fooling themselves. Particularly if that talking is about the lovelife of some random famous person you’ve never met!
Marcus Aurelius struggled with this even two thousand years ago, and reminded himself that it was meaningless to have philosophical debates about being a good person—all that mattered was what you did. “No more talking about what a good man is like,” he said, “Be one.”
Talking is not an action. Conversation is not an action. Action is what you do in the real world, it is the choices you will make today. Will you treat your spouse with kindness? Will you follow the law? Will you do your duty as a citizen if you see someone in distress? That’s what we need. That is what you need to do.